Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One in the Hand Isn't Always Better

Bird in a box
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Yesterday I learned that having one bird in the hand isn't always better than two, or really just one in this case, in the bush.

I had the van out in the driveway with one of the big doors open. I was clearing it out and shifting things about. It was nice out and I was in no big hurry so at one point the van was just sitting in the drive unattended.

Nate raced by to pick up a package and out of the corner of his eye he saw a brownish flurry of motion by the van followed by a clunk. When he came back he peered into the van and saw a little bird keeled over on his seat. The poor thing was still breathing but on its side. With a stick Nate gently righted the bird and then returned indoors to report that there was a bird on his seat.

one in a bush
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I didn't believe him at first, but in the end I went to look for myself. The poor thing looked very distressed, eyes shut and breathing heavily. I went back inside and tried calling the local nature center for advice. The call went straight into voice mail so I then tried ARK. Again I went into voice mail, but the Audubon Society's page linking to ARK was very helpful. I gathered up a small towel and a large shoebox and went to the van to see what I could do for the little wood thrush.

The bird was looking a little better, It was sitting up with it's black eyes wide open. However it was still very addled and it was even trying to escape. I gently placed the towel over the bird and oh so carefully scooped it into the box. I settled the towel around the bird, placed the lid on the box, and brought the box into the garage where it was a wee bit warmer. An hour or so later an ARK volunteer called back and instructed me to just place the opened box under a bush (is there were no cats present) and let the poor thing sort itself out.

And so I did.

The bird was very polite and waited for me to fetch my camera before flitting out of the box. It went through the bush and landed on the other side. It stood there for quite some time, most likely getting its bearings and dealing with a wicked headache. I was able to approach it and again it allowed me to take a few pictures. We all left the little ting again and an hour later it flew off. A very satisfactory ending.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Slap

A film that is not quite what you would expect, particularly from Iran.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rebecca's Rules

Rebecca's rules
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Rebecca has very strong opinions and this weekend she tried to lay down the law on her siblings.

I have no idea what inspired this contract she wrote up or if she really expected anyone one to sign, but I find it hilarious. Jake thought it was funny too and offered to sign it under some sort of random name. Rebecca didn't go along with that idea, but she did see the absurdity of the whole thing.

You have to admit that it's all very straight forward and there is even a monetary penalty if you fail to live up to the contract. I think that the fine is the best part of the whole thing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Love My Children Very Much

But today I was reminded why I do not like to go shopping without them.

Jake and Rebecca needed new winter boots, Nate needed a new pair of gloves, and Max- well he just went along for the ride because he's a bit young to be left home alone.

It took three stores to find two pairs of acceptable winter boots. It's always been a challenge to find snow gear down here in the Virginia, but it was particularly difficult due to the recent winter snow event that resulted in the shelves being bare.

The first store was a complete bust boot wise, but I did score on some crazy cheap wrapping paper and Nate found some gloves he liked. He also found a dozen other things he wanted. Max wanted to go to the bathroom and then needed water. We then shuffled outside and headed to the next store which was conveniently located next door.

At the second store Rebecca found a pair she really, really liked. The store was down to one box and miracle of miracles it was her size. As she slid the boots on she declared them to be sooooo comfortable. Yay! One pair found, another to go. Meanwhile Nate found more stuff he wanted. I herded everbody outside and into the car and at some point Rebecca scraped her knee.

A short car ride across two parking lots we arrived at store three. Rebecca was issued a band-aid and we all went inside. After extensive searching we found the one pair of boots in Jake's size (9 wide for those keeping score) and he actually liked them. Then Nate wanted more shoes and Max was again dying of thirst. At this point I was mentally done with the whole thing and just wanted to get out. After I paid for the boots I literally said "Now that you have touched everything in the store it is time to leave."

So it may have been more efficient to take all four shopping, but I won't be doing that again for a long time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Days

snow boots
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today would have been the penultimate day of school before winter break. However, the weather felt differently on the subject and as a result winter break started today instead.

Our school system threw in the towel last night, but only after every other school district declared a snow day. For a few hours last night I had a very sad twelve year old mooning about the house until the word came that school was off.

The snow took its own sweet time getting here. When it did finally arrive, oh boy did the roads get greasy fast. I was out at 11 to pick up a few things and it was not particularly fun. At least all the other drivers recognized the treacherous conditions and we all kept he speed well below the speed limit. Once I got back home, that was it for the day. No more last minute dashes to the store.

As for the kids, they enjoyed their day off in grand style. Plenty of Wii, the annual checking out of the snow gear (snow pants were good, but we need two pairs of boots), and an epic snow battle throughout the yard and into the woods. The only way it could get better would be if they could get tomorrow off .

Wish granted.

With a bit of sleet that appeared at the end of the storm and the freezing temperatures the roads tomorrow morning the roads will be horrific. The school district has, wisely decided to cancel school on Friday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artist of the Week: Symphonic

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Jake is this week's artist for his recent Holiday Concert.

Now that marching season (Who knew there was an official marching season?) is over, the symphonic band goes into full gear. During the school year they have been learning various pieces of music in band class. Last Thursday the 9th, the Symphonic Band (of which Jake is a member) along with the Wind Symphony jointly performed for the 2010 Holiday Concert.

The Symphonic Band and the Wind Symphony played three pieces of music apiece. Unfortunately my camera's batteries gave up the ghost very early on in the concert. I was only able to record just part of the first piece, "Christmas of the Toreador," performed by Jake's band.

I thought they sounded great. My camera, however, did a poor job capturing the richness of he band's sound. Even my entourage of Nate, Max and Rebecca found the concert to be pretty good. Rebecca particularly enjoined Carol of the Bells, the third and final selection of Symphonic.

What made the whole concert really amazing was that the schools bad director had just gone on maternity leave about a month ago. She was able to attend the concert with he wee babe, but purely as a member of the audience. Her substitute very ably picked of the reins and kept the band going during her absence.

I can't wait for the next concert when the band director is back. It should be fantastic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Is This, New England?

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Monday morning we were greeted with this rather unexpected sight, an almost two inch blanket of snow.

It had been raining heavily all weekend and in the wee hours of the morning the temperature dropped and the rain quickly turned to snow. The branches have are almost artistically frosted with snow and the flakes lay thickly on the deck and lawn, much to our dogs annoyance.

The kids, however, were delighted. But the roads had remained clear and school was still on. It didn't even rate a two hour delay.

The next big surprise has been the temperature. Normally It will be well above freezing during the day and come late afternoon the snow will be pretty much gone. Not so this time, the mercury has stubornly refused to go above freezing and the nights have been dipping down to the upper teens. It feels more like New England than the Mid-Atlantic.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trofest Finalists - FLASHBACK

This movie, Lamb, was a Tropfest finalist in 2002.
I think this is a beautifully done film. It's emotionally raw, but well worth the time. I promise I'll feature something a little more upbeat next week.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I have mentioned that we have a friend with horses and we went and visited the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Jake stayed home (there was a potential conflict with his trumpet lesson), but the remaining three came along and had a great time riding a pony. Our friend even offered to saddle up a horse for me to ride, but I politely declined. I was more interested in getting the kids comfortable with the pony and I wouldn't be able to supervise them as closely if I was on horseback.

So instead, we arranged for me to come back another time sans children.

It's been over 18 years since I've last been on a horse, so I was just a wee bit apprehensive. I knew we were going to start out slow and the mare I would be riding was quiet and well mannered, but I knew I was going to hurt. It was just a question of how much. When I used to ride I was fairly decent and was at the point where I really used my legs. I remembered the last time I went on hiatus (it was only 7 years that time) my legs felt like jelly and I literally staggered away. Now I was 20 years older and certainly less fit.

I sent a half hour in the ring alone with the my steed getting a feel for her and remembering how to put it all together. Then we were off for an almost hour long trail ride. I'm proud to say I was not dumped, I did not fall off, and I was invited back again. As for for how I felt post ride- pretty good. I did not have jelly legs and it took about half an hour for my calves to decide I was an evil, evil person. Fortunately two ibuprofens did the trick and I felt fine after a day and a half.

When I went back last Friday I had my own boots and helmet. After such a successful first outing I was willing to get my own gear. Amazingly it went even better. We did a bit more cantering and attempted a couple of jumps. My calves had gotten over their pique from the previous time and I did not need any sort of pain relief.

It's nice to know that I'm not nearly as decrepit as I feared and I get to do something that I really enjoy doing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

100 Books

The book meme has been floating around on the internets for some time. Basically it's list of 100 books and you get to check those you have read. If I counted right I have read 32 of the 100 books, well above the challenge statement: " We believe most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here."

Which ones have you read?

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

6 The Bible Various

7 Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

8 1984 George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations Charles Dickens

11 Little Women Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare William Shakespeare

15 Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch George Elio

21 Gone With The Wind Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald

23 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

24 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

25 Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky

26 Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

27 Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

28 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

29 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

30 David Copperfield Charles Dickens

31 Chronicles of Narnia CS Lewis

32 Emma Jane Austen

33 Persuasion Jane Austen

34 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe CS Lewis

35 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

36 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis De Bernieres

37 Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

38 Winnie the Pooh AA Milne

39 Animal Farm George Orwell

40 The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown

41 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

42 A Prayer for Owen Meaney John Irving

43 The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

44 Anne of Green Gables LM Montgomery

45 Far From The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy

46 The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

47 Lord of the Flies William Golding

48 Atonement Ian McEwan

49 Life of Pi Yann Martel

50 Dune Frank Herbert

51 Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons

52 Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

53 A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth

54 The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55 A Tale Of Two Cities Charles Dickens

56 Brave New World Aldous Huxley

57 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Mark Haddon

58 Love In The Time Of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez

59 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

60 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

61 The Secret History Donna Tartt

62 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

63 Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas

64 On The Road Jack Kerouac

65 Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

66 Bridget Jones’s Diary Helen Fielding

67 Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie

68 Moby Dick Herman Melville

69 Oliver Twist Charles Dickens

70 Dracula Bram Stoker

71 The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett

72 Notes From A Small Island Bill Bryson

73 Ulysses James Joyce

74 The Inferno Dante

75 Swallows and Amazons Arthur Ransom

76 Germinal Emile Zol

77 Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackera

78 Possession AS Byatt

79 A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

80 Cloud Atlas David Mitchel

81 The Color Purple Alice Walker

82 The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro

83 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

84 A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry

85 Charlotte’s Web EB White

86 The Five People You Meet In Heaven Mitch Albom

87 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

88 The Faraway Tree Collection Enid Blyton

89 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad

90 The Little Prince Antoine De Saint-Exupery

91 The Wasp Factory Iain Banks

92 Watership Down Richard Adams

93 A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole

94 A Town Like Alice Nevil Shute

95 The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas

96 Hamlet William Shakespeare

97 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

98 Les Miserables Victor Hugo

9Bleak House Charles Dickens

100 Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Eighth Night

Eighth Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Last night, Wednesday, was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah.

After I took this picture of Rebecca and Nate lighting the menorahs my camera promptly announced that its card was full and shut down.

And I was perfectly fine with that.

I knew I had he picture I wanted and I was in no hurry to clear out the card for more pictures. Sometimes getting the shot you want is easy.

Artist of the Week: Drum Recital

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Max is this week's artist.

Larry took this picture of Max while we were at a friend's house. This is the same friend that I mentioned before with all the horses. Max climbed up on the fence to wait for his turn on the pony.

I was pretty amazed that he was interested in riding. He was quite adamant at home that he was NOT going to do any sort of riding. He was going to go along and check out the place and that was it.

But... after watching Rebecca and, most importantly, Nate have fun riding the very well mannered pony, Max decided to give it a shot. After a few laps around the ring Max was eager to go up to a trot. When his turn was up he reluctantly slid off the pony's back.

With drums, however, he never experienced any sort of uncertainty. He wanted to play drums and was very happy when we found him a teacher. Max started lessons last spring with Josh, the son of a friend of ours.

Josh and Max really hit it off and during the beginning of the video below Josh tells how much he likes Max. The performance lasted about a half hour with our family, including Grandma and Grandpa, in attendance.

Max did a great job and had a terrific time. If you last to the the end of the video you can see when Josh and Max had a little jam session.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Seventh Night

Seventh Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Tuesday was my birthday and the eighth night of Hanukkah. After a delightful dinner out we lit the candles and enjoyed their now very bright and rather hot glow.

With three menorahs in action you almost didn't need to have the lights on. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sixth Night

Sixth Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
And it's my birthday.

Last night was the sixth night of Hanukkah. Three of my crew got to light them. It looks like we'll have to get another menorah so that everybody will get to light one.

Since it is my birthday I'm being brief, Weezie's is calling my name.

Monday, December 06, 2010

First Snow and Fifth Night Party

first snow
Originally uploaded by
Saturday night we got our first real snowfall of the season. I did see a brief flurry while grilling dinner Friday (nothing like seeing stuff falling from the sky and sizzling on the hot grill- I was very confused at first), but nothing stuck. It was beatiful watching the flakes fall and coat the deck with a light blanket of snow.

The ground was too warm for any sort of significant or lasting coverage, but it was pretty while it lasted. Grandma asked the kids if any of them had been dreaming of a white Hanukkah. Sadly by the end of the day Sunday it was all gone.

Fifth Night and Party
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Which brings us to the fifth night and our congregation's Hanukkah party. I went early to help out with the preparations. I ended up being the assistant fry cook and latke mixer. There were about 50 people at the party and Meryl and I ended up cooking pretty much all of the latkes. They were delicious and more than enough to go around.

We all ate to nearly bursting, listen to the Rabbi's daughter sing and a few of us even danced. It was a lovely way to spend the fifth night of Hanukkah.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Third and Fourth Night

Third Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Friday night was the start of the third day of Hanukkah and was also Larry's birthday. We had a lovely dinner of flank steak with latkes and a lovely Pino Noir we had been saving. For dessert I made Chocolate Sybil cake, a truly scrumptious chocolate cake that is dead easy to make.

However, that morning I also went horse back riding for the first time in oh... 18 years. It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to say I lasted an hour and did not fall off the horse. Unfortunately my calves made it very plain to me that I was a very bad person and it took a big dose of ibuprofen to get them to quite down (Yay, better living through chemistry!) So I was just plain wiped out at the end of the day. It's a minor miracle that I even took pictures. But... I did take pictures and this is our bicycle chain menorah. I found it at a funky little store in Careytown called Ten Thousand Villages last year. It's simplicity called out to me. Coupled with my renewed interest in biking , I couldn't resist it.

Fourth Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Saturday night was the fourth night of Hanukkah which we got to celebrate with my in-laws who had just come down for the weekend. Coincidentally it was also my mother-in-laws birthday. After a quick candle lighting we skedaddled out for dinner at Weezie's and the 7:15 show at the Byrd Theater.

The food, as always, was fabulous. The movie, The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hool, was less so. It wasn't a bad movie (the CGI was impressive), but it really butchered the books. At least we had Bob and the mighty Wurlitzer and only paid two bucks a head.

So as you can see we have been a bit busy with even more to post later.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Second Night

Second Night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Here are the candles from the second night of Hannukah.

I almost forgot to post this. Essentially I remembered while lighting the candles for tonight before the candles for Shabbat. I had a great big duh moment as I was laying out the candles and looking for the camera. At least I took the pictures!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First Night

First night
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today is the first day of Hanukkah and this is my favorite menorah.

I've blogged about it before, so I won't bore you with the story.

I hope your evenings will be merry and bright.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Artist of the Week: Fall 2010 Recital

Happy rider
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Rebecca this week is back in the spotlight again as the Artist of the Week.

The day before the grand festival of food known as Thanksgiving, we visited a friend in a neighboring county. She has invited us a few times and enticed with the fact that she has many horses and one very patient pony. It was a beautiful day Wednesday and the kids had the day off from school. So we loaded up the van to go see and ride the horses.

Rebecca was ecstatic. She loves horses and this would be her first time really riding a pony. She has been you on a pony before, but the pony rides at the county fair don't quite count.

We groomed and saddled the pony, just using a bareback pad- I wanted my children to really feel the pony and not mess around with stirrups. After a few laps around the ring with me at the pony's head I let her go solo. She even got to ride at a trot for a fair bit.

I proud to say she did a fine job and had a nice seat even at a trot. All those years of having her sit up straight and tall at the piano has paid off in unexpected ways.

As for her piano playing, well that's the real reason she's the artist this week.

The weekend before Thanksgiving was Rebecca's Fall Recital. She did a nice job with her piece, Night Owl by Rollin.

Unfortunately I was a little slow off the mark in taping and missed the opening bit of the piece. However, poor camera work aside, you still get a good sense of the piece.

I love her poise at the piano and the big grin on her face as she returns to her seat.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Kiwis can have big dreams too. A very touching little short film.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Endings

Happy Endings
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Dessert is serious business around here on Thanksgiving. We have the all but obligatory pumpkin pie (Max has been bugging me about this since Halloween), the tarte tatin ( aka the apple tarty thingy) that is much beloved by the adults, and the ever popular chocolate course courtesy of Meryl.

The chocolate course came about because Meryl wanted to bring something for Thanksgiving the first time she came over a few years ago. I had the meal well in hand and anything else other than chocolate would be akin to bringing coals to Newcastle. It was a huge hit and is now a permanent part of our Thanksgiving.

This year she went one better by bringing the centerpiece in the photo. It's a melted snowman made of fudge surrounded by a ring of maple sugar candy (melted snow) and an outer ring of chocolate sponge (mud). It's great fun and we are slowly chipping away at it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for my family and that we are all healthy and together. Oh and my dishwasher, I'm very, very thankful for my dishwasher.

Today's menu is as follows:

Stuffing with and without Sausage
Mashed Potatoes
Haricot Vert
Clover Leaf Rolls

A Chocolate Course

Pumpkin Pie
Tarte Tatin

Served with a choice of cider, soda, and Les Heretiques red table wine

I hope you all have a happy and very tasty Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Artist of the Week: Small Spaces

Nate and Pony
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Nate and today he got to ride the sweet little pony in this picture.

We have a friend with numerous horses and she's been wanting us to come out and ride for some time. Today we were finally able to coordinate schedules. Rebecca was beside herself with excitement, the boys less so (in fact Jake the whole thing a miss and stayed home). I wasn't sure at first if Nate and Max would ride, but in the end I got all three up, ride a bit on their own and even go at a trot. The pony was incredibly good natured about three kids going on and off. It wasn't until the end that she would head to the gate, indicating that she was done and wanted to go to her stall.

small spaces
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
But enough about ponies, instead let's focus on small spaces.

At some point I had given Nate a small pad of paper that was roughly 2 inches by 3 inches. I think it's original purpose was to collect friends' email addresses and phone numbers. However it he has long strayed from the pads original use. Just the other day he presented to me two slips of paper with sketches of essentially the interior of our house.

The top drawing is of our living room with dog on the far right corner of the carpet (it's a bit easier to distinguish in the original sketch). Nate intended the picture to be a some what abstract study of the room. I see the abstract elements, but it is still very clearly the living room.

The lower picture is a side view of the stairs leading up to the second floor. Again, he was going for a more abstract feel. Meanwhile I found this picture to be a dead-on representation. Nate's drawing has come a long way during the past 6 months. He took art the first quarter of the school year and it looks like he learned quite a bit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whew Doggie

Today was the last big day of errands before the kids are out for five days. I didn't have lunch until after I picked up Jake from school at roughly quarter to three.

Jake was shocked at how late my lunch was and asked me why.

So, I told him what I did between seeing he and his siblings off in the morning and picking him up from school.

I walked the dogs.
Goofed off on the computer for 20 minutes.
Returned some dishes to a kind neighbor.
Rescued my beloved chickadee cookie tin (sans cookies) from the high school.
Drove to Meryl's and together we ran errands (it's far more fun to do boring stuff with a friend.
The errands consisted of:

Dropping off Jake's trumpet to be repaired.
Treat shopping at the For Love of Chocolate with bonus purchase next door of a new camera bag (Dell keeps eating my camera bags).
Getting wine for Thanksgiving at the wine and cheese store J. Emerson.
More adult beverage shopping at Corks & Kegs.
Hardcore veggie shopping (Hee- or rather Haricot vert shopping).
A preemptive Costco run, I refuse to go there the Wednesday before Thanksgiving onto the Monday after. Around Thanksgiving Costco becomes an evil, evil place.
And then a quick stop at Trader Joe's.

Whew, Meryl and I packed in a whole lot of errands, but now we are done with Thanksgiving shopping and don't have to set foot in a store until next week.

After I finished reeling off all my accomplishments Jake, clearing stunned by it all, told me I deserved to goof off for far more than 20 minutes and then asked if I do that every day.

My answer was fortunately no.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ONE - Tropfest 2010 Finalist

Lovely little wordless movie featuring, of all things, dice as the main protagonists.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Today was a whirlwind of activity for us. In addition to the normal musical lessons for Nate and Max we had Rebecca's piano recital and a private showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows courtesy of Meryl.

The musicals bits all went well, except for the fact that the recital was too dang long (two hours vs the normal one hour- long story and I hope it's not repeated). Which brings us to the movie.

It was glorious.

Yes it's dark, but then the last book is dark. The characters stayed true to the book and only a few liberties were taken. The stopping point chosen was logical and left us pining for the second half. Mind you it's not short, clocking in at 2 1/2 hours. However the movie was well paced and edited, fully utilizing that extra half hour. You really don't mind the length of the movie. I can't wait for the second installment come this July.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Silliness

Scott Pilgrim Avatar
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
In the not too distant past I saw Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World in our beloved second run movie palace, the Byrd Theater.

It is not great cinema, but it is a wonderful flick. It rips along with a great sense of humor and is just the right length. I don't want to say much more, because odds are I would end up spoiling it. Basically it's a boy meets girl, boy has to defeat exs of girl to win her type of movie.

I didn't write about the movie earlier because I hadn't much to say. But, since then I have started poking around on the movie's website. The site is turning out to be a glorious time suck of Avatar creation and YouTube remixes. It's a nice way to wind down the week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Color

Fall Color
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Here are some of the pretty, pretty leaves out front.

The dark red is Japanese Maple and the more washed out red and orange is my waaaay past peak Burning Bush (winged euonymus). Then down below there are bright splashes of red berries amongst the green leaves of my Heavenly Bamboo.

Interestingly two of the above are considered invasive species and should have never been planted in the first place. Which is a pity with the Burning Bush. I've haven't had any problems with it and I'm fond of the bright red it produces in early fall. The Heavenly Bamboo, however, I could happily rip it all out if it weren't so well established and... well invasive.

As for the bright orange pumpkins on the steps, they should have been tossed last weekend. They make for a pretty picture, but the insides are nightmarish to say the least.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Artist of the Week: Mezuzah

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week it's Rebecca's turn to be Artist of the Week.

This picture is from a while back. She was home sick with her brother and was so cute cuddled up in bed I had to take a picture. It was just a touch of bronchitis, so apart from the cough she didn't seem at all ill, but she wasn't cleared for school. We just kept things on the quiet side and in no time at all she was back to school, both religious (aka Hebrew or Sunday school) and secular.

She has been going to Sunday school, since Kindergarten. It's the third go around (you could even say fourth as well because of the whole twin thing) for our family so we pretty much know what to expect for each grade when it's Max and Rebecca's turn. Once a year there is special event called Gesher when the parents are requested to attend to school. There is a discussion group during the first have with the Rabbi, then students and parents come together with some sort of craft. During the third grade Gesher the students got to make their own mezuzah.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This year the students got to use modeling clay with a variety of colors. Previously they have made them from small cardboard tubes or regular white clay.

Rebecca, being the girlie girl that she is, went for the pinkish white and fuchsia. She carefully molded it around a wooden cloths-peg and made the top and bottom nail holes. Once she was done constructing the holder it was taken back to the kitchen to be baked.

It turned out rather well and, miracle of miracles, survived the ride home. All that was left for us to do was insert the blessings and affix it to her doorway. She was delighted when I finally did my half of the job yesterday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Puppy Puppy Pumpkin Eater

Pumpkin eater
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
John loves eating pumpkins. Actually both dogs do, but after I yelled at Dell for snagging a lid off of a pumpkin I had just carved he has been less interested in pumpkins. Dell will still eat them, he just waits for permission now.

Anyhoodle, John doesn't wait for permission, he just helps himself whenever the mood strikes him. At least he has only been eating one pumpkin and has left it pretty much in place. At this point, two weeks plus post carving, not much is left. It looks like a small explosion of pumpkin pulp near the bottom of the steps.

As for Dell, he now doesn't approve of John's wanton destruction of the pumpkins. After I took the picture above of John, Dell bounced down the steps and gave John the hairy eyeball and stood by the pumpkins.

Disapproving Dell
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

John's reaction was to casually stroll away, as though Dell had nothing to do with his moving off. I don't know if you can see it, but this picture captured the moment when Dell was standing in rigid disapproval next to the pumpkin. John, meanwhile, is halfway across the yard.

I found the whole thing hilarious. Dell has such a sunny, happy go lucky demeanor 99% of the time. However my chewing him out over the pumpkin lid really made an impression on our goofy boy. He has appointed himself defender of the pumpkins.

At least when I'm around. It wouldn't surprise me if he snuck in a few bites when I'm not present.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birds on the Wires

I found this video sometime last year, loved it, bookmarked it for later, and then forgot it. While pruning out old and dead links in my bookmarks I rediscovered it. I first found it over at Laughing Squid, but the Vimeo page is far more informative.

Either way, sit back and enjoy.

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lesson Learned This Weekend

I am not a sleepover kind of parent.

I am a parent that will cheerfully and enthusiastically cater to whatever your birthday cake desires are. If you can envision it and clearly articulate what you want, I'll give it a shot. Nate's "The Horror of Cake War" cake was deemed epic by his friends.

I will go along with an endless Nerf gun battle in the house as long as my bedroom, my husband's study and the dining room remain off limits. I can deal with the eleventy billion foam darts littered throughout the house. I will calmly walk through the fire fight and ignore the darts flying around me. To their credit not a single dart hit me.

But I can't deal with loud voices at 2:00 am, every light turned on downstairs at 3:30 am, and bizarre questions about birthday presents at 4:00. The last bit resulted in my telling Nate that in all likelihood he was never having a sleepover again.

The boys weren't particularly awful or ill-behaved (well except for the question bit at 4:00am and that was my own child), in fact the two guests are a lovely pair of polite and well mannered children. I'm just getting to old to deal with the random interruptions in my sleep and the endless noise. I treasure the peace and quiet that descends on this house every night at 10:00 pm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Birthday Party A Day Late

Nate's 12th birthday cake
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Veteran's Day is Nate's birthday, but we didn't celebrate it until today.

As per Nate's request I made him yet another war themed birthday cake and I really outdid myself this year.

I carved out craters on the top and sides, made two tanks (one intact, the other broken and trapped in a crater, and had a rather bloody Cake Corp on top.

The cake was a huge hit at the party. It was declared epic and all the boys liked the the red sparkly gel icing I applied generously to the downed soldiers. If you click on the picture it will take you to my Flickr page and the complete photo-set.

Bloody and gruesome is what 11 to 12 year old boys loved to have on their birthday cakes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Veteran, My Father

To all of those who have served this country, I thank you.

My father served in WWII on a mine sweeper in the Pacific. This is one of the few photographs I have of him in uniform. He is on the front stoop with his Aunt and Uncle in his Navy uniform.

He looks so young, he had just turned 26 years old if it's the later part of March. And this was years before he even met my mother.

So once again thank you for all your sacrifices in keeping this nation safe and free.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Artist of the Week: Technical

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
In a purely technical manner, this week's artist is Jake.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I have to employ a form of ambush photography to capture my eldest child. It's not so much camera shyness as it is my son having an uncontrollable urge to make odd faces when a camera is pointed in his direction. The four pictures before this one consisted of him hiding behind his DS whatever gobbledygook that follows, a strange twisted open mouth, a squinty eyed duck face and one blurry action shot. Then I just sat near him and waited and got this fairly decent picture of him. He's looking down which makes it seem as though his eyes are closed, but really they are open.

technical drawing
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
His drawings, on the other hand, are a whole lot easier to photograph. The only tricky part is getting the light balance right and the contrast.

The drawings in question are from Jake's technical drawing class in High School. I still can't get over the fact that I'm the mother of a high schooler. I'll always think of myself as riding heard on grade schoolers. Anyhoodle, he wanted to take Latin, but it did not fit in his schedule so he decided to take Basic Technical Drawing instead.

He has been having a great time in class. It is right up his alley, minutely examining things and getting them down just right. So far he is finding the class to be an easy A, a nice respite with an all honors course load. The whole class seems to be fairly effortless for him with the exception of one extra credit assignment, a film reel. He hasn't quite sussed out the best way to draw it. As he put it, it's all circles within circles and some oddball shapes thrown in for good measure. He'll get sooner or later, I have no doubt about that.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Am I Missing Something?

Gits Group
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I fully realize that it is the business owner's family name, but really?

Gits Group?

I have always viewed the word git to be a rather negative descriptor. The phrase "stupid git" springs to mind.

I even went so far as to look up the word. According to the dictionary a git is a worthless or foolish person, British origin.

So maybe I'm mistaken that it is part of the common lexicon. Possibly the result of watching far to much Monty Python in my formative years.

Then again Larry, who had a far less Anglophilic upbringing (My family maybe 13th generation American but we still cling to the oddest aspects of our UK heritage. Seriously, how on earth have we remained English, Scottish and Welsh? My generation is the first one to really venture out in the gene pool.), agreed it was the oddest choice in business names.

So what do y'all of you think of this?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Goodbye, Penguins by Greg Stones

A very Edward Gorey-esque treatment of a penguin count down book. I really liked it, but I decided it is not appropriate for Max, the 9 year old penguin lover of the house.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Iron Fatigue

Nate is learning to play guitar. A while back we bought him a small acoustic guitar with the idea of eventually getting him lessons. He has since outgrown it, but he is now learning how to play on his father's guitar.

He is very quick to learn and eager to play, far more so than he ever was with piano (but ah, the groundwork had been laid). If fact his teacher is greatly impressed by his progress each week.

Unfortunately he only plays one recognizable tune, the classic coda from Black Sabbath's Iron Man. Which is not a bad song, but when you hear it over and over- day in and day out it gets a little tedious. I'm glad he is so enthusiastic to practice, I just wish there was a bit more variety.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolaty Goodness

Oatmeal chocolate chip
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Earlier this week I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a friend. He had helped me out in selecting an appropriate Apple (I'm a PC kinda a gal and I haven't a clue when it comes to Macs) computer for my mom and I wanted to thank him for all his time an effort. I asked him what kind of cookie did he want and he wrote back oatmeal with chocolate chips, no raisins.

Alright then. I've never made oatmeal cookies before, but I'm willing to give it a go. I've never been a big fan of oatmeal cookies and for that I blame the ubiquitous raisin. Since I was making them and my friend had requested no raisins I had a good feeling about the cookies.

I selected the The Best Cookie of 1900-1910 Oatmeal Drop Cookies from my Betty Crocker Cookie Book with of course various modifications by me.

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips*

(*original recipe called for 1/2 cup chopped nuts and 1 cup raisins instead of the chocolate chips. I dislike both and my friend requested oatmeal chocolate chip)

Heat oven to 400 F
Mix shortening, sugar, eggs, and molasses thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Stir dry ingredients together; blend in. Stir in oats and chocolate chips (or raisins and nuts if you go that way). Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet (oops I forgot to do that and it really wasn't a problem). Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!
The cookies were scrumptious. Moist and chewy with a wonderful depth of flavor from the molasses and the chocolate. They were a big hit with the family and they are almost gone. I think the only reason any are left is that I made brownies a few days earlier. Oh and all the candy from Halloween too. I will definitely be making these again.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I Wish

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Isn't this a pretty pizza?
Doesn't it look delicious?

I thought so and took a picture of it when I made it way back in August.

This was what dinner was supposed to look like tonight. We were having make your own pizza night. However our oven had different plans.

It initially heated up to almost 450. Then, unbeknown to me, the bottom heating element gave up the ghost. I was happily watching the cheese brown unaware of the fact that the crust below really wasn't cooking. It wasn't until I started pulling pizzas from the oven that I discovered the true state of affairs.

It was then a mad scramble to figure out how to cook the pizza without a fully functional oven. In the end I decided to place the metal pans directly on the cook top and finish off the pizzas that way.

It was far from ideal, but it did work. The pizzas were a mess; cheese sliding off and a bit over done, the bottom of the crust a bit burnt in places. But, they were edible.

So it looks like I'll be buying a new heating element tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Artist of the Week: Carving

This weeks artist, or rather artists are Jake, Nate, Max and Rebecca. This year was a very significant one in our annual Halloween pumpkin carving extravaganza, all four got to design and carve at least one pumpkin by themselves.

Until now I've been leery of setting them all loose with knives. Jake has been carving a little bit for the past couple of years, Nate even less so. I had some metal cookie cutters that were designed for walloping into a pumpkin and knocking out a shape. The forms came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but were honestly a real pain to use. They would get stuck in the rind of the pumpkin and would inevitably get battered and squished. It was a good idea, but was lacking in execution ( the biggest drawback to the kit was the rubber mallet. It was easily the smelliest tool I have ever encountered).

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
So this year they got to use the knives.

Going clockwise starting from the upper left we have Rebecca's very traditional one tooth pumpkin. It's such a happy looking face. I love how the eyes are just a little bit cockeyed, it adds to the overall charm.

Next we have Max's flower, bat and moon. He always makes tiny detailed drawings and this pumpkin was no exception. He did a beautiful job drawing and craving his creation.

On the lower right is Jake's grumpy old man. Like Rebecca's it is a bit more traditional. Jake's observation about it, after he was done carving, was that the pumpkin kind of looked like an old guy that would yell out Hey kids! Get off my Lawn!" So of course this was the pumpkin we put at the end of the driveway to bring in trick or treaters.

Last up we have Nate's zombies. I apologize for the poor quality of the picture. I had a hard time setting up to take this pumpkin's picture. The carving, like Max's, is a tableau of zombies under a cresent moon and stars. He had a hard time carving the stars and ended up with a sort of triangular shape. I think he did a great job and the pumpkin looked great once it was lit up.

All four had a great time drawing their designs on the pumpkins and then cutting them out. The best part for me, however, was that nobody sliced themselves with the knives. It was a sucess and I forsee more carving in the future.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Civic Duty

civic duty
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Here is my annual, or at least as annual as the elections allow, I Voted sticker shot.

This year it's a bit washed out from the bright sunlight in my backyard. However, rain or bright sunshine I vote. It's my civic duty and I take it very seriously.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Beyond Words

An amazing short film. It's best to watch with an open mind, don't read anything about it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I hope y'all had a safe and fun Halloween.

This year we have a fabulous witch, a pirate and a member of the Russian Mafia (with in gun storage of candy).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Insanity Continues

Once again I have bought a boat load of pumpkins. I seem to be holding steady at 18, I'm pretty sure that is how many I got last year. Either way it's a heck of a lot of pumpkins.

My plan is to hollow them out tomorrow after we are all done with soccer. I think I'll be willing to carve a few as well. We'll see how it goes. My main concern is the weather, as long as it doesn't rain I'll be happy. So far it like it will be cool and clear.

Now I just have to find my jumbo bag of tea lights...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My House is Infested

With Dachshunds.

Theoretically the top cushion should be against the back of the dog couch, but John prefers to have it stacked top of the bottom cushion. He usually pulls it back down within an hour of my straightening it up into it's "official" position. So at this point I don't bother unless we have company.

Nate noticed Dell in the dog couch the other day and took this picture. We both found to rather funny that Dell's head was the only thing you could see. Normally he and John will be on top of the cushions, each dog curled up in his respective spot. But not this time, Dell apparently wanted to be inside the cushions.

And stay he did until something far more exciting (at least to Dell) happened in the house or outside.