Sunday, June 27, 2010

Question for the crowd ...

Remembering that the only stupid question is the one left unasked ....

 Does anyone know what this flowering plant is called?  We only have this one plant in our front garden ... and it is doing beautifully in this heat!  It is tall ... maybe 24" tall ... with long, pointy leaves ... lots of fragrant pink blossoms on each stem top ... and is just a beaut!

Any one know?  I want to get some more, but don't know what it's called.

ETA:  thanks to some very kind readers ... it is Phlox!  I only knew of phlox as the kind that grows close to the ground, cascading over walls and flowers in culverts, etc.  Who knew that Phlox paniculata, known commonly as Summer Phlox ... or ... Garden Phlox ... or ... Perennial Phlox ... or ... Tall Phlox comes in gorgeous colors and blooms all summer -- just try a google image search and see all the gorgeous colors. [The culvert ground cover seems to flower in the spring and then loose its blooms and just is a green ground cover.]

The ironic thing?  A friend gave us "Tall Phlox" (supposed to be white) to transplant but ours hasn't bloomed yet.  But, boy that pink variety is having a "field day"!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Year Ago Today ...

We moved into "Hilltop Farm" ... and what an amazing year it's been! Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and good wishes that have gotten us where we are today.

We love you all and pray for you and yours daily!  May God bless you abundantly ... as He has us, here in the Old Dominion!

WooHoo .... In His Image gets approval ...

The Catholic Writer's Guild, a very cool group of writers, publishers and illustrators, has awarded my book, In His Image: Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home it's Seal of Approval

The CWG website elucidates what this means:
The CWG Seal of Approval is a kind of “gatekeeping” device for Catholic bookstore owners and readers. Simply put, it’s an endorsement that the book supports Catholic beliefs and values. We began the SoA after discussions with Catholic bookstore owners who said they often did not have time to fully evaluate books—and often didn’t stock books that came from unknown writers or smaller presses.

The SoA is not a critique of a work, but rather an assurance of its Catholicity--that neither the work nor its author go against the Mageristerial authority of the Catholic Church. In other words, we evaluate for faithfulness, not for writing style or quality.

The CWG is a great group of Catholic creative folks whose expertise and knowledge I very much respect.  If you're a writer (fiction, non-fiction, poetry), an artist or illustrator, or an editor or publisher and you are NOT a member yet, what's stopping you?  Go check out their website and join in the fun! 

And if you've haven't yet gotten a copy of my book, In His Image, please do -- it's gotten very good comments from those readers who have been gracious enough to share their thoughts with me ....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Where should we go today? Parish Pilgrimage June 2010

Well, Tuesday actually.

Our new pastor (we got him in January) likes to make small local pilgrimages as a way to get to know his "flock". We were fortunate to be able to participate in his first for our Parish ... a drive to Maryland and the site of the very first Carmel in the new world at Port Tobacco, Maryland.
Boy, was it hot! 
Poor LegoManiac was wearing slacks so he could serve Mass.
Our Lady of Consolation -- painted by one of the Carmelites -- in the "new" (built in the 1937) chapel.  You can see the gate that separates the cloistered sisters from the public.  For a short time (when the sisters were forced to move to Baltimore -- from 1830 to 1852), the sisters were asked to leave the cloister and help teach in the new United States.  In 1852, they were allowed to go back into the cloister and do what Carmelites do ... pray and meditate for all of us.
The original house (built when the original four sisters -- three were native Marylanders -- came in 1750).  This Carmel convent spawned all the other Carmels throughout the United States, sending cloistered nuns throughout the country in the past 260 years of their existence!

After saying the rosary in the chapel and taking the group picture, above, we headed to Chapel Point and the Jesuit church, St. Ignatius.
"The oldest continuously active parish in the United States, founded 1641 by Father Andrew White, SJ"
And boy do they now how to pick a spot!  This is from the side of the church, looking out onto the cemetery with Port Tobacco River and the Potomac (and the Virginia side) in the distance.  The cemetery is filled with gravestones dating from after the Civil War ... seems the Union soldiers camped here never had to fight a battle so spent their time taking potshots at the gravestones in this cemetery -- there are NO stones left from the pre-Civil War era.
In side the church, this is the main altar, where our pastor celebrated Mass.  At the end of Mass, we were able to venerate a relic of the true Cross brought from England when Fr. Andrew White came to establish this Jesuit mission -- VERY COOL!

After Mass, we had a picnic lunch in the cool, air-conditioned Church Hall.  After eating Father and another priest from our parish, serendaded us with guitar/harmonica music and gospel songs ...
A wonderful day and a new-found place to explore (it's only about 1-1/2 hour from here) when visitors come calling ... 

Review: Sarah's Garden

I have a certain fascination with the Amish lifestyle -- I love their work-ethic, their simplicity, their community-lifestyle, their handcrafts.  I love reading about them, watching documentaries about them and even have visited some of their towns ... and gazed longingly on their work (can't afford to buy their lovely quilts and other handmades ... maybe someday!)

So I really enjoyed the opportunity to read and review Thomas Nelson's latest publication -- Sarah's Garden: A Patch of Heaven Novel by Kelly Long.  This book, a fictional account of a romance between an Amish woman and Englischer, is very well-written with lots of great detail about the Amish lifestyle I respect and admire.  Sarah, the twenty-year-old protagonist has a new neighbor: Englischer veterinarian, Dr. Grant Williams.  How she deals with her growing maturity and increasing love for an outsider, while experiencing the ever-changing rhythms of her own family is the general plot.

The food, crafts and lifestyle of the Amish are embraced in this story -- described in loving rather than derogatory passages -- Ms. Long obviously loves the Amish and what they do and why they do it.  Her story is a refreshing addition to the romance market -- a good story with good characters and a good theme.

I particularly enjoyed the conclusion of this story -- it fits with the overall characterizations and message that is basically a restating of the Gospel message where Jesus tells his disciples they must have no God before His God, they will potentially need to lose family, friends, and current lifestyle to embrace God's will and follow Him!  A basic tenet of the Catholic faith is that we must know, love and serve Him; this is reiterated throughout Sarah and Grant's story of believing in Der Herr.

I do have to say that the "voice" of this story is quite young -- Kelly Long must be a young author.  For instance, when describing Dr. Grant's servants, she describes them as "At nearly a spry sixty-years-old each" .... I know "spry" 80 year olds that would take great exception to such a comment!  Some of her other comments throughout the book betray the youth of the author.  Overall the book is a great relaxing read (especially in an air-conditioned room when the temp outside is pushing "upper 90s").  I also wish Ms. Long had included links to some of the amazing foods she mentions ... my mouth was watering my fingers were itching to make some of these things for my family.

Go ahead and give this book, Sarah's Garden a try -- for summer reading it really can't be beat.

Disclaimer:  this book was given free as a part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.  The review above is my own, honest reaction to this book.

Birthdays: Happy 19th, Kotch!

Happy 19th Birthday, Kotch!
We love you and are VERY proud of you .... have a blast in the big city on your day!
May God grant you many blessings today and always....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where should we go today? Father's Day 2010

We love Father's Day around here, doing do our best to allow dh a bit of R-and-R and getting to be in charge (for a change!). 
On dh's "favorite things to do list" is walking ... (no matter how hot) ... and walking around D.C. is higher on the list ... and walking around D.C. and visiting the National Gallery of Art is probably pretty much on the top of his list.
So, after dropping Kotch off at her summer job (she'll be teaching various subjects to inner-city middle school girls and helping with drama; all while living in Washington AND getting paid -- cool, eh?), we headed to the National Mall and our favorite, always open parking spot ... and then headed to the National Gallery of Art.  By this point, we needed nourishment and headed directly to the NGA's cafe and had amazing gelato ...
and took the requisite picture of the kids in front of the waterfall. 

Heading upstairs we wandered the sacred art galleries, the Dutch painters and investigated the dellaRobbias.  What an amazing collection we have FREE in D.C.!  We are so blessed to be able to spend a few hours, just wandering and finding old favorites and new works to add to our favored lists. 
A request from the kids had us heading over to the Archives (with a quick stop to cool feet in the fountain in the Sculpture Garden -- all perfectly legal!).  The Archives is the home of THE most important documents for our country -- Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

After finally getting to see them "live" we checked out the "Public Vaults" exhibit which is a great overview of exactly the job placed in the hands of the National Archive and Record Administration -- the keeper of the nation's records.

Heading home in afternoon I-95 traffic, we mused over our weekend ... which included a quick run down to Craig Springs for our annual Infant of Prague Pilgrimage -- this year including 160+ other Catholics with lots of babies and kids running around and having fun in the beautiful Allegheny Highlands.

And lest you think I was forgotten today, never fear.  ALWAYS check the sale tables ... I found a lovely art book at the NGA titled In Praise of the Needlewoman: Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers and Weavers in Art ... a collection of 80-some gorgeous works of art that show women creating gorgeous works of art with a needle of one kind or another.  The book includes "The Knitting Lesson" by Jean-Francois Millet ... the work that graces the cover of my Great Yarns for the Close-Knit Family -- as well as other works of art by amazing artists.  I'm thinking this would be a GREAT book for picture study next Fall!
Prayers and blessings to all fathers, living or deceased, but especially to my dh who does so much for us ... a single day hardly seems fair ... so, since he is finally done with teaching for the summer, maybe we'll just have to let him be in charge a little longer (maybe!).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knit Picks: another of my designs is available!

This Season Spanning Cardi is one of my favorite sweaters!
Above is the knitted sample I made using Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted in Wavy Heather. This yarn knits up like a dream and the colors are gorgeously soft ... just the kind of palette I really enjoy.
Here's the original knitted with Lion Brand's Cotton-ease ... which many have seen me wearing and which always gets rave reviews when I wear it ... Lovely, eh?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Read-alouds: a listing of some of the best ...

Read-alouds are a large part of our learning-at-home adventure! We've always got at least two books going -- one I read to the kids during the day and one dh reads to them at night. So we've gone through some great read-alouds ... and some real clunkers, too! Because I have two active boys with a contemplative daughter in-between ... and they're close in age but not interests ... our read-alouds that we recommend have to follow certain criteria:
  • can't be too girly or too boyish
  • must have an engaging story that will make mom/dad want to read and the kids want to listen
  • must have beautiful language, excellent vocabulary and gorgeous word-pictures
  • must have an interest for 7 yo boy .... 10 yo girl ... 11 yo boy ... and adults
  • must catch our interest, excitement within the first 10-15% of the book ... if not, we stop and get another (too many good books out there to waste our time on twaddle)
I wrote a book a few years ago that lists a dozen great family read-alouds, giving a synopsis of each book (and some author and illustrator information) and tied it to over two dozen original hand-knit designs.  That of course would be a great starting place for family read-alouds -- Great Yarns for the Close-Knit Family.  But, here is our list of the best of the best (but not really in order -- I've made comments where warranted and mentioned book-series if those are ALL good) in case you'd like to share the read-aloud adventures with your own family:
These are all read-alouds that we've really enjoyed ... so the listing is random but I can promise you that you could pick any one of these and not be disappointed!  We've also enjoyed the classics like the Little House series or Narnia or Hobbit and Lord of the Rings ... but these are some you might never have heard of and you might just want to give 'em a try.  Many of these come in audio versions -- perfect for car-travel!

Enjoy and don't forget to read, read, read to your kids -- even when they're old enough to read to themselves.  Here are some books that do a great job of explaining the benefits of read-alouds and suggest some titles too:  Valerie and Walter's Best Books for Children, 100 Best Books for Children, The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators, The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children: 3rd Edition Revised and Updated.