Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Ramblings...

We had a half busy/half not kind of weekend.

The string orchestra Haley has done on Friday evenings for the past three years started up again three weeks ago. They received a huge pile of music the 1st week, had seating auditions last week using one of the most difficult passages in the music, and this week received the results.

Haley is thrilled to be named concertmaster for this year! One of her best orchestra friends is her stand partner and she loves the music they have chosen this semester. She is glad to have stayed with this orchestra to get the experience of being concertmaster, rather than auditioning to move up to the next level the next level rehearses on the weekends and she didn't want to miss her Irish activities.

Saturday, we drove with Haley's friends, Emily and Livia, to the Bethlehem Celtic Festival. Haley and Dylan were asked to perform as "guests" during the fiddle competition. Dylan was in high demand as an accompanist for other fiddlers we know who were competing. He accompanied Livia and their friend, Alex (who place 1st in his age division 14-18 years old).

Here are a few videos from the event taken by Alanna's dad, Dennis....

I am going to have to link them because they aren't mine.

Haley and Dylan introduction and set of reels.

Haley and Dylan slipjig and reels.

Dylan accompanying Alex.

After the competition we all (fifteen of us) had a late lunch at Bethlehem Brew Works. The kids sat at one large table and we adults sat at another. What a great group of people! The adults were musing at the group of kids ranging in age from Livia, at 9 years old, to Alanna, 17 years old, all enjoying each other's company and having the music as a common interest to bring them together.

Sunday was our "day of rest." Haley wasn't feeling too well so we were unable to go to an event at the Irish Center we had planned on attending. Instead, she rested, crafted, and practiced. Dylan had a friend over for a little while then worked on his leaf project for school. Newt practiced shooting his bow and went for a run with a few guys from his wrestling team. I cleaned, cooked, and caught up on a few things. Every once in awhile I really enjoy the down days especially when they are unexpected.

Haley wanted me to share her project from yesterday. She decorated her binder and it looks great!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekend Ramblings....

Festivals, festivals, and more festivals....September is Irish festival month!!

This weekend was no exception so down we went to North Wildwood for their annual Irish festival. Parking is trying at best down there and it took us about 30 min to find a spot. Then we had to walk about 7 blocks to the stage where the kids were going to play. We normally do not mind walking but it was Haley's first day in shoes since her "toothpick incident" and she's still a little sore. She was not too happy having to walk so far. We made it and they got everything set up. We saw some friends who had come down for the show. The kids played together for about a half hour then we walked around a bit before heading home.

Seeing friends at the show.

Celtic Pride

Today was one of those rare, stay-at-home-all-day days. Haley had a Skype fiddle lesson then we spent the rest of the day cleaning and practicing. She made a good dent in the pile of new orchestra music she has to learn....a lot of it sounds like Irish tunes she already knows which is kind of funny. 
Gotta love a down day now and then.

Low Country Boil! Yummy!!

Low Country Boil

My husband is a great cook! The best part is that he likes to do it. I work a couple days a week while he stays home to homeschool Haley and on those days, he cooks great meals...often trying new recipes or upgrading old ones. He could be a gourmet chef!

This week's "new" recipe was Low Country Boil or Frogmore Stew. He boiled potatoes, Andouille sausage, corn, onion, and then shrimp (unpeeled but deveined)...letting each added food cook 10-20 min before adding the next. He used Old Bay and hot pepper flakes. You could add in crabs, crayfish, scallops, or just about anything you want. We had a similar dish when visiting our friends who live in Louisiana a number of years ago.

When everything was finished, he dumped the water then put the food on newspaper where we filled our plates. It was really yummy! The kids said it is definitely a "do-over."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weekend Ramblings....

 (Nearly all the photos in this blog post were taken by Denise Foley with Irish Philadelphia! Check out their website at or look them up on Facebook.)

What a week we had! Haley had her long day in the ER and surgery on Sunday. (See previous post) Wednesday between patients at work, I was rear ended and the entire back end of my car was destroyed. No one was injured (the other girl's Jeep wasn't even damaged because her bumper with branch guard was what went into my rear) and my car was still drive-able so after the police officer left, I finished out the day.

So, Friday after Haley's follow up with the orthopedic surgeon, I had to drive to see the insurance adjustor, who then suggested I take the car directly to the body shop and get a rental which I then did. We finished up with all that just in time to make it to Haley's violin lesson and from there went to her first night of PRYSM for the 2013-14 season. Haley was still on crutches so spent the night telling people how she injured her foot. She decided "impaled by a toothpick" sounded better than "stepped on a toothpick"....Ha! puts the fault on the toothpick that way and sounds more dramatic according to her.

After PRYSM, we headed over to the Philadelphia Ceili Group's annual festival for a "rambling house session"...there were hosts who invited different musicians from the audience to join them on stage for a set or two. We got to hear a lot of wonderful music and songs. Haley went up to play a few sets with Gabe, Joanie, then Paraic.

She had a lot of fun! We didn't leave until 11pm because she was having so much fun and enjoying the music. There is an amazing amount of Irish music talent right here in Philadelphia!

Saturday at the festival began with a fiddle workshop by Tony DeMarco. He taught a number of tunes and talked about his history in Irish music....He and Haley's teacher, Brian Conway, "grew up" together with the music.

Fiddle workshop.

After the workshop we joined a large group of "Next Generation" kids in the Fireside room. They talked and listened to other bands playing until their turn to play. The group of kids took turns playing together and doing solos and various groupings. 

After the kids finished playing, we had cake to celebrate Haley and Emily's first place wins in Ireland and to thank all the people who supported them and helped us raise funds for their trip. 

The night concert was fabulous! Haley and Emily were asked on stage after the dancers to play a tune each before the main part of the program. 

Then we listened to Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O'Leary followed by Tony DeMarco and his band, Atlantic Wave. The music was great and amazing sean nos dancing by Siobhan Butler. 

Sunday, Haley and I drove to New York for a fiddle lesson then stopped by the Plough and the Stars on the way home for the session...we hadn't had enough Irish music yet! The Plough provided a cake for the session to celebrate Haley's Ireland wins and everyone signed a card for her. So they had a little celebration along with the session. It was a lovely weekend after a rough week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekend Ramblings...

We had plans for all sorts of ramblings this past weekend. Saturday was a nice day at home. Haley's fiddling buddy Paraic came over so they could practice together and share some tunes. Sunday, Haley and Dylan had a gig in Shipbottom at the Irish Festival then we were going to drive to Plough because the owner had planned to make a cake to celebrate Haley's All Ireland wins.

Well, plans changed early Sunday morning when Haley came screaming and crying into my room with a tiny bit of a toothpick sticking out of her foot. I picked her up onto the sink counter and Ritch pulled the toothpick out but it was not a whole toothpick. A little less than an inch was missing and we had no way of knowing if the toothpick was whole when it went into her foot. So, we picked her up and took her to the emergency room. We arrived at the ER at 8:30am. They were not busy so took her right back. She went to x-ray (which would not show wood) then to CAT scan (which showed an opacity) so they assumed there was more wood in Haley's foot. The orthopedic surgeon was called and since he had a couple more cases, Haley couldn't have surgery until 5pm.

Haley posed for this picture. They hooked her up to antibiotics and a saline drip since she could not have anything to eat before surgery. At 5pm they took her down to the OR. When talking to the anesthesiologist he let us know Haley would need general anesthesia because she had eaten some pretzels at 11am but if we waited another two hours, she could be sedated instead. We chose to wait.

                                                            Here we are waiting.
The anesthesiologist came in around 7pm. He asked Haley if she was afraid and she said, "A little."
He told her he had a little "liquid courage" in his pocket then put some in her IV and told her she'd have a big smile on her face in 10 sec. Ten seconds later, there came the smile and giggles so they wheeled her away. Haley's surgery went well. She was a champ! An hour later she was out. They hadn't found the almost one inch piece of wood but looked all around where it might possibly have been. They took out some small splinters and bits of tissue that had been damaged, stitched her up, and she came out.

It was almost 9:30pm before we got home. Haley was excited to use her crutches and very hungry. She had a nice block in her foot so slept well all night until about 5:30am. I gave her pain meds and she couldn't fall back to sleep so we got up. She made it the rest of the day with only Aleve. She did her school work on the couch with her foot up, figured out "having" to use crutches is not as fun as she thought it might be, and practiced violin sitting in a chair with her foot up.

We figured out how to wrap her foot in plastic and got her a bath. She had more pain last night so I gave her another strong pill before bed. This morning she woke up happy...saying she could feel her toes again. She has another day with no weight bearing then tomorrow she can start putting weight on the foot.

                                                    She will be good as new in no time!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Homeschooling 2013-2014....

Well, summer has been exhausting!

We kept up with Algebra and reading through the summer until the last month then last week we started schooling-lite. Now it is time to get back into the swing of schooling even with the music stuff not slowing down much on the weekends. Orchestra starts back up next Friday and the Irish music festivals for fall are filling up most weekend days for the next six weeks.

But back to school we's the plan for the next year for Haley.

Finish up Saxon Algebra 1 and Life of Fred Algebra

Language Arts: (I am piecing this together for my girl who likes to write and some review work on poetry now that she's older. Will work our way through all these through the year.)
Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley
Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine
Wordsmith by Pamela Arlov
Best Poems
Building Poems by Michael Clay Thompson
Editor in Chief
Vocabulary from Classical Roots

History: (My history plans got interrupted last year when Haley started a Civil War unit study in December so we are back to Ancients...will review what we started last year and then keep going.)
World History the Human Odyssey by Jackson Spielvogel
The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer
World Literature text
History Portfolio: Ancients

Science: Biology (A homeschooling mother on the WTM boards has a syllabus for biology we will be following somewhat but we are using Thinkwell as our spine.)
Thinkwell Biology
Exploring the Way Life Work: The Science of Biology
Biology Inquiries by Martin Shields
Biology Coloring Workbook
The Nature of Life: Readings in Biology
Sciencewise: Critical Thinking Books

Besides violin lessons, fiddle lessons, practice, gigs, and orchestra (which is probably enough music for anyone)....
The Great Courses: Understanding the Fundamentals of Music
The Language and Materials of Music
Bach, Beethoven, and the Boys by David Barber

Artistic Pursuits (We've tried this before but never finished the whole book.)
Discovering Great Artists by Kohl and Solga
Cave Paintings to Picasso by Sayre
Masterpieces Coloring Book

Rosetta Stone Spanish (possibly some Gaelic) and Haley has shown some interest in French as well after our weekend in Quebec.
First Form Latin

Critical Thinking books like similar to Cranium Crackers and Case of Red Herring.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Carrefour Mondial de l'accordeon 2013

Haley has had a lot of amazing opportunities this year and this past weekend was no exception. We have been looking forward to this weekend since John called last winter to invite Haley to play with him at Carrefour Mondial de l'accordeon in Montmagny, Quebec. Carrefour is a huge accordion festival featuring accordion players from all over the world playing every genre of accordion music imaginable.

Haley and I flew to Quebec Friday afternoon where a driver picked us up to take us to Montmagny. We met a couple musicians from Alberta in the van...luckily they spoke English and one spoke a bit of French so he was able to communicate with the driver. Our flight had gotten in early so we went straight to supper in the hotel where we found John and he introduced Haley to a number of musicians.

We then checked into our room then headed off to the festival's opening concert where we heard amazing musicians from Russia, Italy, France, England, and Boston. We had to sit in a viewing room for musicians where the concert was shown on a screen because it was sold out. I was amazed at the crowd in the observation room...all the musicians coming to watch and support each other. Even though the musicians performing could not hear, everyone in the observation room clapped and bravo'd each performance then congratulated the performer when they came back into the room.

After the evening performance there was a reception where the president of the festival gave a speech and thanked everyone, I was in French. We went back to the hotel around midnight and headed to bed.

Saturday morning we woke fairly early and went to breakfast at a little restaurant near the hotel. We ran into John and Elizabeth on their way to breakfast on our way back to the hotel. We went back so Haley could practice a bit while they ate then we all headed into the main part of town...just a short see the festival. We watched some performances on outdoor stages and checked out the offerings of the vendors before heading back to the hotel for lunch. Lunch was followed by working out a set list for the evening performance then walking back into town to watch some dancing to accordion music on the main outdoor stage before supper time.

After supper, a driver took us back into the old part of town where John, Paddy, and Haley had a sound check. Then they went over the set list with Paddy who'd just arrived, changed up a few things to tunes he likes to play, and got dressed for the performance.

Haley had never performed with Paddy and John before. She had played with John and his band but it was a debut performance for the trio. They were wonderful together. The sound was perfect and the venue intimate. They received two standing ovations after the show. Haley's new accordion playing friend, Pietro, our new friends from the van ride to the festival, and a number of other musicians came out to support them as well. After the show, we walked over to the restaurant where the late night musician jam session was supposed to be but it was late getting started and Haley was tired from her late night on Friday and early rising this morning so we didn't stay long enough to hear the music. They told us it started not long after we left which was 11:15pm.

Pietro congratulating Haley on her performance!
Sunday morning we had to get up early again for an early morning sound check and morning concert. During the sound check they worked out the set list for the morning show...only a 25 minute show.

The trio heading to their morning sound check.

I love this picture of Haley so had to add it.

Sunday morning performance.
 The Sunday morning performance sounded even better than the night before which I didn't think was possible. They received another two standing ovations. Haley and John played a lovely duet of Grosse Ile, a slow air composed by John for the island near Montmagny where thousands of Irish immigrants were quarantined when coming to Canada and many died. I added a link above so you can read the sad story of the island and Haley and John's duet is below along with a set of jigs.

Haley and John thought they might add some ballet into their next performance.

Haley asking John if he'll teach her accordion while visiting one of the many accordion shops at the festival.

Sunday after they finished playing, we went to lunch then back to the festival where we spent hours watching performances on the big outdoor stage. The musicians were all so great! We got some awesome shots of Pietro Adragna performing on the stage Sunday. He is the world champion accordion player and after listening to him...whew! no wonder. He played an amazing rendition of Csardas that he arranged for accordion. Haley thought it was better on accordion than violin.

After supper, Haley and I had some time so we walked to the bridge over the dam for the St. Lawrence River which was about a mile from the hotel. There was a walking/bike path along the river so we took the path back toward the hotel. The sun was setting behind the mountains on the other side of the river and it was simply beautiful out there.

When we finally got far enough on the path to head back toward town near the hotel, we came up behind some buildings and found this big goose! Every year the snow geese come to this part of the St. Lawrence River and they have a festival. This goose float must have been or must be going to be part of one of those festivals.

After our walk we went looking for John in the dining area and ran into Francois, a violinist. He and Haley had been trying to find each other all weekend. They had a little violin/fiddle time...accordion-free...playing Irish music and classical music together then Francois played Haley some music he composed that was Baltic style. (She loved it!)  We headed to a concert to watch Gary from Scotland and the Brazilian band (I think most of them are from NY and they are fabulous) then went to the lower level of the high school for some dancing (we danced but it was difficult to follow the instructions in French so a little funny) before heading to the restaurant with the late night musician jam. Haley was going strong this night and looking forward to some music.

The restaurant with the jam had a back room where mostly Irish, Scottish, and French Canadian music was being played. It was packed with accordion players, one fiddle (Haley), a keyboardist, one person playing harmonica, and occasionally Paddy playing banjo or whistle. Haley started to get tired around midnight and decided to play one more set. Then at the end of the set John encouraged her to play a Mason's Apron solo. After that she got her second wind until we dragged her out of there sometime after 1am. On the way out we stopped to listen for a few minutes in the front room where other people were improvising jazz music together.

Monday morning, the festival put on a musical breakfast for the musicians. Some performed while the others ate then after the eating was over, there was dancing...lots of dancers on the floor. Fun!

The musicians at Carrefour.

From the breakfast, they packed those leaving into vans and drove us into Quebec, along the St. Lawrence, then on a driving tour through the old part of the city...I want to go back and see it by walking because it was amazing. It was raining, windy, and cold and there was no time to get out of the car. They stopped the vans at a restaurant (our flight wasn't until 5:30pm) where everyone got lunch around 2pm. We got to talk to some musicians from Paris who we happened to be sitting beside. Then it was off to the airport in time to check in, exchange money, and board the plane.

Here are a couple videos I took during performances....

                                           Paddy, John, and Haley performing a set of jigs.

                                                 Haley and John playing Grosse Ile.

Harvest Time...

 A few years ago my husband planted fig trees. The first set of trees had a hard winter. They were very small and the rabbits ate their bark which killed them. He planted some larger trees a couple years ago and wrapped them in the winter. They grew like crazy this year and yielded a bounty of figs.

Ritch has picked figs to eat and made fig jelly numerous times all with the figs from his own tree. He also made jelly from grapes he grew. Our grape plants are finally big enough to yield enough grapes. We had to plant them twice as well because the first grape plants we planted did not do so well.

 Besides the fig jelly and grape jelly (not pictured because he made it the day after I took this photo), Ritch has also made peach and blueberry jam. We will have plenty of jelly/jam this winter and will have to eat it on everything!  The peaches and blueberries came from our local farmers. Hopefully our own blueberry plants will provide the blueberries next year.

Ritch has planted a second round of salad, kale, and beans. We enjoyed all those in the early summer. We also have some sweet potato plants growing and will harvest those when ready. We've eaten all the regular potatoes we grew this summer. We've had so much rain this summer. Some plants did better with all the rain and others did not fare so the zucchini and tomatoes.

The humming birds came back again this year! In the early mornings and evenings there are at least 10 that fly back and forth for drinks. We have two feeders this size and they empty them every three days or so. We like to sit outside in the evening and watch them zoom back and forth.