Friday, December 24, 2010


Here is a nice article written for one of our local papers...

Schalick freshman off to fast start

Bill Evans, December 23, 2010 1:43 a.m.

Stewart “Newt” Richardson was seeded last at 119 pounds at the season-opening Pine Barrens Tournament at Shawnee High School on Saturday.
He won, capturing a major decision in the final.

On Tuesday night, Richardson faced Penns Grove district finalist and senior Ricky Sassi in the final match of a dual meet. Richardson notched a stunning 18-3 technical fall.

Less than a week into his first varsity season, the Schalick High School freshman has already made a name for himself. “The secret’s getting out on him a little bit,” said Schalick coach Justin Martin with a smile. “Guys know he’s good, but now they’re starting to figure out how good he actually is.”

The affable, soft-spoken freshman has been pleased — though not entirely surprised — with his fast start.

“I felt I wrestled pretty good (at Pine Barrens),” sad Richardson. “I wasn’t really expecting to win, but wanted to do my best and hopefully winning would be the outcome. Now beating kids who have placed in districts, the bar’s been raised pretty high.”

Richardson, who said he has been wrestling for seven or eight years, placed fifth in a national MAWA tournament this summer.

Martin doesn’t want to put too many expectations on a freshman, but he said Richardson’s presence has already had an impact on the young, rebuilding team.

“He’s wrestled his whole life and he’s on the mat all year long,” said Martin. “Anything Newt gets this year is because he deserves it, because he worked hard and got it. I’m very, very proud of how he’s approaching this team and taken charge of this team. You can see the difference in the practice room because he’s in there.”

Asked about the nickname, Martin laughed and said “It’s just what I’ve called him since he was 6.”

Richardson said the nickname was given him by his grandfather after he was born premature and showed the fighting spirit of former Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Knute became Newt and the name stuck.

The freshman should be tested again next week when the Cougars compete in the Arthur Marinelli Tournament at Egg Harbor Township, annually one of the bigger tournaments in South Jersey.

“He’s pumping on all cylinders right now, but everything is a test from here on out,” said Martin.

While the early success has boosted Richardson’s confidence, he admits his goals for the season have been set high since the beginning.

“I want to place first in districts, place in regions and make it to states,” said Richardson. “That’s been my goal for a while.”

Richardson’s results the opening week make those lofty goals certainly attainable.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Setting up a takedown.
It seems like Newt has been working toward this year his entire life...well since he was 5 years old. He started wrestling because his Uncle Karl was a wrestler. Newt went to his 1st wrestling match at the Naval Academy when he was 2 months old. He slept through all the yelling, cheering, and airhorn blowing.

At 5yo he began wrestling himself. He was a tiny 5yo and lost all his matches that 1st year but he went out on that mat with a smile on his little face and came off it with the same smile. At practice he asked his coach for more exercises, "Give me more push-ups coach to make me stronger." He loved the exercises...hadn't yet learned from the other kids that exercises were not supposed to be fun.

Through the years he won matches and lost matches. He had good seasons and bad. He went to wrestling practices year-round and wrestling clinics in the summer. We never pushed wrestling on him, never allowed weight cutting because winning was less important that his health, and I tried to hug him when he came off the mat no matter what the outcome of the match.

This past year, Newt asked Poppop to help him with his wrestling. He began lifting weights and Poppop coached him at matches. He began to take it more seriously. Last weekend, he won his 1st 3 high school matches.

Last night he was supposed to have a tough match against a senior who made it to Regions last year. He easily handled his opponent...controlling the entire match. He took the boy down and let him up to take him down again then in the last minute turned him twice to win a technical fall 18-3.

Back points
He'll win some and lose some this year and we'll hug him no matter what the outcome...but he's off to a good start!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekend in Review...

Our normally busy weekends have been even busier with Christmas fast approaching. Not only do we have the normal items on our schedule like Friday evening orchestra rehearsal but it is also wrestling season for Newt which means weekend tournaments and high school matches.

Newt began his high school wrestling career by winning his first 3 matches at the Pine Barrens Tournament this weekend. His coach said he told the other coaches at the seeding meeting that he had a freshman who is pretty good and the other coaches told him "We don't seed freshmen."

So Newt ended up last seed meaning he had to wrestle the 1st seed 1st, the 4th seed 2nd, then the 2nd seed 3rd. He won all his matches by over 10 points and even earned a technical fall on his second opponent (won by 15 points). Maybe next time, they'll seed him. Huh?

I was unable to go to Newt's tournament because Haley and Dylan were scheduled to take fiddle and guitar seminars with Pat Mangan (fiddler for Riverdance and former student of Haley's teacher, Brian Conway) and Ryan McGiver (a wonderful guitar player and singer).

The attendance at the seminars was low, only 2 per class. Haley class consisted of her and another 9yo little girl who was relatively new to violin playing and had never played Irish music before. I was impressed with Pat for keeping both girls involved in the class given the huge difference in experience/playing level. It couldn't have been an easy feat.

Dylan's class consisted of him...very experienced playing Irish music in DADGAD and another gentleman who had never played in DADGAD. I didn't watch his class but Ryan split them up and taught Dylan a fingerpicking tune so he was happy.

The classes were early in the afternoon and we were hanging around for a concert at 8pm so we went and had an early dinner then headed back to the Irish center so Haley could practice her classical and orchestra music. Dylan helped set up for the show and they messed around with their buddy, Tom, who was taking care of the sound equipment. The concert was wonderful. We had planned to only stay for the first half but Haley and Dylan were enjoying the music so much they wanted to keep listening.

 Sunday, we spent the day helping out at the wrestling booster club's JV tournament. I always get roped into helping with the table...putting out the matches and getting them on the board so it tends to be a long day. Yesterday wasn't bad because the tournament was small and we kept things moving so were finished by 2:30pm.

Last night Haley sang a solo, O Holy Night, in our church's children's Christmas play. Every year they save her a solo. She sings beautifully!

Only 5 days until Christmas......

Monday, December 13, 2010

Con Murphys

Paraic Keane asked Haley and Dylan to join him for a few tunes at a gig he was playing at Con Murphys Pub in Philly on Black Friday but Haley had orchestra rehearsal and couldn't miss so when we saw him at the Fergies Pub session last weekend, he asked them to join him this weekend.

We went over after Next Gen. Paraic and Sean played some sets, there were some songs, then Haley and Dylan joined them for some sets. While Paraic and Sean took a break, the kids played some tunes together. They had a lot of fun,

A few tunes...

Haley fiddlin'


Haley and Dyl jammin'

Boys and their toys!

Dylan and Sean talked guitars and Sean let Dylan try his bouzouki (I have no idea how to spell that). Guess what instrument Dylan wants now?? Hmmmm. Haley and Paraic joked around all night. She's so quick. We were talking about not being able to understand people with Irish accents and Paraic said, in his Irish accent, "Yeah, but Haley, you understand me perfectly, right?"

She looked at him confused and said, "Huh?" Then started giggling! So funny!

Next Generation of Irish Musicians

Haley has been playing once a month with the Next Generation of Irish Musicians group since she was 5yo. Dylan began going a couple years ago. They meet once a month and learn a new tune for an hour, take a quick snack break, then play "session style" for the last hour. Kathy, Dennis, and Chris run the group free of charge. The only requirement is to bring a snack to share with the group. There is a nice variety of instruments and a nice group of kids who attend. The group plays for the Children's Discovery Museum and the New Jersey Folk Arts Festival every year. It is a great experience for anyone (child or adult) wanting to try Irish music or who just wants to learn some new tunes. Here are some photos of the last session of 2010...

Dylan accompanying on guitar.

Learning a new tune!

Fiddles waiting for their fiddlers to have a snack.

Haley and Alex fiddling a tune.

Miss Chris and Haley

Next Gen Kids session

Friday, December 10, 2010


Dylan had my camera out last night for an art project. He took some neat shots....

Haley practicing her Handel Sonata.

Look at all that rosin! LOL

Blue strings!

What they are doing out in the cold is beyond me!

Too cold to hold the handlebars.

Self photo?


I always feel strange saying my kids are playing a "gig." Lately they've had quite a few paid performances and are loving them. They've played a house party, a Christmas Candlelight Tour, and had their own show in a coffeehouse setting.

Jim, from the Down Jersey radio show, who plays sets from the kids' CD on his show, encouraged the coffeehouse people to hire them after he'd played at that venue because they have a wonderful, appreciative audience in a large living room type setting. I was a little worried at first because they were to play for 2 hours but once I factored in a 15-20 min. break and all the talking between tune sets introducing them, it didn't end up being too much music and Haley and Dylan played their last set just as energetically as the first. They were asked to come back in 2011.

Haley is a natural in front of an audience, not just with her playing. She introduces the tunes adding in her own little quips and jokes. She's quick on her feet so has a comeback whenever anyone tries to trip her up. She had the audience laughing throughout the evening. Dylan doesn't like talking in front of people as much as Haley but his comfort level playing is improving every performance. As someone who hates to be in front of a group of people, they amaze me!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Colonial Cooking

Haley and I are working our way through Everyday Life: Colonial Times by Walter Hazen, a workbook with readings and activities. On our chapter about food and drink in Colonial Times, we came upon a recipe for journeycakes "or johnnycakes." Did you know that early colonial people ate corn in some form or another nearly 365 days a year?? (And I worry about having chili more than once a month. Ha!)

Haley made our journeycakes herself and they were very yummy.


1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup sugar

Grease 9x13 pan (or smaller if you prefer thicker cakes) with oil or butter. Mix dry ingredients together then add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Pour into baking pan and bake at 350 deg. The recipe said to bake 20 minutes but we needed to bake ours for about 35-40 min for the middle to get dry enough and I imagine in a smaller pan, you'd need to bake even longer.

Haley took a journeycake for breakfast on the way to violin. "A journeycake for her journey to violin lessons." LOL

Monday, November 29, 2010

Suzuki Violin Thoughts...

A new Suzuki mom asked a question on Suzuki chat about whether or not her 3 year old's progress within the method was worth all the practice when she'd heard that older student generally progress much faster needing fewer lesson to make the same progress. Then on the Well Trained Mind forums another mother was asking whether it was too frustrating to begin a 3 year old in formal music lessons.

The various answers given got me thinking about a number of things. I think there are pros and cons to starting at different ages so each family needs to take them into consideration.

Many people claim that a 5-6 year old will progress much faster than a 3 year old beginning lessons and maybe for the average child that is the case. This seems to make sense due to the increased maturity, longer attention spans, and improved manual dexterity. But there are a number of 3 year olds who progress as quickly or more quickly than the average 5-6 year old. These kids are playing concerti by 5-6 years old. They may have progressed very quickly if they started at 5-6 but they wouldn't be where they are at 5-6 if they hadn't started early and kids beginning at 5-6 years old are not catching up to them until many years later as they all hit that time when kids really begin to decide whether or not music is a major force in their lives. So then one wonders whether or not it is important to be playing concerti at 5 years old or later in ones life...probably not important in the sense that music education is not a race; however, I think there are other benefits to beginning music instruction early.

Haley does not know her life without music and daily practice in it. Music wasn't something we had to make room for in her life because she has always done it as far back as she can remember. The habit was formed very young. She also knows that she can learn to do anything with practice. Wow, is that an important bit of knowledge. She practices like crazy anything she wants to learn whether it is a cartwheel, a song, writing...whatever. She's a determined kid who's found the path to mastering anything she wants to accomplish.

Also, I have read studies that claim perfect pitch occurs more frequently in children who begin ear training at 3 years old than in the general population.

Another benefit is the time spent and relationship built pursuing a common goal. I treasure all the time I have spent with Haley practicing her violin. At first it was 10-15 minutes here and there and all her practice was fun and games. I got very good at breaking every large technique into smaller, more easily accomplished parts and use that skill in many other areas of our lives.

One final benefit, at least for Haley, was helping her work her way through her perfectionism. Initially, Haley didn't want to try anything that might take more than one attempt. She'd roll on the floor or talk about everything in the room just to avoid anything she might consider difficult...meaning anything she might not get the first time. Through her play and practice she began experimenting with her violin and learned that it was okay to make mistakes and sometimes those "mistakes" sound really cool. I also frequently repeated the mantra, "we practice to make it easier!" Now she has no problem improvising or trying anything.

I am not saying that early music study is for everyone. Some may be too frustrated by progress. Unless you can enjoy the process without worrying about the progress, early music study is not for you. For some people, resources may be limited. Time and money are definitely needed. In those early years, it is best to be able to sit with your child to practice whenever they pick up the instrument. Also, music study is not inexpensive...I can't think of any activity kids do at the higher levels that isn't expensive so that is relative.

All in all, it has been a worthwhile pursuit in our household. We are enjoying the ride!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's for dinner?

Whenever I have a day without a full schedule I manage to try a new recipe. This recipe came originally from my sister who gave it to my mom. My sister got it from I doubled it to feed my family.

Old Time Chicken Divan

2 heads broccoli cut into florrets, steamed until tender-crisp, then run under cold water and drained well.

2 cups cooked boneless, skinless chicken cut into pieces

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp sherry or white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
 pinch pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Locatelli cheese

Melt butter in a saucepan over med. heat. Whisk in flour and cook whisking constantly until begins to turn to a pale beige (about 3 min). Whisk in sherry, broth, and cream until smooth. Bring to boil over med-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 min; add salt and pepper.

Place drained broccoli into 9X13 pan. Top with half the cream sauce. Place chicken on top then mix cheese into remaining sauce and pour over chicken. Top with extra cheese if desired.

Bake at 350 for 20 min or until heated through then broil for a few minutes to brown top. Serve over egg noodles or other favorite noodles. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Dinner was eaten. Homework was done. The boys were nowhere to be seen. I went looking for them, wondering what kind of mischief they were up to being so quiet together. This is what I found...two boys quietly playing checkers together.

Of course it quickly deteriorated to this! Now that's more like normal. Ah!

Maryland State Irish Festival and Fleadh

 On Sunday, we went to the Maryland State Irish Festival. It was held at the Cow Palace of the Maryland State Fairgrounds. (We were very excited to go to a Cow Palace...ROFL) The festival was very nice. There were 3 huge rooms. The first was mostly informational booths for different Irish Societies, the State Police, animal rescue, and Irish cultural exhibits. The middle room had bouncers and other activities for young children and the third room had most of the food booths, rows and rows of vendors selling everything Irish you could think of, and two stages for entertainment.

Wolf Hounds
We saw these huge Wolf Hounds and talked to their owner. They were as tall as a Great Danes and gentle as can be. He said they were originally bred to kill wolves but were so good at their job that they worked themselves out of a job about 300 years ago. Now they are kept as pets. These two were rescue animals.
Dylan receiving his medal
Haley and Dylan competed in the Fleadh at the festival. Haley in the under 13 fiddle and Dylan in the under 13 guitar accompaniment. Haley played for Dylan to accompany. Haley and Dylan both placed 1st in the divisions/instruments and Haley placed 1st overall for the under 13 competitions.
Haley receiving her medal

Ceili (Dance)

Back in July, when we were attempting to raise money for Haley's trip to the All Ireland, the CCE Delaware Valley branch held a benefit for Haley and two other young musicians. Haley and her friend, Alex, were unable to attend because we were on our way to Swannanoa Gathering so the group asked them to come to their ceili on Saturday night and provide entertainment prior to the dancing. The kids met just before the ceili and put together a short program. Alex played his slow air (his competition in Ireland was slow airs) and another jig set with Dylan accompanying. Then Haley played a couple reel sets with Dylan accompanying and Alex came out to dance a reel during one of them. Then all three kids played a couple reel sets together. They all did a great job!

 After their program, Dylan and Alex went into a room to play pool while Haley joined the adults in some dancing. (She loves to dance!) She danced with Cass Tinney for the Gay Gordons. But she was especially glad her friend, Tommy (Cass's grandson), was there. The two of them dance together every time we attend a ceili in the city. They danced the Haymaker's Jig then waltzed together giggling the entire time. They were bumped into and bounced around by the adult couples like a couple of pinballs because the floor was so crowded. They eventually gave up and ran to the other room to play pool with the other boys.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scrambled Pancakes...

Newt has been lifting and trying to increase his protein intake to build muscle. Breakfast has been difficult for him because he isn't too fond of eggs especially first thing in the morning. Though he suffers through and eats them, he was especially keen on me finding him some alternatives.

I remembered a dish we lived on while I was in PT school. One of my roomies was of German ancestry and she introduced us to it. When money for groceries was running low this is what we ate. I couldn't remember the exact recipe or the name of the dish so I searched on the internet and combined a few recipes and what little I remembered to come up with this...

Scrambled Pancakes

2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients well. Melt butter in pan on medium heat (or spray pan with cooking spray). Dump mixed ingredients into hot pan then chop into pieces, turn, and let cook until cooked dry and the pieces are beginning to brown (my kids like the browned pieces because they are a bit crunchy). I have made it without the added sugar and butter in the recipe and it tastes fine. We serve it with cheap (ie. fake) maple syrup and melted butter.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Reading Skills

There has been an ongoing discussion on the Well Trained Mind Accelerated Learner board about early readers and those who are gifted vs. those who are early readers due to exposure but eventually level out with their peers as they get older. The seeming "competition" to have the earliest reader in some circles annoys me.

I am all for teaching a child to read when they are asking and showing the signs of being ready to read but while working in homes where the TV is on in the mornings, I often see commercials for the Doman method for teaching reading where they parade tiny babies and toddlers raving about their early reading skills. Having raised bright kids, I know personally that a bright child will learn whatever they are exposed to. I just don't think being exposed to flashcards of words at 8 months old when there is so much more to do with your baby is ideal.

Here are some of my other thoughts on the topic (from the discussion on the board...with some added thoughts)...

I think there is a huge difference between being able to in being able to decode words and understanding what is read especially when kids hit the age where they need to understand more than the plot of a story. I read about the Glen Doman method when my kids were little before deciding against it. I figured my kids would learn to read when they were ready and our time could better be spent exploring the world and playing.

I am not so sure methods like Glen Doman can help with the comprehension of what is read making the children who learn to read through the method more like hyperlexic kids who read much higher than their average peers without the comprehension necessary to read at that level.

Early reading is not an absolute indicator of high IQ. A "gifted" child may be more likely to read early but an early reader does not necessarily have a high IQ. So, I think like the previous poster mentioned, those kids who learn to read using that method (unless of course they were gifted) will eventually level out with peers in reading...eventually everyone learns to read (decode) and reads fairly well.

I imagine there are can be psychological consequences to being seen as gifted and to having people make a big deal about a skill like early reading only to discover in later years that you are no longer above everyone else especially if that one ability (being able to read early and better than kids your age) was a big part of who you saw yourself as being or the way you got attention from others.

As to the psychological consequences of raising a "real" child prodigy...I'm sure that could be another discussion entirely.

The discussion morphed by some into how to develop comprehension skills...

For my early reading kids, some of the comprehension type skills like inferencing and predicting seemed to need life experience to develop more than being something we could specifically work on. I saw this most clearly with my dd, who when assessed by a reading specialist (I think she was 6 or maybe a young 7 at the time...don't remember) was decoding at a 12th grade level but comprehending at a 7th grade level. The questions she was missing the answers to were those that required her to have knowledge outside of the passage itself.

If a very young child is decoding at a high level, they tend to end up reading books meant for a more mature child so they don't understand the inuendo or the figures of speech, etc... until they've been exposed to them. I found often she didn't understand that characters would have an ulterior motive or might be being dishonest. She was just too innocent to even think along those lines.

Some of the things we did/do to work on comprehension are to read and discuss deeply books way below their decoding level...along the lines of Classics in the Classroom and Suppose the Wolf's an Octopus' higher levels of questioning.

We intermingle well written picture books with chapter books and novels because there are so many great books out there to read. I tend to think along the lines of "so many books, so little time," so we didn't rush to chapter books and forget about picture books as soon as the kids were able.

 I also had them work through a couple of the Reading Detective workbooks to learn to find the answers to questions with backup from the text. Learning how to take apart a story by discussing the parts of the story and outlining the action in a story seems to help.

But really those much deeper ways of thinking about a story still seem to need maturity and more exposure to life. Though I am saving many of those really great classics for when Haley is a bit older and will be able to fully enjoy them, we do pick some to work on now and then that I think she may enjoy reading more than once in her life. I still find myself appreciating a book differently when reading some books with her that I enjoyed in high school. It is really neat to think about how the change in perspective affects how you read a book.

Monday, November 08, 2010

All Heart...

 In our study of the human body, we have taken a detour from PLATO science to do some detailed study of the different systems of the body. Some of the supplement materials we are using include a Gray's Anatomy coloring book, The Human Body for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave, David Macauley's The Way We Work, and The Body Book by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne. We are really enjoying The Body Book which was suggested to us by our homeschooling friend Marda. It contains hands-on models that are easy and fun to make.

We have worked our way through the respiratory system then last week began the circulatory system. A couple years ago the boys and I had fun dissecting a cow heart which was not much different from a human heart and very large so easy to see.
This year we were able to obtain a cow's heart from our friendly neighborhood butcher shop. The guys were a bit amused by our request but they got us one and called when it was ready. Today Haley and I had a good time dissecting the heart and identifying the main parts. Haley was excited to find a small clot on the cow's equivalent of our tricuspid valve. We attempted to make microscope slides of the blood and tissue but since we couldn't locate our good slide making kit (thanks to our move...probably still in a box somewhere), we weren't very successful. I will be looking for that kit and the good microscope as soon as I get a minute to go through the unopened boxes still in the basement and we will try to make slides of my blood instead.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Happy Birthday, Poppop!

These are the most important people in our lives and the best parents/grandparents anyone could ask for.

They are the reason we still live where we live. Since I have the choice, there is no way I could allow my kids to grow up someplace where they couldn't see their Grammy and Poppop regularly. Besides vacations, they have not gone a week without seeing them and they have loved them "best of all" since they were newborn babies.

Not only do they do the normal grandparenty things like dinners at their home, letting us swim in their pool all summer, and presents on holidays...they go above and beyond.

Grammy and Poppop are always willing to travel with Haley and I whether it is across the river to Philly for an Irish session, to Minnesota for a week long orchestra, or to Ireland for a Fleadh. We call them our bodyguards. They also have attended nearly every concert she has ever performed in...sitting through some of them has been a feat in itself!

They travel with us to all the Towheads performances as well, often transporting us in their van because it is the only vehicle that will hold all of us along with sound equipment and instruments.

This past year, Poppop has been a Godsend. As my schedule with Haley's music has gotten crazier and crazier, he has stepped in to help Newt with his wrestling. He is home every afternoon to help the boys when they come over after school to workout, has done research to find the best workout program for Newt, buys or builds the equipment he needs, attends his practices (often taking Newt by himself if I have to work late), and takes him to tournaments on weekends now when my weekends are consumed by orchestra rehearsals and trips for fiddle lessons in New York.

I don't know if Newt appreciates the effort as much as he should now (being a teenager and all) but I do know that some day, maybe when he is grown, he'll look back on this time he was able to spend with his Poppop and will treasure it. I also know he is helping to shape the man Newt will be someday.

Happy Birthday, Poppop! Thank you for everything you do for us! I love you more than you will ever know!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Chicken Potpie...

Nothing better on a cool day! Not your normal pie kinda potpie but the southern kind with slippery noodles. Yummy!

Chicken Potpie

In a huge stock pot place a large roaster chicken (add some boneless skinless chicken breasts if feeding a crowd), cover with water, then add 1 can Cream of Chicken soup, 1 med onion chopped, 2 celery sticks chopped, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to boil then let simmer on low for hours (3-4 hours to all day if you want).

Take about 2 cups of chicken stock from stock pot and place in fridge to cool while you prepare dough...

Mix together:
3.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp baking powder
pepper to taste

Cut in 1/2 cup Crisco completely. Then add reserved cooled stock a little at a time, mixing in as you go until dough comes together in a ball (drier is better than too sticky). Roll out of floured surface very thinly (less than 1/4 inch...the thinner the better). Cut into small squares and place on a plate.

Remove chicken from stock pot (it should fall apart so be careful). Bring liquid to a boil then drop the dough pieces into the liquid one by one moving already added pieces to the side with a spoon while dropping in others. Put heat to low and cook 30-45 min.

While potpie is cooking remove chicken from bones then serve noodles over chicken pieces.

We like to have it with candied sweet potatoes and peas on the side.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

We had a very fun but busy Halloween weekend! We started it with Friday night orchestra then Saturday afternoon orchestra which we almost didn't make due to a huge traffic jam on Rt.55 because of an accident. Haley and I rushed home from orchestra just in time for her to don her pirate costume (which we had, ahem, bought that morning...okay, I was a little behind this year) and picked up Dylan to go Trick or Treating (in his costume which I had bought that morning).  We went to a really nice neighborhood where many of the residents were dressed up, had their homes decorated, or sat outside and handed out candy. We met up with Dylan's buddy, Drew, and they walked around and filled their bags. Dylan then went with Drew to a Halloween Party while Haley and I went home and watched a movie.

Haley and I woke early on Halloween Day and drove to New York for her fiddle lesson with Brian. We took Tinks with us and she had to stop to relieve herself when we were on the Palisades Parkway so we stopped at this scenic overlook. (We've always wanted to stop and see NY from the cliff on the Hudson...great view!) Haley dressed in her costume and took her lesson as a pirate to surprise Brian.

She had a great lesson and some surprise fun after her lesson by having a few tunes with Brian and his students, Finbar and Dermot, who are brothers. Finbar is Newt's age and Dermot is 10yo. Haley gets to play with them when we go to Brian's sessions.

After Haley's lesson, we drove back home to our old neighborhood so she could Trick or Treat with her good friend, Lily. Haley and Lily have Trick or Treated together every year of their lives. It was fun seeing our old neighbors and catching up a bit. Tinks got to see her good doggy buddy, Shen. They were very happy to see each other but wiggled too much for me to get a picture.
Haley borrowed Lily's wig and it lasted as long as the 1st house then Haley discarded it as "itchy." Luckily we were still close to home-base so I didn't have to carry it the whole time.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Wednesday, while doing her daily reading, Haley came upon the word "crepes." She wanted to know what "crep-pes" are so I decided to make some apple crepes for dessert. We bought all the ingredients after her violin lesson then made them after dinner. I doubled the crepe recipe then made up the apple filling recipe to go with them.

Apple Crepes
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter melted

Whisk together egg and flour. Slowly add in milk and water while stirring. Add salt and butter then beat until smooth. Let sit for about 30 min. Cook over medium heat on lightly greased pan by scooping 1/4 cup batter into pan then tilting pan with circular motion so batter coats surface evenly. Cook about 2 min. Loosen with spatula and turn to cook other side.

Apple Filling
8 tart apples (Granny Smith or like) peeled and sliced thin
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Melt butter in pan. Add other ingredients and cook until apples are soft. Spoon a bit into cooked crepes, roll crepe then top with whipped cream or ice cream (or both which is how we ate them).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Little Fiddler...

About a month ago, a friend's father posted this video of Haley fiddling at the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival. (It took me awhile to figure out how to get it on here.) It's her favorite fiddle tune to play at the moment.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Today is a milestone. I have now parented two children to their teen years. Let the fun begin!

The other day I was listening to myself talking to my boys and started wondering at exactly what point I decided that the restrictions and rules my parents imposed on me as a teen were not completely ridiculous, mean spirited, and random but were actually the result of wonderful inspiration and wisdom. I decided that parenting teens led me to that conclusion completely.

So, today Dylan is 13 years old. He's a great kid...sweet, creative, and friendly. (When we are not dealing with the pre-teen/teen angst.) He is very mechanically inclined and can fix just about anything. Just the other day, he restrung Haley's violin. He can fix a guitar like nobody's business. He just understands those kinds of things. He also got the lawn mower to work when no one else could. He comes up with neat inventions and solutions to problems.

Dylan is an amazing guitar player. In the past few years, he has blossomed on the instrument and developed an ear for figuring out chords and accompaniment. I love to listen when he's figuring out tunes on his own and making up backings to what Haley is playing. He is even branching out onto banjo and mandolin. Often Haley gets a lot of the attention when they play because she's adorable and little and is playing the melody. People often don't appreciate all that goes into accompaniment. I love when other guitar players hear him play and show him the appreciation he deserves.

It is difficult to get a picture of him without a silly face, though.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I noticed that almost all my blog posts are about Haley. This is due to having her at home all the time while the boys are in school.

Tonight is Newt's night, however. Last night he and Dylan attended the high school homecoming football game...after watching the parade from the warmth of Grammy and Poppop's living room window.

Tonight is Newt's 1st Homecoming Dance. He got some instruction from his Dad on tying a tie. We wanted lots of photos so he can look at what he wore in the '10s and laugh at himself.
My son doesn't have one date for the dance. He has two. Here they are putting up with the moms who want to capture this moment for posterity.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Every 3-5 months one or more (once every string) Haley's violin strings begin to unravel within the metal of the strings getting ready to snap at the least provocation.

It never happens when we have a day at home planned or a day with only one lesson where is would be easy to make an appointment in the city to have the instrument restrung. It always happens when the kids have a gig the next day or when the weekend is completely full that it would be near impossible to get to the city. Once I raced to Philly at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, through massive rush hour traffic to get to the luthier before they closed at 4:30pm. (I didn't make it but they were nice enough to stay open for me.) The kids had a gig the following day and I didn't have replacement strings on hand.

Last night, I got home from work to be informed that Haley's A string was unraveling "bad." It was in 4 different places and worse than I'd seen one unravel before. My schedule this weekend being completely booked, there was no way to get it in to be restrung and Haley has a violin lesson, a seating audition at one orchestra, a gig with her brothers at our church fall festival, and her other orchestra rehearsal all within the next 48 hours. I did have some extra strings on hand that we'd bought for Ireland and camp. Did I attempt to change those strings myself?

No, I handed the mess to Dylan and let him do it. (The boy has a way with instruments.) Disaster avoided!

My husband wants to know why 4 violin strings cost $50 and 6 guitar strings (which are much longer) cost $15? Sounds like the beginning of a joke, huh? I got to thinking that maybe if I purchase "fiddle" strings, they will be much cheaper. Ha!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


This is our little pup, Bell. She's a 5 pound toy fox terrier. She's snuggly and smart and loves to hide under blankets and in small, tight, warm places to sleep. Her favorite spot is next to my thigh in the chair all narrow and small.

She wakes every morning ready to be sent outside to do her "business" then comes in all excited for her morning Greenie. She "yells" at the boys every morning when they leave for the bus. She loves to go "bye bye" in the car or run around in our fenced yard like a wild critter. She's very fast. She also "talks" to me using her whines, whimpers, and ears, then hitting me with her paws when I say the right word for what she wants. She's very cute.

Bell, however, hates thunder. She begins sitting on my feet like velcro about 30 min before a storm becomes known to us. She then hides or wants to be carried around panting and shaking and looking like a gremlin. A few weeks ago, I posted a question on The Well Trained Mind boards looking for some help for Bell in a storm especially when I'm not home.

Some wonderful person suggested a "Thundershirt" which wraps her tight and makes her feel secure in situations that normally make her nervous. I have to admit. I was very sceptical but I ordered one and tried it during the next storm. It worked. She was still a velcro dog but she wasn't panting and looking like her eyes would bulge out of the sockets. So, I would highly recommend a Thundershirt to anyone with a dog that gets freaked by thunder.

Above is Tinky Bell modelling her Thundershirt...which was a hard photo to get since she thinks about as much of a camera as she does lightning and thunder.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pork, the other white meat...

Yesterday was extremely busy with the boys home from school for Columbus Day which was nice because I got to sleep in until 7:40am...really nice because Haley and I didn't get home and into bed until midnight the night before. Haley had a violin lesson so got up and practiced for a bit before we headed out. After violin, we drove the boys to Poppop's house for their daily workout. They are both getting very strong and have been very dedicated to working out. I had about 1 hour 15 min to cook and eat dinner before taking Newt and his friend to wrestling. This recipe worked great.

San Francisco Pork Chops:

6 pork chops (boneless centercut works best with fat removed)
2-3 cloves minced garlic

Sauce: (combine in small bowl)
2 Tbsp oil
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Brown chops on both sides in a large pan on med-high heat. Remove. Add a little oil to pan if needed then saute 2-3 cloves minced garlic for 1 min. Place chops back in skillet then pour sauce over. Cover tightly and simmer for 30 min. Remove chops to platter.

Stir 8 tsp cornstarch into 1/2 cup water and add to sauce. Cook until sauce thickens. Pour over chops. Serve over hot buttered egg noodles. Enjoy!

Irish Music...

 I have come to the conclusion that for my daughter, no amount of Irish music is too much. On Sunday, she took a 1.5 hour fiddle seminar with Seamus Connolly, had an hour lesson with Brian, went back for another 1.5 hour seminar with Seamus then after a quick meal, listened to Brian play a concert joining him in a tune set at the end, played 3 sets of tunes on her own for the Student Showcase, then played in the session pictured above for another hour before we pulled her away to drive home.
Haley had a lot of fun taking classes with her fiddling friends. Alex goes to Next Generation Kids with Haley but she hasn't seen Jayne since Ireland.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Recipe of the week...

My friend, Kate, brought it to my attention that I have been posting recipes every Tuesday based on what we've eaten the night before. She also informed me that she has been trying those recipes so now I feel pressured to continue to provide her with some dinner inspiration.

The problem is that....I, um, didn't cook tonight. We had leftovers from a party we attended yesterday. So, I am pulling out one of our favorite recipes that also brings back memories of our trip a couple summer's ago to Yellowstone National Park. While at the park we did a dinner where Dylan, Newt, and I rode on horseback while Daddy and Haley rode a chuckwagon out for a campfire dinner. We thought the draw was the horses but it turned out that the food was excellent. I found this recipe when I returned home and we have it every now and then. It makes a great meal with a salad or can be a sidedish (or a great dish for covered dish suppers).

Roosevelt Western Beans

1lb. ground beef or sausage (I double the recipe and use a combo of both)
1/2 lb. bacon chopped in small pieces
1 onion diced
16oz. can pork and beans
15.5 oz. can kidney beans drained
17 oz. can lima beans drained
15 oz. can butter beans drained
16 oz. can spicy pinto beans (sometimes hard to find)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cidar vinegar
1.5 Tbsp. mustard
3/4 cup ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

Brown bacon and meat. Drain and add onion. Cook until soft. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bake at 325 deg for 45 min (+) or put into crock pot and cook all day.

I didn't cook dinner tonight but I did bake an apple pie. Apples are definitely in season. Did I ever mention that I love fall??

French Apple Pie

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. Crisco
2-3 Tbsp cold water

Mix salt and flour. Cut in Crisco until resembles small pebbles. Add water a tbsp at a time until crust comes together. Roll out between 2 pieces floured wax paper and put into deep dish pie pan.

8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
dash salt

Mix together and put into prepared crust. Top with crumb topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup firm stick butter

Cut butter into flour and sugar. Bake 50 minutes being sure to cover top with foil for last 15 minutes to prevent excess browning.



While visiting the historic areas of Philadelphia on Friday, Haley and I purchased a quill pen and ink set with parchment paper. She was very excited to try her hand at writing and is busily writing a letter to her friend Sofia. She practiced on one piece of paper because she found that if she pressed too hard, the ink splattered. She's doing fairly well but I am not sure if we have the best mix for the ink. We'll get it in the mail once it dries.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Tale of Two Orchestras...

Haley is in two orchestras this year and they couldn't be more different.

Last year she did Temple Classic Strings Orchestra and is doing it again this year. The conductor is completely child-friendly and very calm. The orchestra is very small (20 kids total) and they are all around Haley's age...8-11yo mostly. Rehearsals are an hour. The music is relatively easy to learn but not anything we've heard before. Last year, the kids didn't talk much to each other but this year there are some new kids and a few are very friendly. Haley's friend Natalie is there in 1st violins and sitting right in front of her, for now. The conductor moves kids around for different pieces and there really isn't competition for seating. It is a learning environment.

Haley is also doing PRYSM this year. This is a very large strings orchestra with 16 seats in just 1st violins alone not even counting 2nd violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. It fills an entire room. Rehearsals are two hours and include sectional practices with sectional coaches as well as the conductor with the whole group. The conductor was a top Philadelphia Orchestra violinist and is very strict and not very warm and fuzzy. He listed the Don'ts list for the orchestra and Haley was a bit taken aback.

Haley is definately among the youngest at PRYSM. Her violin teacher told her to expect to be at the back of the 2nd violins but the preliminary seating chart had her as the 4th seat in 1st violins. Seating is competitive so she may not stay there. They have seating auditions and the final seating arrangements will be made in a couple weeks. There are many, many kids closer to her brother's ages than her's especially in 1st violins. Haley caused a bit of a stir among the parents due to her seating assignment. The music is much more difficult but the pieces are more common orchestral pieces and Haley likes them.

I am amazed at how much her reading has improved since last year. She did well during the initial readings at both orchestra rehearsals and is doing a good job learning  her pieces.

Touring Philadelphia Old City

Haley and I have spent a lot of time in Philadelphia the past couple years. Usually on weekends with someplace to go and little time to get there. On Friday, Haley had a very early violin lesson then orchestra in the city in the evening so rather than drive back and forth all day, we thought it would be a good day to see the sites in the city.

Haley had a list of things she'd like to see...some of the buildings we've walked past on Sunday late afternoon when heading to the Plough and Stars and the Liberty Bell. We parked then walked through the Independence Visitor's Center and came upon one of Haley's adult musician friends dressed in period clothing playing his hammer dulcimer.

We stopped to listen and chat then headed on to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin's house (or what's left of it...basically the hole for the privy), the Ben Franklin Underground Museum which had a nice video of Ben Franklin's life, Carpenter Hall, and a Military Museum. We enjoyed the old buildings and bits of buildings. They are rebuilding Washinton's house when president and there's a neat exhibit of a workman's home...way small.

Haley and I had fun imagining what it would be like to live back then and thinking about walking streets and into buildings where those great men who founded our country walked. It was a nice day!

Haley and I are heading toward the American Revolution in another week or two so the trip served many purposes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A "Real" Day in Our Lives...

A week or two ago I published a "day in our lives" post about our non-typical day where we actually enjoyed an entire day at home. So, I decided to balance that with a more typical day.

My day begins at 6am when my husband kisses me goodbye then heads off to work, I lay in bed relaxing until I hear Newt get up and go into the bathroom for a shower around 6:30am. I then head downstairs to pack the boys lunch and get their breakfast...squishy eggs (hardboiled eggs squished up with butter, salt, and pepper). I hear Dylan talking to Newt upstairs and tiptoe up to ask them to not wake their sister.
She wakes up anyway and heads down the stairs at 6:45am. Ugh! We have a very long day and I was hoping she'd sleep in until 7:30 or so. Newt gets the bus for school at 7am. I make Haley some breakfast, myself some tea, and read my email. Dylan showers then heads to the bus at 7:45am.

With both boys off to school, Haley and I shower, dress, then I straighten the kitchen while she does her violin review practice. She is concerned about her Wohlfahrt and Shifting exercises for her lesson later so she also reviews those. We then sit to go through a Saxon math lesson. It's an easy lesson for her on completing series of numbers. She completes the problem set on her own while I let the dog out and pack up her violin for her lesson. I also grab the boys' music lesson equipment that they left on the table for later and put that in the car along with the rest of Haley's schoolwork.

At 10am we get in the car and drive the 50 minutes to Haley's violin lesson. During the ride she listens to her Suzuki CDs and The Hot Canary by Brian Lewis. She has her lesson from 11am until 12:15pm. It's a great lesson...she does a fabulous job with everything including those items she was concerned about and gets the go-ahead to put 2 more pieces into her polished/review pile.

After violin, we head to Poppop's to wait for the boys. We do Haley's writing lesson (WWE), get all the printouts ready for her Hands On History Composers project for the week, and read a couple History of US chapters about the pilgrims. Newt arrives at Poppop's house at 2:15pm, eats his protein, then does his lifting workout with Poppop in the basement. I get a few moments to read my book. Dylan calls to tell us he's home...though he was supposed to walk to Poppop's...he forgot and took the bus home.

We leave Poppop's at 3:30pm, run home to get Dylan then head to the boy's music lessons which are only 20 minutes away (thank goodness!). Haley and I go into an unused room so she can practice her fiddle lesson then we go downstairs to the store to ask about options for a new mic for her fiddle. When the boys' lessons are over, we head home. We have leftovers for dinner so Haley, Dylan, and I eat. Newt heads over to his friend's house to ride his bike until dark.

At 6pm, Haley and I head back into the car for the 45 minute ride to her first fiddle teacher's home to watch one of her favorite fiddlers perform a private house concert. The Kevin Burke concert is wonderful and very different. Haley's teacher had asked everyone attending to chose a set of tunes off one of Kevin's CDs and he'd play the requests. The choices were great and Haley was excited that she could play nearly all of them. Haley had chosen a set off Kevin's Up Close CD that she has been trying to learn from the CD. There's one small spot she has difficulty playing fast enough so she wanted to see how he does it, except that it was an older CD and he didn't remember the tunes. Haley was the only one who stumped him. LOL Kevin said, laughing, "That's why I hate you!"

He said he should have requested Paris Nights and had Haley join him like he had at Swannanoa and he'd practice her requested tune set so they could play it together next time he's in town.

We didn't get home until 11pm. Haley slept all the way home so I just carried her to bed. I noticed a pile of CDs on the kitchen table. Jim Albertson, a radio announcer and one of the kids' biggest fans (whose also gotten them quite a few gigs), had brought Haley a huge pile of CDs including Eileen Ivers, Natalie MacMaster, Leahy, Alisdair Frasier, Kevin Crawford (without Lunasa), April Verch, and Mark O' others. There's about 20 CDs in all. I peek through the pile then take out the pup and head to bed. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall, Jambalaya, and Pumpkin Bread...

We had a busy day yesterday. It was raining for the first time in a long time and I had to go to a work meeting. Haley hung out with Poppop for the morning then we did her schoolwork and practicing there while waiting for the boys to walk over from school to do their workouts.

I had a craving for Jambalaya today...haven't had it in the longest time but it just seemed like a good day for it and it's quick. I picked up the ingredients on my way home from work along with some yummy apples from a roadside stand which will soon go into a pie.


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet green peppper chopped
1 med stalk celery chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves minced garlic

Heat oil in a large pan then add the rest and cook until soft.
1lb. can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/8 tsp each cloves, allspice, and cayenne pepper

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 min. Add:
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 cup cooked hot sausage
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 lb. small shrimp

Cook until shrimp turn pink. (about 5 min)
I used a jalapeno sausage made at the local butcher shop so didn't put in any spices and doubled the recipe but served it over the rice instead of putting the rice in. I also left out the cloves. It was delicious!

Haley has been asking for pumpkin bread since the weather has gotten cooler and pumpkins are out for sale everywhere. She was really excited that Daddy brought home 3 for our front steps to decorate.

Here's our Pumpkin Bread recipe...

Mix well:

16 oz. canned pumpkin
1 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs


3 cups flour (used 1 cup white and 2 cups wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts (can add raisins if desired but we didn't desire)

Back in 2 loaf pans (about 8X4X2) for an hour.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Bethlehem Celtic Classic

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day. The weather was overcast and threatened rain but it was cool and the fall foliage made the drive to Bethlehem, PA very pleasant. The Bethlehem Celtic Classic was a huge festival celebrating Celtic heritage and was very well attended. There were venders galore, bands playing, piping band competitions, Scottish highland games, a haggis eating contest, and our reason for attending, a fiddle competition.

Haley competed in the under 12 novice fiddle competition and Dylan accompanied her. Their friend, Alex, also competed. There was a man accompanying most of the other kids, 8 in total. Haley and Dylan did a great job. Dylan is an amazing backer and Haley is such a natural in front of a crowd. She fiddled her heart out and flirted with the crowd. The crowd loved her and a few people gave her a standing ovation when she finished which I thought a bit strange at a competition. Haley took 1st and her friend, Alex, took 3rd. He played very well, too.

We had planned to stay and listen to some other bands for the day but Haley had been fighting a bad cold all week and had a headache after her medication wore off during the competition so we headed home right after lunch. We did get to see the kids' cousin, Jessica, who lives in the area. She came for the competition and joined us for lunch.
I'll post some video as soon as Grammy and Poppop give me the DVD.