March 4, 2007

Rince na Chroi Video: March 3 Performance

Just click here to view the some photos from the March 3, 2007 performance of our son Graham's Irish dance school, Rince na Chroi. It was their annual "big show" performance from Concordia University in St. Paul.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:47 PM | Videocast

December 30, 2006

Best of Rince na Chroi Video: For your iPod!

Just click here to view the best photos from 2006 of our son Graham's Irish dance school, Rince na Chroi.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:22 AM | Videocast

December 29, 2006

Best of Xmas 2006 Video

Just click here to view the best Xmas photos from 2006! And remember, you can subscribe to future video podcasts by inserting this RSS subscriber address into your iTunes podcast folder.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:59 PM | Videocast

December 18, 2006

A Tale of Two Xmas Trees

When we did our house remodel a few years ago, we gained a bank of windows in our great room that just begged for a big Christmas tree.

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This nine-foot artificial tree is pre-lit and covered with family mementoes and keepsakes from our travels including an ornament from our honeymoon at Glacier National Park, a metal building from Brian’s visit to Brussels and a Russian birch heart.

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There are also plant and garden-related ornaments, some purchased at a garden store outside of London during our last visit. Blown glass carrots, peaches, hummingbirds and cardinals mingle with tiny pitchforks and spades. It may be winter but the garden is never far from my mind! Click here for a videocast of my favorite Xmas ornaments.

This tree is beautiful but Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the scents of a real tree. So each year we purchase a tree just for Graham’s ornaments. These range from 101 Dalmatians and Bob the Builder to Scooby Doo and the Flash, a chronicle of his childhood toy progression. This year’s cool ornaments are a Star Wars storm trooper and R2D2 & C3PO. Not to mention this cool rocket ship which screams "we have a boy":

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His tree is the one we gather around on Christmas even to open presents, which makes it even more special.

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Merry Christmas to you all!

Winter Wonderland

Our recent snowfalls have lent a holiday spirit to the gardens.

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Christmas Cookies

It is a well-known fact in my household that while I can do many things, baking cookies is just not one of them.

I never seem to trust the amount of time that the directions tell me to leave the cookies in the oven, so my cookies are always well done. Okay, over done.

When I told Brian that I wanted to bake Christmas cookies with Graham this weekend, he just laughed.

I want Graham to have “typical? childhood memories of baking home made Christmas cookies. So I cheat a little. I buy a tube of pre-made sugar cookie dough, roll it out and call it home made. Graham doesn’t know the difference. He just likes to spread LOTS of flour onto the granite island and cut out his favorite shapes.

His cookie cutters of choice do not have Christmas motifs. He likes to use an old, old set with the images of cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, Droopy dog and a duck. They must be from when my brother and sister were kids.

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We may or may not get around decorating the cookies. It doesn’t matter. The point is that we did a traditional Christmas activity together. And I’ve got pictures to prove it.

Afterwards, when Brian asked Graham how the cookies tasted, he said, “Crunchy.?

Some Christmas traditions never change.

Feeding my Inner Geek

Readers who love arcane information should look no further than the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books series. With more than 130 titles on everything from “Africa? and “Amphibians? to “Weather? and “World War II,? these books provide a comprehensive, in-depth look at a single topic. The books are quality products, made with gorgeous photographs and high production values.

Graham and I both enjoy them. Between the two of us, we had a huge stack of them checked out from the library last week.

Sometimes a novel or autobiography just won’t fit my mood because I want to learn something new. The other night I finished “Watercolor? and on my bedside still await “Rocks and Minerals?, “Medieval Life? and “Crystal and Gem? for when that mood strikes again.

For younger readers, there’s a spin-off series called Eye Wonder – same great photos and production values – just a simpler focus.

And they’ve even made a few of the titles into videos and DVDs. As I type, Graham is watching “Oceans?. His other favorites are “Shark? and “Planet.? He’s even going to give “Shark? the book to his school buddy for Christmas.

Check them out at

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: What do You Do All Day?? by Amy Scheibe, a childhood friend. It’s a funny and frank story of a stay home mom in Manhattan. Run out and buy a copy now! (Okay, so that was a shameless plug!)

Also: “Chewing the Cud? by Dick King-Smith, the autobiography of the author of “Babe: The Gallant Pig?which was made into the classic film by the same name.

Listening to: “The Blue Last? by Martha Grimes. Only about 10 minutes left!

Graham’s current favorite: “Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman" by Dav Pilkey. I couldn’t have made that up myself if I had tried.

Remaining Garden Chores

Clean out my gardening tote. It’s filled with old plant tags, clods of dirt and other detritus.

Pack the canna, four o’clock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that won’t be too hot or too cold.

Today’s Grahamism

“What if the chickadee only said, ‘Dee-dee-dee-dee?’ Could it keep its old name??

“I want an easy job when I grow up. I’m going to take pictures of dinosaurs in museums.?

“I don’t need to write a letter to Santa. The elves have already made want I want.? How do you know that? “Oh, Mom, it’s a long story.?

When Graham and I came home from running errands one evening, we discovered that Glynis had eaten the remaining 10 squares in Graham’s chocolate calendar. I told him that dogs that eat chocolate can get really sick and even die. He walked over to where Glynis was lying on the couch, gave her a pat and a kiss and said, “Good bye, Glynis.? And then walked away.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:07 PM | Family

April 23, 2006

Mother Love

Each night before I turn in for bed, I check in on Graham, pulling covers up over his out sprawled arms and legs, smoothing back a lock of hair and allowing the caress of a tender cheek to wipe away the day’s frustrations and cares – both his and mine.

Graham sleeping. (Click image for larger)

As I lean in to give him a good night kiss, I sniff deeply of that heady aroma of sleeping child – sweat and sunshine, shampoo and joy. And I know in the very marrow of my bones that This Child is Mine.

I’ve read that smell is the most potent of the senses, attaching itself to events so powerfully that even a faint whiff of a scent can bring back long-forgotten memories.

It also acts as a recognition device, a reinforcement of maternal process. Even the day after Graham was born, I could have chosen him from an array of other babies, just from his individual scent.

I think it’s an ancient response for women, going back to when we were simple primates. Have you ever noticed that when a baby is presented to a gaggle of women, almost the first thing each one of them will do when handed the child is to hold the baby close and take a deep sniff? We all laugh that we “just love the smell of new baby? but what we’re really doing is testing for recognition. We sniff and think, “Yep, this smells good but it’s not mine.?

That imprint of aroma is like olfactory DNA, something so unique and singular that it cannot be replicated. Every animal mother can tell her child from the all others in a herd, even when there are hundreds of them.

So at night, when mothers everywhere tuck their little ones in to bed, we can sleep in peace, too, because we know This Child is Mine.

A mother’s nose knows, and it’s never wrong.

Deep Purple

With all the chartreuse leaves popping out on trees and cheery yellow daffodils in bloom, a garden’s deeper purple flowers and foliage can make a welcome change.

This spring my gardens contain wild prairie crocus...

Wild prairie crocus. (Click image for larger)

...snake’s head fritillary...

Snake’s head fritillary. (Click image for larger)

...and grape hyacinth.

Grape hyacinth. (Click image for larger)

From emerging hosta shoots...

Hosta shoots. (Click image for larger) the ruffled edges of “Plum Pudding? heuchera...

“Plum Pudding? heuchera. (Click image for larger)

...and the stalks of “Husker Red? pensetemon,

“Husker Red? pensetemon. (Click image for larger)

...purplish leaves also add color and form.

And don’t forget the punch provided by the bright fuschia of Turkish tulips...

Turkish tulips. (Click image for larger)

...and waxy-leaved bergenia.

Bergenia. (Click image for larger)

What I’m Reading

Browsing through: “Foliage: Dramatic and Subtle Leaves for the Garden? by David Joyce.

Listening to: “Dragonfly in Amber – Part 1? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish time travel.

Graham’s current favorite: “Owen & Mzee: the True Story of a Remarkable Friendship? by Isabella Hatkoff and “What Do Illustrators Do?? by Eileen Christelow.

Today’s Grahamisms

Graham and I were out running errands one night last week when it began to rain quite hard. We rushed from a store to the van, trying not to get wet. As I buckled him into his booster seat, most of my body still outside the van, Graham said, “Oh, the water makes everything sparkle, even your butt.?

While walking down to Big Park on Medicine Lake, Graham said, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World is wrong. Howler monkeys should be on that list because when they howl it can be heard for seven miles.? Then he demonstrated by hooting at the top of his lungs, startling a nearby walker.

Graham’s class has been studying art for the past two weeks, and every day he brings home artwork that he has done in the style of Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt and others. One day, he announced, “My favorite artist today is Andy Warthog.?

Posted by maasx003 at 12:44 PM | Books | Family | Gardens