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.