Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bringing Music Home

After not playing for nearly 25 years I bought myself a ‘new’ guitar. It is a used acoustic/electric 6-string guitar. After only having 2 months of lessons back in high school, it is almost like I never played. I know almost nothing. The teacher I had never taught us to read music. I’m starting from scratch. I brought it out twice so far and practiced some bar cords and strumming. At least I remember that much.

I went to the store 3 times. The first 2 times with the kids, needless to say no testing guitars happened those trips. They both want ‘batars”. When they can say it we’ll think about getting them each one for their birthdays. In the store William was trying hard to say it. Selena was trying too but in the middle of the store after several attempts she announced she wanted an ‘instrument’ as clearly as could be. Everyone that heard her was obviously impressed and amused. Since they changed from ‘batar’ to ‘instruments’ I got a dollar store recorder/flutes and nice tambourines for each of them. So the kids have a few more things for the box of musical instruments I have been collecting for them. They had a bongo drum, Little Tikes tambourine, maracas from Mexico, several kinds of shakers, etc. to share. I also share my basket of instruments which so far consist of a bodhrán (Celtic drum), gourd shakere, egg shakers, a whistling tube, and other small noise makers, but under supervision.

I back to the store alone and picked a nice used guitar, a case, strap, and 2 beginner’s books with a CD. I didn’t get an amp or electric guitar accessories. I wait and get that when I can actually play. I’m doing this one step at a time. The kids you might guess the kids get quite excited and want to help or do play my guitar themselves.

I had my first guitar lesson last night. I impressed the teacher that I have remembered as much has I have. I’m the first adult student he has ever taught so the fact that I can read makes his job much easier. But still he was impressed with the figuring I have remembered and that I can do a bar cord that sounds pretty good. He sent me home with 4 pages of notes to practice. I spent 15-20 minutes practicing last night. My fingers tips were sore enough I decided pushing it too much would actually cut into practice time rather then increase it. I hope that if I do 15-20 minutes a night I might build up some calluses by my next lesson

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kennedy Center

Shortly after I moved to the DC area my then boyfriend took me to a classical concert at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts (more commonly know as the Kennedy Center). He was able to get what is commonly referred to as ‘nose bleed seats” but they were still fantastic seats. We could see everything on stage, the reaction of the audience below us, and the beautiful modern architecture. I remember the chandlers being so basic and so beautiful. The looked like hundreds of upside down simple crystal bowls from close up and from a distance they were just dazzling. The performance was wonderful.

In 2000, I went back as part of a DC Trolley monuments by night tour. This time I had another chance to admire the sculptures and art work along with the architecture.

Most recently I was there in 2007 with a few thousand other people getting ready to walk the 2007 Avon Walk For Breast Cancer. It was a fantastic back drop for the warm ups and emotional pep talks before we march out into the capitol city.

If you are interested in learning more about the Kennedy Center Wikipedia ( ) has very good information. Information about performances and their educational programs can be found on their website:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bedtime Stories by Sandra Boynton

Bedtime stories are an important part of our bedtime routine. It provides a perfect opportunity to spend some quite or not so quite time with my wonderful little people while exposing them to the joys of reading. Here are two more of my favorite books to read to them. Both of these books are written by Sandra Boynton. The stories flow and are easy to read. The words express loving kindness. I've been told her other books are just as wonderful.

Snuggle Puppy

What's Wrong Little Pookie

Monday, July 28, 2008

Clemyjontri Park

The Clemyjontri Park is part of the Fairfax county park system. The 18 acre park in McLean was donated by Mrs. Adele Lebowitz. She had the dream of a park for all kids to come and play no matter what their abilities are. This colorful park is designed for children of all capabilities to enjoy. Many of the structures are wheelchair accessible with ramps and rails. Most of the things are low for a child to reach or for an adult to easily assist. The kids love it.

This weekend was very hot with heat advisories for outside activities so we went in the morning after a quick swim in the kiddy pool. We started our day in the park with a ride on the absolutely beautiful carousel. The carousel has stationary and moving horses along with a few seats designed to accommodate a wheelchair or other special needs. After 1 ride with a promise of one more before we left they took off to race around the rest of the park. My little people ran from cars to airplanes to train, to mazes, to swings, to slides, and back again. After nearly an hour we all climbed back onto the carrousel for one last ride. It was hard to get them off the ride the second time. I promised them we would be back.

Because of the heat we stayed in the parking lot for a short time to tailgate. I made sure each of us had a bottle of water and some juice before we all buckled up to find a good pho shop for lunch. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup. It is a wonderful broth with lots of rice noodles, meat, and crunchy sprouts to put on top. Pho is traditionally eaten with chop sticks and a spoon. The kids love it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spelt Zucchini Pancakes

I did a little experimenting this morning. I made a batch of the regular banana pancakes and then I pulled out the zucchini. While the family was chowing down on banana pancakes I was grating fresh zucchini from the garden. The husband wanted to know what the green stuff was and what I was making. When I told him pancakes it was met with total disbelief. The basic recipe is a modification of a 1984 Joy of Cooking pancake batter

Zucchini Pancakes

1 c whole spelt flour
½ c white spelt flour
1 t salt
3 T sugar
2 t double-acting baking powder
1 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 dash ground clove

1 large egg
3 T melted butter
1 c skim milk
1 medium zucchini, grated

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together quickly. Spoon onto hot oiled griddle. Cook until bubbles are firm, flip and cook until golden.

Finished pancakes can be frozen. I use plastic lids (coffee can plastic lids) with the rims cut off between the pancakes to make separating easier while they are frozen.

I loved them. The husband thought they were okay. One kid refused to try them because they had green spots. The other kid tried them (twice) but said she didn’t like them. Oh well, more for me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Favorite Bedtime Children’s books: Love Stories

There are two books which I love to read to my children. They make me feel all mushy inside and don’t even come close to telling my two little people how special they are.

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak (Cartwheel Books – Scholastic) is a wonderful book which goes through what you love about that special little person in your life. We all know we love their silly side and their mad side but how often do we really tell them that. The loving words are accompanied by beautiful drawings of a little person and their teddy bear. My kids like this one too since we play along. I’ve shown them or asked them where each body part such as their ears and toes are as we read along or we act out the emotions like their silly side and mad sides.

On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier (Red Wagon Books) is another loving book. This beautifully illustrated book describes how the world prepared for your coming. I like this one because it not only conveys how important and wonderful each little person is it also tells of how we are all intertwined with our environment. For this book the kids are starting to ask questions alike how the earth’s gravity keeps us from floating away.

I got bored the first time I read Good Night Moon but I have yet to grow tired of reading these two.

Friday, July 25, 2008

One in a Million

Yes, I’m one in a million, in more ways then one. There are over a million people living in the county I live in. That number can be overwhelming and some days the traffic can be BUT the pros so out weigh the cons. Just about any thing that interests you can be found here. There are people living here who represent all corners of the globe. They bring their customs and beliefs. There are people here of just about every religion, political party, and philosophy. If you are willing to ask around you can find almost anything here. The cultural centers, colleges and universities, restaurants, museums, parks, zoos, theme parks, historical sites, movie houses, performing arts theaters and concerts venues are everywhere. There is something for just about everyone you just need to be willing to look around to find what you are looking for.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is located in downtown Washington DC on The Mall. This Egyptian style obelisk is just over 555’ tall and was completed in 1884 as a memorial to George Washington.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vegetable Gardening: Zucchini

It is starting to be that time of year. The zucchini plants are beautiful and flowering daily. Their small fruits are appearing and doubling in size over night. This summer squash isn’t really a vegetable but rather a fruit. These taste green summer treats can be eaten raw or cooked in many ways. If it is a good year for zucchini you should have a stack of recipes to try and a few friends who are willing to take some off of your hands. So far I haven’t had enough to share but that could change quickly.

The few zucchinis I have picked I have just sliced into a microwavable container and added some precooked chicken sausage and rice or corn. A few minutes in the microwave and it is a wonderful summer lunch.

Some of my other favorites are:

  • zucchini pancakes,
  • zucchini bread
  • ratatouille,
  • zucchini fried with onions, mushrooms and Italian seasonings
  • grilled zucchini
  • and in soups

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Historical Washington DC

“Historical Washington DC” sounds so redundant. I remember when I was in elementary school my mother would have to write a note if we missed school whether it was because we were sick or if we were doing something educational. I remember one time when we were going to accompany my father to Washington DC for a business trip my mother was upset that a note saying we were visiting The Smithsonian was not enough. She had to explain how the trip was going to be educational. I was young enough that I don’t remember the whole trip but I do remember going to one of the Smithsonians and seeing an Oriental Princes encased in small jade squares sewn together and many of the other stone carvings and metal sculptures which were buried with her. I remember going to the zoo and seeing many more animals then we had at our local zoo.

I live in such an amazing area that I just might start adding a few blogs about the things to see and do in the DC area. It was just voted one of the most economical places to vacation, again.

Temple DC is an interesting site which was mentioned this morning on the radio. is a website which has historical information and compares it to the streets of Washington DC. It is interesting but as a social scientist by education I am always leery of imposing our beliefs, thoughts and finding to say what someone in the past was thinking or intending.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gluten-Free Ravioli

On my last trip to Healthway Natural Foods I found a wheat-free gluten-free ravioli. No one had tried it yet and they promised that if I didn’t like it I could return it. They said they value their customers input and want to keep them happy. So I decided to try it. I haven’t had any ravioli since I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy in 2002.

Last night for the first time in years I boiled pots of water to serve the family ravioli. I made small cheese ravioli made with wheat for the kids and I cooked up a bag of Conte’s Pasta Cheese Ravioli for myself. Their ravioli looked like tasty little pillows and kept their shape. The wheat free raviolis didn’t look as neat. Over half of the wheat-free raviolis pulled apart. I scooped up the tasty cheese filling with a slotted spoon as it was cooking. The noodles and the filling were very tasty. The ones that stayed together were even tastier. It was just the right combination of pasta and filling. I am hoping I just got a bag that was squished wrong and the next one will have more that keep together. Yes, I would say this is definitely a try again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pool Side

I was blessed with an opportunity to spend the weekend with wonderful friends to relax and unwind. We had a beautiful weekend for hanging by the pool and catching up on things. The sun was high and warm, the breezes cool and refreshing, and people were supportive, witty, and a little crazy. It was the perfect combination for a weekend away.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hawaiian Fabric: 2nd Dress

As I posted ‘Hawaii Fabric’ in June I purchased several fabrics while I was in Hawaii. I purchased patterns and have been working bit by bit to turn the fabric into beautiful comfortable clothes. In June I finished my first dress. Now nearly a month and a half latter I have finally finished the second outfit. It is a 2 piece dress using the same Simplicity Khaliah Ali Collection (#3805) which I used to make my first dress. For the first dress I only altered the length to fit my petite height. This time I decided to do a two-piece dress in hopes it would fit the rest of my curves better. I also altered the collar. The original seemed a bit too “pointy”. I used a piece of scrap cardboard to cut and alter the collar pieces. Lesson learned: use thinner paper to cut alternate patterns. All of the seems except the top’s center front seem are done in either a French seem or a flat felt seam. If I could only figure out how to do the front one in something similar where would be absolutely no way for the fabric to fray.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reviving the Soul with Music

It was a wonderful night for a picnic and a concert. My office treated us to lawn tickets to see Earth Wind and Fire at Wolf Trap.

It was my first time at Wolf Trap. I’ve been wanting to go for various concerts since I moved to this area but this is the first I actually made it to something. It’s a great setting, Wolf Trap is a national park; beautiful wood structure with a nice lawn surrounded by trees. The venue is open and has real assigned seats under a roof and then there are lawn seats.

Our human resource department was at the gate before 4:30 to stand in line with blankets and at 6:30 rushed in to get space for 80 people. Then after about 10-20 more of us made it through the gates to guard the blankets they went out to get bags and trays of food. They planned a fantastic picnic. There was water, sodas, sandwiches, chips, fruit, chips, potato salad, coleslaw, etc. There was plenty for all even with my allergies. They thought of everything including glow sticks.

I was worried when they played their first 2 tunes which was their new stuff, which was good but… then they played some older and classic tunes. They were great. After 37 years they are still moving and grooving. The concert was 2 hours of wonderful music.

I felt moved to do some writing but when I pulled out the note pad the words didn’t quite flow. I jotted down a few notes. Maybe the rest will come to me later. It is amazing what a good atmosphere can do for the soul. I left the concert so uplifted and revived.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Family Tartans

For my first wedding I did research into my family’s tartan. At the time I only considered my mother’s clan MacIntyre and my Father’s family of Teall. It never occurred to me to look into the other part of the family for a Jewish tartan. Evidently there are two different official Jewish tartans to recognize the 300 plus years Jews have been living in Scotland and contributing to the culture.

The more recent Jewish tartan was voted on just this year. This tartan was initiated by Rabbi Mendel Jacobs. It is registered by the Scottish Tartans Authority and is 100% kosher. This tartan is a non wool-linen mix to follow kosher laws. The pattern and color choices are to reflect the Scottish-Jewish culture and religious history. His site explaining his Jewish Tartan is at A good story about this tartan can be found at

The other Jewish tartan has been around a bit longer. This kosher tartan has been registered through This kilt is 100% wool (no linen).

Both fabrics are beautiful and look like they would go beautifully with the MacIntyre modern hunting tartan which has forest green and a deep blue as its primary colors with accents of red and white.

I just might need to do some more fabric shopping.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Del Sol

While in Hawaii my tour guide took me to Del Sol in Lahaina, HI. While doing research for my earlier blog about finding t-shirts for the kids I discovered there are a few locations here on the east coast. Rehoboth Beach, DE and Ocean City, MD are soooo much closer. The online store also had a few things I possibly missed at the store. Color changing nail polish and my new favorite key ring, a gecko.

I'm not sure who the color changing things entertain more, me or the kids.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Green Living: Carrying Your Own Baggage

The Pocono Record has posted a slide presentation about plastic shopping bags which is quite convincing. Just using one reusable bag in stead of a disposable plastic bag could make a huge difference. If you never used another one it would be even a greater positive impact. Such a small change in our lives could make such a huge difference to our environment.

Visit the Pocono Record’s Pocono green to see more slide shows and information.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pebble in the Pond

One of my favorite sayings has been hanging over my desk for years. It is a Helen Keller quote.

I am only one, but I am still one.

I cannot do everything, but I can still do something.

And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

- Helen Keller

I try to live by this concept. I am one person and if I can cause a positive ripple through the world around me then my existence here is a good one.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vegetable Gardening: Zucchini & Corn

The zucchini plants are doing very well. They have buds and blossoms developing very nicely. I was able to pick my first two this week. By the end of next week I might have enough to start sharing with my gardening neighbor.

I’m still having some difficulties with my corn. I replanted the areas where the first batch was chewed. Half of the new seedlings were chewed too. It seems some rodent likes them when they are just about 1 foot tall. If they make it past that they leave the corn alone. I need to ask around to find out what might be eating the seedlings and what I can do to protect them. The plants which have made it past a foot tall are doing quite well. I might not have enough corn for each of us to have an ear at harvest but the kids will get to see it grow.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Vegetable Gardening: Pea Pods & Tomatoes

This week I have had the joy of walking out to my garden and be able to nibble on the fruits, well the vegetables of my labor. The peas are starting to come in. I have had 4 pods so far big enough to pick, just right for a pre-dinner snack. The plants are doing well and are starting to climb the fence on their own. There should be many more pea pods coming. I might even have enough to share with the family.

The tomato plants also seem to be doing well with their fancy metal fence. I have been using gardening Velcro type strips to tie the plants to the fence. The strips are handy since they hold the plants well but can be easily moved as the plants grow an the center of gravity changes. Do make sure the soft, female side of the strips are against the plant to avoid damaging the plant. Some how I had one on inside out and the plant is a bit scuffed up in that spot. Luckily I caught it before and real damage was done. I should start getting fresh vine-ripped tomatoes this coming week.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Split Pea Soup - Mediterranean

I made pea soup, again. This time I paid a little more attention to the details so I could answer some of those questions I have been receiving. I have been asked how many carrots and how long do you usually cook it? This time I didn't use any broth, bouillon, or meat. Instead I increased the seasoning. I know this thick soup is usually served hot on cold winter nights but I find that it is very good cold as a side dish during the summer. It’s a great treat to add to the picnic basket.

Split Pea Soup - Mediterranean (vegetarian)

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 pinches savory
  • 1 pinch Sage
  • 1 pinch Turmeric
  • 2 pinches Basil
  • A dash Paprika
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 lbs baby carrots cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 lbs dried split peas
  • 1/2 lg. sweet onion
  • water enough to cover and a little more

Put all ingredients into a 2 quart pot. Heat on med until it starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low. Occasionally stirring.

I had it on the stove for 4 hours stirring about every 20-40 minutes. It has a bit more of a Mediterranean taste to it.... YUMMY!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Namaste Blondies

Namaste Foods did it again! The brownies I made a while back were heavenly, so much so that I was more then willing to try their blondies when I saw them at the store. On a ‘cool’ and damp July after noon last weekend I decided to bake a batch. They turned out fantastic. The kids even loved them. I would absolutely get them again and try other Namaste products.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wheat & Gluten-Free Baked Ziti & Penne

The kids would live on mac and cheese if I would let them. Often when the schedule is busy I’ll make them a quick meal with the Kraft macaroni and cheese but because of my wheat allergy I still need to make something for myself. Healthway Natural Foods had Amy's gluten-free baked zit that looked like a good option for me. It was very good and I couldn’t tell from the taste that it was wheat and gluten-free.

Healthway also had Glutino Gluten-Free duo mushroom penne. This was also tasty. It definitely does not taste like my friend’s Italian grandmother’s recipe but it was worth getting again. Now with 390 calories per serving it definitely won’t be an everyday pick but it can be a quick tasty option for a fast meal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tree Stump Garden: flower progress

The irises are all past. Most of them still have beautiful foliage. There is one that is looking rather sad. I’m hoping it is just finished for the year but I don’t think is going to make it to another season. I’ll find out next year.

The creeping phlox all bloomed beautifully. I’m hoping by next spring they will be better established and have a more impressive blanket of blooms.

The butterfly weed was devoured by something it’s second night.

The tickseed ‘Baby Sun” must also be pretty tasty. One has had a few nibbles and the other has been eaten down to the ground ever time it tires to grow another leaf. It’s relative tickseed “Moonbeam” is doing far better. Its beautiful little yellow blossoms dance in the breeze.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tree Stump Garden: Black-eyed Susan and Day Lilies

I am happy to say the Black-eyed Susan and day lily flowers I have transplanted around the tree stump are doing wonderfully. I just hope that my gardening neighbor who was so kind to give them to me has a chance to admire them on her drive home each night.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tree Stump Garden: Portulacas

A few weeks ago while weeding the tree stump garden I thought I recognized one of the weeds. I decided to risk leaving it to let it grow to see if I had correctly guessed what it was. I considered this slightly risky since some of the things I have let go have been a bear to get out latter. Luckily I was right this time and the little plants turned out to be Mose-rose or portulaca grandiflora.

Growing up I remember my mother planting portulacas because they were one of my father’s favorite flowers. I also remember we stopped planting them because the blossoms only last one day. By the time my father would come home from work all of the flowers would be spent and only their succulent leaves would be left, to tease him. If he was lucky he would have some time to enjoy them over the weekend. For now the days are just long enough that we are welcomed home by these beautiful pink flowers along with the other flowers of the tree stump garden.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I definitely have not learned all the secrets to composting.

I decided the garden beds needed some compost while preparing them for the next round of planting. A good bit of the compost looked ready. Evidently the surrounding plants agreed and had riddled it with roots. I most definitely need to turn the pile more often. I was able to chisel out two wheel barrows full of the black gold and turned it into two of the raised vegetable beds. The beds changed from the color of red clay to the color of healthy soil. I am hoping the soil doesn't compact as easily and holds more moisture with each addition of compost to the beds.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kid Bento Experiment: 7.2 - “Clam” Pizzas Pitas

This ocean theme bento included Pepperidge Farm's Gold Fish & Starfish, pea 'pearls' and 'clam' pizza pitas along with some chocolate chip cookies and oranges. This combination wasn't as successful as I had hoped. My son declared the cheese had black spots and he won't eat black spots. His dad ate one trying to prove the black spots (herbs) were yummy. Nope, that was not going to convince him. My daughter ate most of hers so I didn't completely strike out. I'll try serving this one again in a week or two.

“Clam” Pizzas Pitas

5 oz. cream cheese
1 T pizza spices
4 T milk
¼ c mozzarella cheese, shredded
Mini pitas

  • Mix with a fork cream cheese and milk until it is smooth, like a thick dip
  • Add spices and blend well
  • Add mozzarella cheese and blend well
  • Slice pita along edge
  • Stuff each with I teaspoon of cheese mixture

When the kids are a bit older or adventuresome I may try adding “pearls” to their clams: ½ cherry tomato, sliced olive, or sliced mushrooms.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Savory Rice

Years ago a friend made wonderful dishes from Morocco, France and Israel which I fell in love with. Unfortunately she always tried to protect her secret recipes. The years since she has passed I have been trying to recreate some of those dishes with limited success. A co-worker familiar with the region has been trying to steer me in the right direction. Since the spices in many of these dishes are very different from what I have been serving the family, I’m trying to introduce the “new spices” to the family in hopes I can introduce some of the dishes I have been missing.

I didn’t warn the family. I just started to toss stuff into a pot for dinner. Last nights creation was met with mixed reviews. My daughter tired and ate some. My son refused because there was stuff in his rice. Their father said it was tasty but he could not tell which region it was from.

Savory Rice

2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
½ c chopped onion
½ c chopped carrots
1 pinch savory
2 dashes cardamom
2 dashes all spice
2 dashes black pepper
1 c short grain rice
2 cubes chicken bouillon
2 c water

  • Sauté garlic and onion in oil until almost transparent,
  • Stir in carrots and spices,
  • Stir in rice and warm through,
  • Add water, cover and bring to a boil,
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Blue Hawaii

( jelly fish display, Maui Ocean Center)