Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Celebrating Tasha Tudor

Today is Tasha Tudor's birthday. She died in June of this year, at the age of ninety-two. While I have many fond memories of reading books that were illustrated by her, two stand out in my mind (whose covers are pictured to the left and below), possibly because I still own these books, and have shared them with my children. Others, such as Pumpkin Moonshine, Tudor's first published book, we've checked out of the library and enjoyed immensely. I was excited to learn of a volume of the poetry of Emily Dickinson illustrated by Tudor, but disappointed to find that it's out of print.

Her illustrations are sweet and old-fashioned, like the artist, herself. Her eccentric lifestyle is legendary, and fun to read about and imagine.

Here are a few Tasha Tudor-related links I've come across in my wanderings :

The Tasha Tudor Museum, in Marlboro, VT.
Tasha Tudor and Family, which has recipes, anecdotes, and
information, including this page, which is a short biography of Tudor.
The Tasha Tudor Memorial Website, which has a lovely quote from Tudor about what she thought might be beyond this life.
Here is a growing list of blogs celebrating Tudor's birthday with posts about her work today.

Here in New England, not too far from where Tasha Tudor was born, it's a beautiful summer day--one that is perfect for celebrating the life and work of an extraordinary woman.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I am a Nigella

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"Many people think you are just a little bit odd, but you consider yourself just a little eccentric. You find new experiences exciting and fulfilling."

Hmmm. Could be worse, I suppose. Also called Corn Cockle and contains an irritant poison. Was used in olden times to treat dropsy and jaundice, but not hemorrhoids (see my other blog for why this is significant).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ballet Shoes

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild, was one of my favorite books when I was about ten or eleven. I'm pretty sure I went through the "shoes" series in short order. Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Theatre Shoes, and Party Shoes--those titles are the ones I believe makes up the quartet, though characters change a bit from book to book.

Now, just in time for dance-crazy, seven-year-old E. to enjoy before she begins her first dance classes, is what appears to be a promising adaptation of the book for film. The movie stars Emma Watson (Hermione from the Harry Potter flicks), and here is a link for the preview of the movie. It opens in the U.S. on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Gotta hate 'em. Here in New England, they are everywhere, and diseases associated with them abound. My aunt just went through her third bout with Lyme Disease; my next-door neighbor, his second. A friend's seven-year-old son just finished his month of antibiotics for Lyme, and a formerly homeschooling mom in my circle of friends just recently got back in touch with the rest of us to say she just tested positive for a tick-borne, non-Lyme, potentially fatal yet treatable disease.

And what did O. discover under his arm this morning? You guessed it. This is the kid that freaks when he gets a splinter, so you can imagine the drama when something alive, with eight legs waving, is attached to his skin. Luckily for both of us, I picked up something called the Tick Twister at the vet that last time we were there. It worked like a charm--the easiest time I have ever had pulling a tick off anyone--human or otherwise. Now we just have to watch for a suspicious rash or other signs of illness in the next week or so.

Monday, August 18, 2008

List. . .too. . .long. . .Must. . .pare. . .down

It's the old, "so many books, so little time" dilemma. Seriously, do any of you ever get completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of books you want to read when you factor in the lack of time you have in which to read them? I don't know if it's Protestant guilt over setting the mental task for myself of reading certain books and then not following through (sometimes for years, if ever), or just the fact that I want to read and be a good parent and keep up with writing a blog or three and do music and homeschool my kids, etc., etc., etc. And do a good job with all of these things. All the time. But I feel like my book lists need to be shorter, or my head is going to explode.

Reading other people's blogs, while enormously entertaining and often thought-provoking, is a two-edged sword for me. Many, if not most, of the blogs I read are written by intelligent women who read. A lot. So there are usually suggestions for books that sound pretty darn fantastic. As a random example, I just found this book (cover shot with link above) mentioned at the blog, In Need of Chocolate, went to Amazon to read its review, and now have another book on the list of books I want to read. Soon. Yesterday it was a book mentioned at Farm School (the source of many of my interlibrary loan request titles).

The other edge of the sword is that, while I love the blog-o-sphere (one might even say I've discovered my second addiction--the first being books), I've found it has really eaten into my reading time. Reading of books, that is. Normally by this time o' night I've powered down and am snuggled under the covers, reading whatever book appeals from my shelf of books "to read." Yet in the past several days I've found myself either blogging or reading blogs well into the night. I fall asleep five minutes into reading my chosen literature of the night, no matter how engrossing the story.

I know, I know. Prioritize. Practice patience. The books will still be there, or, if I have to return them to the library before getting to them, I can always request them again. Or buy them at Daedalus Books if I wait long enough and am vigilant enough to catch them when they appear.

Here are a few words from Zora Bernice May Cross (1890-1964), Australian poet and kindred spirit:

Oh! Bury me in books when I am dead,
Fair quarto leaves of ivory and gold,
And silk octavos, bound in brown and red,
That tales of love and chivalry unfold.
Heap me in volumes of fine vellum wrought,
Creamed with the close content of silent speech;
Wrap me in sapphire tapestries of thought
From some old epic out of common reach.
I would my shroud were verse-embroidered, too--
Your verse for preference--in starry stitch,
And powdered o'er with rhymes that poets woo,
Breathing dream-lyrics in moon-measures rich.
Night holds me with a horrow of the grave
That knows not poetry, nor song, nor you;
Nor leaves of love that down the ages weave
Romance and fire in burnished cloths of blue.
Oh, bury me in books, and I'll not mind
The cold, slow worms that coil around my head;
Since my lone soul may turn the page and find
The lines you wrote to me, when I am dead.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lyla is ready for fall

New collar and all--it's not too apparent, but the band is decorated with leaves in all sorts of fall colors. They didn't have one with bats and witches.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Retail Therapy

So why is that I can be having a really terrible day--extra-whiny children, physical mishaps (cracked my kneecap on the edge of the car door. . . HARD, along with the several mosquito bites I got going out to get the mail at the end of the drive), disappointing news, etc. (what my college roommate and I would have called a "black cloud day"), and ninety minutes strolling around T.J. Maxx can fix all that? Granted, I found a sweater, a hoodie, and a pair of pants that fit and look good all for $50, and the Robert Sabuda Encyclopedia Prehistorica--Sharks and other Prehistoric Sea Monsters (for that Sea Monsters and Atlantis unit we're starting next week) for $12, plus I got to browse Halloween decor and think about my favorite holiday for a little while. Okay, maybe thoughts of apple cider, hardy mums, fall foliage, witches, bats, and kids running around in costumes is enough to raise anyone's spirits.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Newest Hero

Here's my new favorite cd to listen to when my kids are in the car (can you tell I'm big on sneaky learning?): The Story of Classical Music, written by Darren Hensley and read by the latest addition to my virtual wall of heroes, Marin Alsop. About the cd, briefly--Alsop is very engaging, and Hensley includes the most interesting little nuggets about composers, some that I, with graduate level music history classes in my not-too-distant past, did not know. Definitely worth downloading!

I looked for Marin Alsop at iTunes, thinking that she made a terrific narrator and, if there were more cds out there with her on them, I'd definitely want to check them out. Turns out I already have one of them--Joshua Bell playing Corigliano's Red Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop! I'm not plugged into the classical scene as much as I once was, so somehow I missed the emergence of this amazing (female!) conductor. There are recordings not only of her conducting the Baltimore Symphony, but also the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Philharmonic, among others. I can't wait to check out Mark O' Connor's Fiddle Concerto, with Alsop at the helm of the Concordia Orchestra, which is unfortunately (or fortunately, since I'd like to sleep at some point while it's still dark) not available on iTunes.

While making a name for herself as a conductor of core symphonic literature, Alsop also seems to be on a mission to make classical music accessible to new generations of the public. She has several podcasts, including Clueless about Classical? and Marin Alsop's Musical Journey, which are both free through iTunes. More podcasts, and a plethora of other interesting material, can be found here, at Alsop's website.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The 100 Species Challenge

Head on over to my new blog, 100 Species at Rockhound Place, to see what I've been able to identify so far amongst our local flora. Anyone want to join me in this latest quest?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sea Monsters and the Lost City of Atlantis

In an effort both to entertain my children in the humid days of August and to attempt to slide seamlessly back into our regularly scheduled program of homeschooling, I'm planning a fun little unit study, to begin whenever our Rainbow Resource order finally arrives. From the topics of sea monsters and Atlantis, I'm hoping we can make the jump to evolution, prehistory, and mythology fairly easily, while adding in spelling, math, and handwriting along the way. And the first assignment in Write with the Best just happens to be reading a descriptive paragraph from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and then writing a similar paragraph. Below is my list of resources, should anyone ever have a need for it. Most of these items are currently sitting on a shelf, having been gotten via ILL to coincide with the hopeful arrival of the rest of the things from RR. But I've still got to run out and buy the Sea Monsters board game (not to be confused with the Sea Monsters Wii game, which has gotten horrendous reviews), which I've luckily seen in a shop around town. Hopefully it's still there!

National Geographic's Sea Monsters: a Prehistoric Adventure DVD
Mysteries of the Ocean Deep (Dipper)
Dark Day in the Deep Sea (Magic Tree House #39, Osborne)
Sea Monsters, a Magic Tree House Research Guide (Osborne & Boyce)
The Sea Monster (Wormell)
Monster Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities)
Captain Bogg & Salty: Pegleg Tango music CD
Sea Monsters board game (Briarpatch)
Sirens & Sea Monsters (Osborne)
Sea Creatures Tattoos (Dover)
Strange Creatures of the Sea coloring book (Dover)
Aquatic Adventures Mega Toob
Atlantis--the Lost City? (Donkin)
Can Science Solve the Mystery of Atlantis? (Wallace)
Atlantis (EdgeBooks-Martin)
Graphic Mysteries: Atlantis and other Lost Cities (Shone)
Jr. Graphic Mysteries: Atlantis--the Mystery of the Lost City (DeMolay)
Letters from Atlantis (Silverberg)
20,000 Leagues under the Sea, as read by Jim Weiss

and whatever else on these topics I can find at the two local libraries we frequent. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Six Things

I was tagged by LB at 3 Ring Binder to post six things people don't know about me, and man, this is difficult. I consider myself a reserved person, so one would think there is a lot about me that people don't know. Maybe I'm just boring??? Sad, but possibly true.

Let's see--

1. My elementary school teachers thought I would grow up to be an artist (as in paint, pencil, paper, etc.).

2. One of my celebrity look-alikes was Mikhail Gorbachev. I believe I ticked the "gender: F" button after that revelation.

3. I've started writing a handful of short stories and never finished any of them.

4. I saw Andy Williams in concert with my parents when I was nineteen (and enjoyed the performance).

5. My college violin professor (at the dry campus of the Christian college I attended) bet me a bottle of wine and a bottle of whiskey that I would nail The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams in my senior recital (no, that's not me in the YouTube video, though I have worn a similar dress to perform a solo with an orchestra--mine was shorter. . . much). My dear teacher also threatened to make me drink a shot before going out on stage. Needless to say, she remains one of my favorite professors of all time.

6. I met Joshua Bell when I was eighteen!!!!! Shook his hand and chatted briefly, even (and I'm sure I was a witty eighteen-year-old--probably told him about my passion for Andy Williams). It was a small concert in a tiny church in central PA--just him and Samuel Sanders (pianist). I bet the seats weren't even half filled. He was but nineteen and just getting started as a soloist.

There, I feel better. I'm tagging my friend Barb over at the cardinal compass. Go, Barb, go!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Mystery Bird

It was after sighting and photographing this Great Egret that we decided we really would like a camera with a better zoom lens. Great Blue Herons we've seen a-plenty around our home, but this pure white bird showed up on my mother-in-law's farm while we were there visiting a few weeks ago. Luckily, between the six pairs of adult and kid eyes that saw this lovely sight, we were able to get enough of a description (long black legs, long yellow bill, pure white feathers, size about 3 feet tall) to identify it with the help of a National Audubon Society Field Guide, which was what I ran to the car to retrieve while everyone else was watching the bird take off. Now if I could just figure out what black juvenile water bird we saw at a nearby pond (without camera in hand) in early June, my quota of nature mysteries to solve will be filled, for a while at least.

Friday, August 08, 2008

They bite not, neither do they sting.

Consider the cicada. I never knew how interesting and versatile these creatures were until one decided to molt on a tree in our front yard, poised conveniently at the average ten-year-old's eye level. My kids, two of their homeschooling friends, and several neighborhood children witnessed the emergence of this cicada (above) a few days ago. Since I am in summer mode, it took me until tonight to investigate one of the more interesting insects I've seen to date in our yard.

Did you know that cicadas were eaten in Ancient Greece and are still enjoyed in diets around the world? The female is considered more of a delicacy than the male. (I'm not sure how to feel about that particular bit of trivia.)

More than 2500 known species of cicada populate the globe, and they are not considered pests because they neither bite nor sting humans nor harm plants. The insect shedding its skin in our front yard was probably from the genus Tibecen, also called a "dog-day" cicada because most of them emerge in the sultry days of mid to late summer.

The way cicadas produce sound is fascinating, as well. The sound is created when membranes on either side of the male cicada's abdomen are contracted and released quickly many times in a row--the membranes click, and the rapid speed at which those clicks are produced makes the whirring sound we hear.

One more tidbit--cicadas show up often in the fine art of poetry writing (especially Japanese haiku), in fables and in other literature around the world.

Cicada on tree
Leave a golden shell behind
Dry wings and fly

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


You have to say it really fast, hence no spaces. Puppypuppypuppy! That's what we call the fourth child in our family, whose real name is Lyla. She's a fifteen-week-old chocolate lab from Win-wood Kennel in RI,where the owner breeds for temperament first of all, and we can really see it in Lyla. She's generally very calm, and is proving to be relatively easy to train, which is a darn good thing, because, really, let's take a moment. Homeschooler, mother of three human children (youngest not yet potty-trained), musician who'd really like more than one paying gig per year to fall into her lap, recovering type-A who volunteers far too much and sleeps way too little, and wannabe blogger--sure, why not throw a puppy into the mix? Did I mention DH had to leave on business two days after we got her at the end of June? And will likely be gone almost a week per month for a while yet? My kids are learning the fine art of poop-scooping, I can tell you that much. But just look at that face!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What's in a name?

I've had this blogger account for three years and had done nothing with it until I was recently inspired by my friend's blog over at 3 Ring Binder. One of the reasons I'd done nothing with it was because I just absolutely could not think of a name for my blog. How's that for not even getting out of the starting gate? While the name I've chosen for now is neither as clever or appropriate as many others out there, I tried to think of a name related to something my entire family likes. With three children (boy 10.5, girl 7, boy 3.5), DH (the computer chip-designing, X-Box-playing guy), and me (musician and book addict), it was hard to find a common denominator. But then the background on my computer's desktop reminded me of something we all love: rocks. Skipping them, collecting them, photographing them, painting them, reading about them--we do it all. On our recent vacation we found an amazing variety of shapes and colors. Those we found in Acadia National Park we just photographed, but several other beaches outside the Park contributed to our growing collection.

While I don't think I'll be posting every day for a while yet, I hope to do better than once every three years. Later, friends.