Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekend Ramblings....

This weekend Tinkerbell became a reindeer.

She wasn't happy becoming a reindeer but she liked her sweater without the hood.

Newt won his first three wrestling matches of the season becoming a 4X Pine Barren Tournament Champ! Woo Hoo!  Haley and I were able to watch 2 of his 3 matches then had to take off for New York City. We walked around the city for a little while then went to see her friend's quartet and orchestra concerts at a certain music school.

Haley eating a macaroon at Lincoln Center.  The only photo I took in NYC that came out. Ugh!
 After the classical concerts, we walked to the Irish Arts Center to see Mick Moloney's Irish Christmas Show. Mick was nice enough to invite Haley to play with them onstage at a certain part of the show. So, during his interview time....he always invites someone from the audience to be interviewed during his Christmas programs and after he finished interviewing an author, he had Haley up. He interviewed her a bit. She played a tune solo then went into another tune with the other two fiddlers in the show.
We were excited to just see the show. Mick not only has Celtic music, songs, and stories but also has people from other cultures demonstrate their traditions.

We went from the concert to a session a couple blocks away and stayed until Haley said she couldn't keep her eyes open...which was sometime around midnight. We drove to her fiddle teacher's house, stayed for the night, had a lesson in the morning and drove home.

Once home, Haley practiced her classical music then decided she wanted to learn how to make snowflakes so we looked up some instructions and came up with these...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Cookies...

Haley and I spent all day last Saturday baking Christmas cookies with Grammy. It was a fun day and we made all my favorite kinds of cookies I get only once a year. Monday, Haley decided to make her own gingerbread cookies. Here are the results...

Daddy went to the Thift Store yesterday and found this little treasure. My children think is it so sad that this was our option for listening to music at their age...along with 8-track tapes. Luckily we have a treasure trove of records in our basement from Newt's wrestling coach. They had fun listening to them last night. I feel so old....this is "retro" ??? Ugh!

I remember in high school sitting with my best friend, Deanna, in her room listening to record after record.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Sessions!

We've had a rather calm (for us) December which has allowed us to attend a number of Irish sessions on our free evenings. One of Haley's favorite sessions to attend is at The Plough and the Stars. She has been hanging out with the men sitting on the tiny stools to play there since before her feet hit the floor. She was 5 years old the first time we took her in to play. The musicians are friendly and the best in the Philly area tend to show up which makes for a great session. Christmas is great because they bring in a huge Christmas tree that goes all the way to the extra high ceiling and decorate every surface with lights, elves, and greens. The pictures last night were taken by one of the musicians, Dave....the second one was from the balcony. (cool!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let It Snow!

Haley and I spent Saturday night in New York so she could have a lesson early on Sunday. We had heard on the news they were expecting some light snow or a dusting. When we left New York at 11am, it looked and smelled like snow but there was none falling. We drove 90 minutes before we hit the first snow flakes and it got bad really quickly! No plows or salt trucks out. Inches of snow on the road. We couldn't go over 20 mph without our tail end sliding. We saw 29 hits car, car hits tree, car in ditch, car hit guardrail.

At one point, I pulled off an exit so we could get gas, take a potty break, and grab a bite to eat since we hadn't eaten since morning. I also needed a break to let my hands relax from white knuckling the steering wheel. I thought about calling a friend to ask if we could crash for the night but after the quick break, I decided to try and get home. We went 4 mph with a lot of stopping and traffic between two exits about 20 miles from home and I thought we might never make it but we eventually did 7 hours after we left NY!

Then it rained all night and the snow melted off the roads so Monday night we went to Paraic's new session in Media. I took those pictures last week. Dylan came with us Monday night but I didn't take any photos then.

Tuesday was another day of snow but the roads stayed pretty clear so I was able to work a few hours and take Haley to a violin lesson. If this is a sign of things to come, we are going to have a really snowy winter! Yuck!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Our Southern Family Thanksgiving 2013

We enjoyed traveling to visit our many relatives in North Carolina last Thanksgiving. Having 50-100 people any one of three different evenings enjoying food and each other is a blast. This year the mood was a bit more somber as my husband's father, one of twelve brothers and sisters, passed away in September and we were taking his ashes back "home" to be interred near his parents and having a service with his family (10 of the 12 siblings were present...the only one who couldn't make it was the eldest uncle who lives in CA and whose wife is very ill).

We drove on Wednesday. We waited until the boys got home from school so didn't leave until almost 1pm. We were slowed a bit by traffic. The drive took 11 hours instead of 8 but we expected that. We stayed in the "Grandmother's home"...the house that my husband's grandmother lived in which has been owned by her youngest son who keeps it available for visiting relatives and large family gatherings like Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday relatives started arriving early in the morning to cook and deliver food they'd already cooked. By noon, there were over 30 people gathered and more food than we had room on the kitchen surfaces for. A little later, prayers were said and everyone lined up to fill their plates. Following dinner we sat around talking and playing games until late into the night.

Friday morning, Ritch and the boys headed to the graveyard to prepare the site and bury the ashes so everything would be ready for the service on Sunday. Once they came back, Ritch headed with Uncle Shep to get the pig for Saturday's barbecue, Dylan was off helping Uncle Doug, and I took Haley and Newt into the city for our yearly fresh-made doughnuts. We got back to Grandmom's house just as Aunt Kim, Uncle James, Michelle, and Meredith arrived. It was a little warmer so we all stood around outside talking and the men began getting things ready for the fish fry/oyster boil evening. Fires were available in cans so we could stand around and stay warm. Fish and shrimp were fried. Oysters and shrimp were boiled and dumped into a huge metal table shaped like a sink. People brought casseroles, dips, and cheese grits (my favorite). Some ate outside and some ate inside. People everywhere! The kids had a great time hanging out and playing games with their cousins.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is always Pig Roast Day. We have attended this event on occassion since Newt was a baby. The uncles get up early in the morning (5:30am) to start the pig.

Cousin Chuck made some oyster stew from the leftover oysters for breakfast.

Later on the chicken is started on another cooker. Around noon the women show up with casseroles, side dishes, and desserts. Over ninety relatives were in attendance! I always look around this gathering and think how amazing it is that everyone there is related. They come from all walks of life and have so many different personalities. They may not always get along but for this one day a year, they all put aside their differences and enjoy each other. I picture Grandmom looking down from Heaven smiling to see all her progeny on a day like this.

Sunday morning was the service laying Ritch's father to rest. The preacher was a cousin. Haley played him a slow air, Ritch's brother Heath said some words, and Uncle Shep brought us to tears with his farewell to his brother...talking about the twelve siblings as a clock missing number 4. After the visit to the graveyard, we headed home. The traffic slowed a bit but we were pleasantly surprised to make it home in decent time.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Ritch received an early birthday/Christmas present from us....a food dehydrator! He loves to make beef jerky in the oven and the kids love dehydrated fruit plus we often freeze or can the overflow from our garden which we then have to keep frozen when we lose electricity from a dehydrator as an alternate way to put away food makes sense for us.

Haley and Daddy broke it in tonight with some fruit, apples and bananas. They cut up the fruit and dipped it to prevent browning then stacked it on the trays.

Here's a full tray of apple slices....

Here's the dehydrator partially filled with apple.

                                                    Can't wait to try the results!

Weekend Ramblings...

We had a great weekend! First off, Newt's 18th birthday was Saturday. It's hard to believe it has been 18 years since he was born. I remember it like it was yesterday...his premature entrance into the world interrupting our Thanksgiving dinner. He was a teeny little guy. Now he is an awesome young man...though still a little on the short side.  I am proud to be his mother! He has applied to college and will start his final high school wrestling season next week. We just finished up Newt's birthday dinner tonight...chicken chili...his favorite! 

Saturday night Haley and Dylan joined a group of talented kids from around the Delaware Valley at the annual Delaware Valley CCE general meeting. The kids had all competed in the MidAtlantic Fleadh and all qualified to go to Derry in August though not all made the trip. Of the four gold medals that came back from the All Ireland competition in August, three were won by Delaware Valley kids....Haley won two (solo fiddle and fiddle slow airs) and Emily won in harp slow airs. So, it was a big year for our little CCE branch...celebrated last night with the kids giving a short concert.

Here are all the kids playing together. They played a set including the Tinker's Daughter and Traver's Reel which they learned at Next Gen from Kevin McGillian who was in the room listening to them play. They were the group who recorded these same tunes for Irish Philadelphia's Ceili Drive CD.

It is pretty neat to have such a great group of kids who share the same passion as my kids. They really enjoy spending time and playing together.

There was also dancing at the meeting. Haley loves to do the ceili dances and always has a dance partner in Ed or John (unfortunately the pictures don't always come out very good because they are always moving).

Sunday, Haley was fortunate to be included in a concert at St. Mary's Church in Cherry Hill. She opened both halves of the show with tune sets. The concert was given by Ciaran Sheehan, who actually has played Raul in Phantom of the Opera. He and the soprano, Sarah, sang a number of Phantom songs accompanied by a pianist and violinist/fiddler, Heather, who we know from Irish music.  They have beautiful voices! Haley had an obsession with Phantom of the Opera when she was around 5 years old and we took her to see the musical on Broadway (

It was funny to have her now meeting and performing with singers who have played parts in that show.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Biology 101....

Monday morning was another dissection day.

The critter on the tray was crawfish. Because the science supply company sent 3 crawfish, the boys each had their own critters and the girls worked together on a bigger one. The kids had much more fun doing the crawfish. The parts were bigger than on the worm, clam, and starfish so easier to see.

Even Katherine is warming up to dissection and did more than observe today.

The kids did some drawings of the outside and inside parts. They identified all the parts discussed in the book.

When they finished their dissection, they took some samples of different parts and made slides to observe under the microscope. They looked at a gill which was the coolest slide, a sample of the digestive gland, and a sample of muscle tissue. They attempted to make a slide of the eye but it was too dark and thick to allow the light of the microscope to come through.

They are looking forward to their next critter!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fiddle Fun!

 We took a rare Wednesday afternoon drive to New York for a fiddle lesson yesterday. Haley's teacher, Brian, was being interviewed by a film crew from Ireland for a documentary on the Sligo fiddle masters. He had some of his students play with him for part of the recording.

It was very interesting to see how filming works...retakes for different camera angles, difficulties getting rid of outside noises, lighting, etc... The interview was really interesting. We can't wait to see the finished product.

The film crew also went to Brian's session at Dunne's Pub to get some of the session on the recording. It was a very busy night at Dunne's. I think they could double the size of the pub and it might still be crowded.

There was a great group of musicians playing! Haley had a great time and did not want to leave. I had to get her to pack up when it got so late we wouldn't get home until almost 1am after our almost 3 hour drive home...some of us have to work in the mornings.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Murray Grove

A couple years ago, the kids were asked to perform at Murray Grove, a retreat center about 90 minutes from our home that hosts group retreats of all kinds and summer camps for kids. This past summer they were asked back to perform for the kids attending the summer camp and they did a nice interactive performance for the campers where they taught them a little about Irish music and answered questions about themselves.

Murray Grove also hosts a Coffee House once a month so they asked the kids back for a third performance. We had to schedule around football games and the beginning of wrestling season so a Sunday afternoon seemed like a good choice. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. The had a great turnout of local music lovers who enjoyed the kids' music. Haley and the boys played two 40 min. sets and in between there was an intermission and a "question/answer" session so the audience could get to know them better.

Haley and Dylan did a couple songs they had been working on and they also performed a tune Haley wrote recently along with some new tune sets they worked up the last few weeks. They were even broadcast live on an internet radio station ( to over 110 countries while they played.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rehearsal Fun...

Yesterday, I took Haley and Dylan into Philly to Fergie's Pub to rehearse with Alex and Keegan for a gig they are doing together in March. The melody players (seated in the photo to the left) needed to work out some tune sets for the finale section of the show.

Fergie is really nice to allow us to take over the upstairs of the pub in the afternoon before the weekly Saturday session (4-7pm for anyone interested in some great Irish music) for rehearsals whenever we show up. It is a midway point for all of us and then there is the session to stay for which is always a lot of fun.

The kids were much more efficient this year than last year when they needed only two tunes for the trio competition at the Fleadh and it took a whole couple hours. This year, they came up with five sets they can play in an hour. Ah, maturity.  Dylan didn't have much to do as evidenced by the empty seat with Alex's feet on it but he went along for the food afterward.

The pub was crazy last night because people were participating in a "pub crawl" but a little more than halfway into the session it cleared out and we could finally hear the music.

One funny little story.... My husband who arrived home while we were at the pub, texted me asking what we'd had for dinner. Since our refrigerators were both full of leftovers, I sent back "whatever u can find." A little while later he sends back, "The clam, crayfish, frog, fetal pig gumbo was delicious." Ha! Haley started doing dissections with another homeschooling family on Friday and the creatures we have left are sitting in our outside fridge. That may be a text exchange only homeschooling parents would have.

Fergies session.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


Haley has been studying cells for the first part of Biology this year. To finish off the unit, she created an edible cell model. She likes to cook and she likes to create so it was a perfect project for her. She decided on a plant cell. (It kinda looks like a monster face if you picture it just right.) Her licorice endoplasmic reticulum was not cooperating (neither the rough or the smooth) but otherwise, she was able to figure it all out.

We had one of our rare "stay at home" days today. Daddy finished up a project on the floors. Haley and I cleaned the basement and put away Halloween decorations in between practice chunks. Dylan had a football game and Newt did homework then went to see some college wrestle-offs.

Happy Halloween!

Ok, I am a little late with a Halloween post. My boys are too "grown up" to Trick or Treat so only Haley dressed up this year. She created her costume on her own...a creepy doll.

                   She may just be too cute to pull off creepy but she was happy with the results.

                                           Here she is Trick or Treating with her buddy, Lily.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Girls' Weekend in the City!

 Haley and I had a fun "girls' weekend."

We drove up with Haley's friends, Emily and Livia, for fiddle lessons for Haley and Livia.  We then drove into the Bronx to park before finding our way on buses and subways into Manhattan. We moms were pretty impressed with our skills navigating public transportation on our own for the first time. I was fairly sure of my navigating abilities except that part of the subway we needed to use was shut down for the weekend so there were free shuttles to take us to the subway where it was open.

We were to meet Haley's friend, Sofia, and her mom around 5:30pm so we had awhile to walk around, look in shops, and stop for some hot drinks and a nice snack.

Yummy treats at the bakery.
We met up with Sofia and her mom then made our way back through public transportation to the Bronx for a sleepover party at Sofia's grandmother's apartment. We picked up pizza on the way. The girls had a blast making jewelry and doing make-up together. They started with nice make-overs then got silly as the night wore on. Here are the results of silly!

We got up fairly early in the morning and after breakfast, headed back into the city for bike riding in Central Park. I had to include this photo I took at the entrance to the park because the birds looked like part of the artwork sitting on all the hands.

We originally planned for Sofia and Emily to ride a tandem and Haley and Livia to ride another but the tandems were too tall for Haley and Livia to ride safely so we moms took turns with a girl on one of the tandems while Sofia and Emily shared the other. We rode the entire way around the park...all 9 miles! The weather was cool and sunny but there had been a marathon earlier in the morning and in some parts of the park a lot of foot traffic (and bike traffic and surrey traffic) especially at the finish line of the race which was getting cleaned up as we rode past.

We drove home in mid afternoon and picked up Dylan and Daddy to head to an Irish house party. Good food and great people! Fun! Haley and the kids played a game of Twister then the music started. We didn't stay long because we were beat from the weekend but it was a nice ending to a fun weekend!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unexpected performance...

Today, we attended a fundraising concert given by Mick M*loney and friends for an area Catholic school. Mick does concerts in Philly every year but we've always had prior engagements and been unable to attend. The planets aligned today so we were able to go. We planned to go to a session after the afternoon concert so we happened to have Haley's fiddle with us.

Good thing we did!

We didn't know it but a couple great musicians we know were Mick's "friends." They saw Haley come in and told Mick about her so he invited her to come up and play a couple sets with them. What a great concert! Stories, songs, and music including a bit of Bach and some other styles of folk music.