Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A girls' afternoon out!

Morgan has been staying at her in-laws' house since early June while her hubby is recuperating from his surgery. While she's been up here, we've tried to take opportunities to get together a bit more often. On Friday, we all decided to go visit The Pottery Shop in Ellicott City, MD, taking along Morgan's friend Becki. The store is a really cute little place, sort of a 1/2 pottery, 1/2 Starbucks-style place!

We'll go back later this week or early next week to pick up the finished projects, but in the meantime, here are the girls in action and their projects.

Mackenzie decided that turning a bowl into a watermelon would be a great project!

Morgan decided to paint small "thank you" gifts for her in-laws.

Focused attention on this project....

Becki hard at work as well.

Stripes of different colors added to make the watermelon more realistic.

A look inside the completed project!

And a look at the outside of the completed project!! She ended up using four colors of green to achieve the mottled stripes on the outside of the bowl. I can't wait to see how this will actually look once the bowl is fired and the true colors appear -- I think it's going to be gorgeous!

Morgan working on details of her secret project!

Morgan's project......

Becki's project.....

Kenzie admiring her handiwork and wondering why everyone else is taking so long!!

I just HAD to get pictures of this little guy! He was hanging over the cash register and is just too cute!!

I need to make one of these -- it looks like ME at the end of most weeks.....!! :)


Friday, June 17, 2011

Forgive the language, but not the sentiment!

Making the rounds on Facebook and other places today. If you're not one of "those" kinds of dads, thank you -- and ladies, thank the dads if they're not!!! If you ARE one of those kinds of dads, it's time to wake up and get back in the game, guys......


A father's day wish: Dads, wake the hell up!
By Jeff Pearlman, Special to CNN
June 17, 2011 10:18 a.m. EDT
  • Jeff Pearlman says a mom acquaintance is bereft that her husband shirked child care
  • Pearlman says he's a stay-at-home-dad fully involved in care of his two young children
  • He says dads need to get involved, childhood is short, tiredness from work no excuse
  • Pearlman: Here are 10 rules for righteous dadhood

Editor's note: Jeff Pearlman is a columnist for SI.com. He blogs at jeffpearlman.com.

(CNN) -- The woman started crying.

I didn't expect this, because, well, why would I? We were two adults, standing in a preschool auditorium, waiting for the year-end musical gala to begin, talking summer plans and Twitter and junk fiction and all things mindless parents talk at mindless events. Then -- tears.

"My husband," she said, "doesn't care."

"Uh, about what?" I asked.

The floodgates now open, she told me her husband works from home. But he never drops their daughter off at preschool. He never picks their daughter up at preschool. He never wakes up with their daughter, never puts her to bed, never takes her to a movie or a carnival or a ball game; never comes up with fun daddy-daughter activities. "All he worries about is golf," the mother said. "Sometimes he'll take her to the driving range for an hour. But that's it. ..."

Two days later, by mere coincidence, a different mother cornered me. I was sitting in a pizzeria with my son, Emmett, and daughter, Casey, gnawing on a calzone. The woman, another preschool regular who always seems to be dragging around her kids with the worn look of a chain gang inmate, glanced my way and muttered, "My husband would never do that."

"Do what?" I asked.

"Be out alone with both of the kids at once," she said. "Never."

In case you are wondering, I am that dad. The one who works out of the house. The one who drives his kids to school, packs lunches and pushes swings and arranges play dates and attends teacher conferences and -- generally speaking -- frequently finds himself alone in brightly colored rooms filled with women and tykes.

Along with my wife (who, until recently, also worked from home), I wipe snot, clean poop, order time outs and say no -- Really, no! I'm being serious, no! -- to the damned ice cream man and his Satanic siren call. I know all of my kids' friends, and most of their tendencies (Ashley and Emily love dolls, Lucas only wants to talk about Derek Jeter, Tyler digs applesauce).

Hence, I have been sent here today, on behalf of the stay-at-home mothers of the world, to convey to my fellow pops a message of love and hope in this lead-up to Father's Day: Wake the hell up.

Really, wake the hell up. Now. I understand that most of you have 9-to-5 jobs, that you leave tired and come home tired and just wanna chill in front of SportsCenter with a bowl of chips. But, seriously, you have no remote idea: Being a stay-at-home parent is exhausting. At the office, you can hide. You can take lunch. You can pretend you're working while scrolling the Internet for Yankees-Blue Jays and, ahem, Lindsay Lohan news. You have genuine social interactions with folks over the age of, oh, 12. People ask questions about your day -- and listen to the answers.

I envy you, but I sort of pity you. Kids grow. Age 1 turns to age 3, which turns to age 7, which turns to 15 and 18 and 21, all in the blink of an eye. If you're there, as I am, it flies. If you're not there -- if you're almost never there -- it barely exists at all. Which is why I just can't stomach those millions of dads who view their days at home as recovery from work, who'd rather rest than engage, who have no problem with passing the tykes off for more alone time with mom and who, literally, moan to their wives, "You have no idea how hard I work."

For you, I offer these 10 commandments of righteous fatherhood. Pay close attention, because, behind your back, people are pitying your wife:

1. No golf on weekends: Seriously, it's ludicrous. Your spouse is home with the kids all the time, and you think it's OK to take five hours on a weekend day to pursue your own pastime? Selfishness, thy name is Father.

2. Wake up: Literally, wake up. With your kids. On at least one of the two weekend days -- and perhaps both. I know: you wake up early for work. Not even remotely the same thing. Rising alongside the kiddies is hard. And crazy. And (gasp!) sorta fun, if you'd just stop moping.

3. Change diapers: If you have little kids, and you don't know how to change diapers (or, even worse, refuse to change diapers), you're pathetic. That's no exaggeration -- p-a-t-h-e-t-i-c. It's not all that hard, and though the poop sometimes winds up on the fingers, well, uh, yeah. It just does. Wash your hands.

4. Play with dolls and paint your toenails: How many fathers do I know who refuse to get girlish with their girls? Dozens. Dude, put aside the machismo, break out Barbie and slather on some pink polish. You'll make a friend for life -- and nobody else is watching.

5. Do things you don't want to do: It's easy to take the kids to the driving range -- because you want to be there. Now try spending the day having a tea party at American Girl. Or crawling through one of those wormholes at the nearby kiddie gym. Fun? Often, no. But this isn't about you.

6. Order the wife to bug off: I recently met a mother who told me her husband hadn't been alone with their 9-year-old daughter for more than two hours ... ever. Inexcusable. Let your wife do her own thing: relax, take a run, whatever. Entertain your children solo. They don't bite (Note: CNN.com is not liable if your children do, in fact, bite).

7. Surprise! Just once, on a random day without meaning or purpose, show up early at your kid's school/camp/wherever, say "Get in the car!" and take him/her somewhere special. Just the two of you, alone. A movie. A park. A hike. The memory lasts -- I promise.

8. Dishes Don't Clean Themselves (Nor Do Toys): It's amazing how this one works. You pick up a dish, run it under hot water with some soap, rub it down with a towel and place it back on the shelf. Then repeat.

9. Wake up your kid: Not often. But if you want to score big points and create a killer memory moment, walk in Junior's room at, oh, midnight, wake him/her up and go outside for 10 minutes to watch the stars.

10. For God's sake, tell your kids you love them: They never see you, and they'd probably like to know.

Bud, as you read this your wife is expecting little -- and your kids are expecting even less. Pull one out of the blue. Make Father's Day less about you, and all about them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Anatomy of a wedding cake -- June 2011

I've posted about the Anatomy of a Wedding Cake (Part I and Part II) in the past, as well as pictures of the wedding cake I made in Honduras last year for my nephew (baking and decorating), and decided it was time to post pictures of a more recent creation. These photos are from a cake I made this past Friday and Saturday with the help of my daughters. While it was a bit over-the-top for my personal tastes, it fit the design of the rest of the reception perfectly, and the bride and family were very happy with it! Enjoy the creative process!


It takes a lot of supplies and a lot of table space to get started with making a large cake.

Look closely -- one of the eggs we used had a double yolk!

First layer into the oven.....

All four layers glazed and cooling on the table.... sure doesn't look like much right now, does it?

One layer with icing, second layer added and waiting....

Two layers iced and it's time for BED!! It took most of the day to get to this point, believe it or not!

Saturday AM -- and now working at the small kitchen in the upstairs of the church. The flowers the bride's mother got for the cake were all white and needed to be painted -- YIKES!! Here is Morgan busily at work, painting the icing orchids.

All four layers iced and waiting for decorations.

Happy with how her painting is turning out thus far!

A look at the flowers in process.

Ribbon and edible beads added to cake -- and yes, EVERY SINGLE ONE of those beads had to be placed by hand! What a tedious process.....

Adding painted flowers to the cake

A close-up of one of the orchids Morgan painted -- she did a fabulous job!

More flowers, adding feathers.....

Still working....

Another orchid.....

Gold-tinged roses

Beginning to assemble the top of the cake. We wanted to create a "mound" of flowers, but knew that a pile of icing would not support the weight of the flowers trailing down the sides. We considered several possibilities, then ended up using a paper bowl upside down, poked it full of holes to put flowers in, and used icing to "glue" it to the top and toothpicks to help anchor it! Strange solution, but it worked!

Arranging the roses....

Adding more flowers

In process.....

..... and more flowers added.....

Another angle.....

After adding more flowers and peacock feathers.....

Orchid close-up....

Nelson and our friend Becki put the cake on our "litter", placed it on top of a rolling cart, and took it via elevator to the first floor of the church.

Moving it into the reception hall

Waiting for the caterer to give her OK to place cake on the table

Carrying the cake up the stairs to the platform

.....and moving towards the table while Morgan supervises!

Almost there!

Morgan completes some final touches around the cake base.

A view of the stage with drapes, DJ, and cake on the left.

Cake in place, ready for reception!

Bride and groom getting ready to share cake! (sorry, but I didn't remember to ask permission to show their faces, so I'm not going to do so right now!!)

And that's it!! Wedding cake from start to finish. Hope you enjoyed the process!


Friday, June 10, 2011

10 Things Never to Say to a Stay-at-Home Mom


10 Things Never to Say to a Stay-at-Home Mom

1. When the kids are older, do you think you'll get a real job?

2. How June Cleaver of you!

3. Oh, so you don't work?

4. Since you have extra time on your hands, could you whip up a few dozen brownies for the bake sale tomorrow?

5. All day with your kids? I can't even imagine.

6. I'm jealous. I wish my husband were rich so I wouldn't have to work either.

7. What do you do all day, anyway?

8. I'm sure you're not the only one who's ever wasted money on a college degree.

9. That explains why your son is so clingy!

10. Weird. I assumed your house would be superclean.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/05/31/hearstmagfamily5277360.DTL#ixzz1OvCmHSRx


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Videos of performances from yesterday's recital

Here are videos of some of the performances from yesterday's recital. Enjoy!
Mackenzie doing her solo


Several of the students performing the theme to "Phantom of the Opera"


All of the stringed instrument students performing an impromptu piece. Mrs. Guillory handed out music and they just "winged it"! Kind of fun!!


The advanced strings students performing Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons -- Spring" -- fabulous!!

Thanks for a great performance, kids!!

Poetic justice....

Heard on the news today -- enjoy!!

Five months ago Bank of America filed foreclosure papers on a Florida couple who didn't owe anything on their home. Now, those homeowner's have foreclosed on Bank of America, according to WFMY News.

The homeowner's, the Nyergers, were forced to take the case to court after Bank of America refused to accept their proof that they'd paid cash for their home.

A Collier County judge immediately accepted the family's evidence, confirmed the Nyergers' claims, and told Bank of America to pay all legal fees.

The bank refused, and the family's attorney did what the bank had tried to do to his clients -- he seized their assets. Within an hour of being locked out of his bank, the branch manager handed over a check for the legal fees.

Check out video on the reverse foreclosure here:

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/homeowner-forecloses-on-bank-of-america-branch-2011-6#ixzz1OQLPP7GY


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Happy stuff for a change!

So, today......

.....my dad got out of the hospital.....

....my son-in-law got out of the hospital......

....and Mackenzie's recital piece went well (in spite of having tendonitis in her right wrist!! (such a trooper!)


Friday, June 3, 2011

Too much, too much, too much.....

Updates on the last few days --

Solomon is still in the hospital, but recovering well. He had a "swallow test" this AM to see if he could swallow liquids and if the liquids would go down. He passed the test; he can swallow with some difficulty, but he CAN swallow. He's supposed to be allowed to have liquids later today, and he'll probably be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, if all continues well.

My dad is still in the hospital as well. They're tweaking his blood thinners to find the right amount for him. Additionally, they've decided to put in a vena cava filter (http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/vascular_surgery/vs_vena_cava_filter.aspx) to help prevent any other clots from breaking off and travelling to the lungs again. This is a pretty simple procedure done under just a local anesthetic. He's actually probably having the procedure done right now as I'm typing this, so I'm hoping to hear back from Mom some time soon as to how it went. Again, if all continues well, he should be discharged tomorrow.

In the course of e-mailing back and forth trying to notify all family members about all the above, I found out my sister's father-in-law is ALSO in the hospital up in New England with severe pneumonia. While doing x-rays, the doctors think they might've found a mass in/on his lung; however, they won't be able to do further testing to find out more until the pneumonia clears up somewhat.

And if all THAT wasn't enough..... my husband's boss's wife died yesterday of cancer. She's been ill for years, but has always fought and bounced back. While I'm glad her pain is over and that's she's finally whole and happy again in the presence of God, my heart breaks for her husband, son/daughter-in-law/granddaughter and her daughter who are left behind. She was a lively, happy person who was funny and could light up a room, and she will be terribly missed. Prayers for the Krout family.

So my highlight for the week is -- getting a new washing machine?? While that would normally not be a big deal, after a week like this, something new, shiny and functional seems like an exciting prospect!! Sometime this afternoon, my new LG front loader should arrive. It's exciting to be getting a machine that will actually RINSE and SPIN!!

Mackenzie's violin recital is tomorrow -- I'll have to see if we can get it recorded and post it so grandparents and family can see it!

Updates later on all the patients....


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Now my DAD is in the hospital -- what a day!

I just received a call from my mom a few minutes ago. My dad went out this AM to get the newspaper; when he didn't come back in, she went out to check on him. He was staggering in the driveway and then passed out in the front yard. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, has had a battery of tests run thus far with nothing seeming to be out of the ordinary. He'll be spending at least a day or two there while they check him out. Please be praying that whatever happened was a minor glitch and he'll be back to normal ASAP. Thanks.


A life-changing experience

Thirty-five years ago this month, I had the opportunity to travel for about 5 weeks abroad with high school and college-aged singers and instrumentalists. It was an amazing, life-changing, eye-opening experience, and something that I've never forgotten. Recently, through the wonders of the internet, many of us who went on that trip are starting to reconnect. It's been great fun to share pictures, memories, and reminisce about the experiences we had that summer.

The organization that sponsored the trip was AYIC (America's Youth In Concert). They sponsored this trip through most of the 70's and into the 1980's. Thousands of students benefited from this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One of the folks who went on this trip in 1983 wrote a blog posting about this today, and it truly spoke to the essence of what this trip was about. I just felt like sharing it here with you all today. Enjoy my "sentimental journey"!! -- http://www.daninfocus.com/

Pivot: America's Youth In Concert

I began playing the trumpet in fourth grade. In eighth grade, I was asked by the band director to play French horn for a year. I loved it. She couldn’t get me to go back and I played it throughout high school. My sophomore year, I was chosen to play in the 1982 all-state band. Right after that, I auditioned and was accepted for the America’s Youth in Concert tour of 1983. This four week tour of Europe became a major pivot point to my life.

America’s Youth in Concert was the vision of Lynn Geddes in the early 1970s. With all the social unrest over the Vietnam War and the low stature of America’s youth abroad, he decided it was important to give Europe a view of the finest, talented youth America had to offer, while providing those youth a chance to see the world outside their own country. He put together a band, choir and orchestra made up of youth between the ages of 15 and 20, led by some of the best directors available.

After a few days practice at Rider College in New Jersey, we performed our debut concert in Carnegie Hall on July 3. For a kid who had hardly left Idaho, this was the big time. As the first chair horn player in the orchestra, I had a few small solos in the various pieces we played. Consequently, I can boast of soloing in Carnegie Hall – all 4 measures. We packed the buses, drove all night and opened the July 4th celebrations on the U. S. Capitol steps in Washington D.C. Another concert in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and we were off to Europe for three and a half week. We played concerts in London’s Barbican Centre (home to the London Symphony Orchestra), Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral, Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and many other sites across England, France, Switzerland and Italy. We even played the center ring of a three-ring circus outside a small town in Switzerland. It was truly the opportunity of a life time.

Not a bad place to stay for a couple days.

Royal Holloway College

In the retrospect of 25 years, I am amazed my parents let me go on this trip, much less someone would take on the task of moving 250 hormone-ridden, immature teenagers around the world with only 14 chaperones. Surprisingly, troubles were few and the adventures were many. After a three hour trip into London with one of the chaperones the night before, I struck out with my friends, leading everyone all over to see the sites. It was the first time I had seen a subway, much less a city on my own. It never crossed my mind it was remarkable that we could turn 250 kids loose on London and everyone would get back to Royal Holloway College before the last train ran. Granted, I was on the last train, having taken in Pirates of the Penzance at the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane.

Another discovery I made on this trip was the difference between my upbringing and that of some of the other kids. It made me appreciate the practical lessons my mother taught me. For example, a button came off one of my shirts one day while we were on the bus. Someone remarked that it was too bad the shirt was ruined. I looked at him like he was nuts. I went up to our chaperones, borrowed a needle and thread and proceeded to sew the button back on, right there on the bus. It must have been something of a novelty as kids were literally hanging from the luggage racks to watch this amazing feat. I remember overhearing one girl complain to her parents on the phone about being expected to make our own beds. Huh? I know my mother will attest I rarely did it at home, but at least I didn’t think it “beneath” me. Yes, mother, I did make my bed every day I was on the trip.

I had more than my share of troubles. I lost my camera, passport and money in New York City and didn’t find them for three days. I ran through a glass door in Paris and got 25 stitches in a French Mercy hospital (Don’t believe Hillary Clinton about the superiority of French socialized medicine. It is terrible!). In Nice, we were playing on the beach, waiting for the bus and I was hit by a big wave and lost my glasses in the process. I borrowed someone else’s spare set as I didn’t have one, but the prescription wasn’t nearly strong enough. The last week of the trip was literally a blur to me.

I learned so much on this trip. Not only was it a musical education under the direction of Clyde Roller, Houston Symphony conductor, but it was a life education. I learned how to roll with the punches, get myself around in strange places, communicate without knowing the language, keep my spirits up in difficult situations and see life from a much larger perspective than Pocatello, Idaho (pop. 52,000). Perhaps most important, I quickly found good friends I could depend on to help me stay out of trouble. I am grateful to those who made it possible, including my parents who sacrificed a lot.

Once I returned home, I began to see the changes this Pivot Point had on my life. I remember going to a dance shortly after and being puzzled by the way all my friends behaved. I couldn’t understand it. They had changed so much. Fortunately, a friend of mine who had also traveled took me aside and explained that I was the one that had changed. She warned me that I had changed forever and would never see things the same way again. She was right.

The trip of 1983 was one of the most influential events of my life. The growth I experienced in that month gave me confidence I didn’t know I had. It broadened my view of the world and helped me understand there are many more people out there who need my help. It taught me to look for simple ways to bring about large scale change. I probably wouldn’t have ever left my little town I grew up in without this experience. As a result, there are many more pivot points I wouldn’t have experienced. Consequently, when my son was given the opportunity to travel to Hawaii after graduation, I thought it was a great opportunity for him. I think travel is perhaps the best teacher of all. I know I want to learn more.