Saturday, July 30, 2011


Thanks for the prayers! Leena's surgery went splendidly, she was her cheery, chipper self before and after, and she has had NO post-op pain!  Also, when I asked the surgeon what would be next if the biopsy came back positive, he waved his hand dismissively and said, "Oh, it won't. She's fine."

She is indeed fine, with the world's smallest pirate scar, to boot!

The Rest of the Walters

 One of my favorite places in the world is the Walter's "Hall of Wonders."  It is, literally, a wonderful place!

A 6 foot narwhal horn, strange insects, curious crystals and fossils, paintings, jewels, esoteric maps, statues, the mummy of an Egyptian child, antlers, a giant alligator, wondrously wrought cabinets, and antique weapons fill the room.

This is what our museum wants to be when it grows up!
 They have several rooms of armor, and a collection of medieval art  that is staggering in scope: paintings, of course, but also windows, tapestries, jewelry, statues, reliquaries and sacred vessels, all put together in an appealing series of intimate rooms.

The rooms tend to be smaller and less crowded than the Smithsonian, so it feels like a more personal experience.

The Zoomlians, of course, were most into the swords!

Across from the Hall of Wonders, is the Treasury.  Wow!

Choclo insisted I take a picture of these silver eagles.  They were very nice, but I should have also taken pictures of the Faberge eggs!!!  This room also had all sorts of jewelry, ivory carvings and watches.

Aside from all this magnificence, The Walter's is also an honest to goodness art museum, with acres of paintings and sculpture from the Late Medieval period on, including an adjoining building which houses their Eastern collection.  Alas, it was closed the day we went!  They have a room of samurai armor and swords that we dearly wanted to see.

We did see this painting - the raising of the daughter of Jairus- which I had never seen before. 

And then it was time to go!

Speaking of which, it's time for us to go on vacation again, which I am sure you will see the following week! 

Til then, God bless you, and don't rob my house!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Outings at Home

 We actually had a day without doctor appointments!  (OK, we ended up squeaking in a visit to a chiropractor at 7:20 before we left).  At long last, we had a day at home where we could go somewhere!

Since this looked to be the only day of the summer where such a thing was possible, I decided on The Walters.  If you have never been there, and you live within driving distance of Baltimore: GO!

Amazingly it's free, but only open Wednesday - Saturday.

The Walters titles itself as an art museum - and it is, but Mr. Walters collected, shall we say, historical art.

Which brings us to Mxyl posing in front of a thousands of years old Assyrian bas relief...
 They also have a fabulous collection of Greek and Roman statuary, including an entire room of six of these elaborately carved Roman sarcophagi.

The Zoomlians were quite fascinated to discover that each tomb contained a hole, usually formed by the mouth  of one of the figures.

What was the hole for?  Offerings for the deceased?  Some form of communication?

The Egyptian gallery was a great favorite, although I was very glad that I had talked to Choclo about it in advance.

I had not known that he was under the impression that a mummy was a monster that chased you...

Where did he even get that?  It's not like he's seen Scooby Doo, let alone The Mummy!

Oh, the home school angst!  Could he have seen older siblings wrapped in toilet paper at an impressionable age?

As it happened I was able to explain things to his satisfaction and he had fun looking at the mummies and their trappings.

But my favorite part of the exhibit was this statue, which Mxyl quietly pointed out to me, "Look, Mom, it's an ancient E-chipped-chin."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog ask for prayers for Leena.  She is having surgery Friday afternoon to remove a "suspicious" freckle.  It is theoretically an out patient procedure, but because of it's location (on her nose, very near her eye) it will be done by a plastic surgeon under general anesthesia . 

We are praying for a quick recovery and a negative biopsy!


OK, minigolf.  Viking minigolf, to be precise!

We made up two foursomes: the Emperor with the older three and I with the younger three.  This was perfect because we had a set of serious golfers and a set of.... less serious?  Goofy?  Wacky?  It was the first time Choclo and Oob had done any kind of golf and they loved it!  Maybe the right word is "whacky."

Serious golfer.
Serious golfer.

Not-so-serious golfers examining a troll cave.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


 This was the first year we had three swimmers, so we had to get another boogie board.

Zorg found one with a big black panther on it, Klenda had a blue one (her favorite color) and Mxyl had the adult sized one, so everyone was happy!

Feeling extra adventurous, I borrowed a board and braved the waves with them.  Just as I remembered: icy water, threatening swells and the ever present danger that something might grab your toes.  I loved it!

Most of the time, I spent playing "Chase It, Chase It, Chase It, Run Away, Run Away, Run Away" with the younger kids and the waves.

Then it was time to warm up on the sand, so we made a bunch of merfolk.  Lovely and mysterious, aren't they?

This is why the beach is my favorite place to be.

Thanks for taking us, Mom!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


 As you can see, we have been off traveling.  This particular mode of transportation is known as a surrey.

We actually try one every other year that we go to the beach, but this was the first year where we had 6 people who could actually pedal and only 2 seat warmers.

 Wow!  What a change from 2 pedaling with 4 seat warmers!!!

The Emperor did an excellent job getting us to pedal up hill together by encouraging everyone to yell, "Oooooh!  Aaaah!  Oooooh!  Aaaah! Paiiiiiiiin!  Paiiiiin!"

That was more fun than it sounds, as well as providing endless amusement to passersby.

Mxyl commented that he would need a new pair of shoes after that ride.  I commented that I would need a new pair of legs... But, actually, it was the first time we've ever done this without my legs being sore afterwards!

That being said, I think we'll keep Blue Streak a little longer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mxyl!

 Well, a belated birthday, anyway!

How awesome is that?

He had a party with friends where he introduced them to the wonders of Kodu (a game design program) and banana cake.
And, of course, we had a family party for him, too!

He decided that the theme for day would be crazy, which explains the crazy clothes.

Did I mention they were all CRAZY?

Well, they were, and they had a great time!
Fourteen great things about Mxyl
1. He's able to figure out more computer stuff than I can.
2. He's humble about that.
3. He's really strong.
4. He's gentle with his younger siblings.
5. His puns are quiet but deadly.
6. He has awesome lightsaber skills.
7. He remembers virtually everything he reads.
8. He "gets" math at a deep level.
9. He's got a crazy sense of humor.
10. His jokes are never mean, they make other people laugh and feel better.
11. He comes up with solutions that make everyone happy.
12.  He's a good and reverent altar server.
13. He's a great scout (First Class, I'd say!).
14. He thinks of others.
14. He sees something that needs to be done and quietly does it.
14. He can count better than I can. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mega Day

 Yesterday was crazy!

We started off with a shopping excursion, followed by a trip to the College Park Airport Museum.  I am always amazed at how much we love this museum!

We started off in the "yard" where the smaller Zoomlians played in the toy planes.

 Then it was on to the inside where they played in a real plane!

One of the things I like best about this museum is the dress up:

 Here we have Zorg and Mxyl in a plane.
On the other side we have Oob, very pleased with having dressed himself.  
We spent a little less time at the museum than we had planned because 5 camp groups arrived at once. It may be my imagination, but it seems, in the last 5 years, there are more and more school/camp groups and fewer and fewer families at museums. Is it because no one is home for the summer? 

An unfortunate side effect is the increase in shrieking.  A mom has a much better chance at getting her 7 yo girl  to stop screaming at the monkey/airplane/widget than anyone has with a group of seven shrieking 7yo girls.

After the museum we had a picnic at a nearby park and played on the playground there.  Then it was off to Old Greenbelt!  We live near Greenbelt, the first federally planned town, built in the Great Depression.

It's a fascinating Art Deco slice of 1930's liberal idealism. It was built for 3 reasons:

1. To provide jobs during it's construction.  For this reason it was built in the most labor intensive way possible.  For example, many of the buildings were made with cement interior walls, an experiment which has since gone by the wayside.  It has good points (No need to build a bomb shelter, you already live in one!)  and bad points (What? You need to access the plumbing or wiring?).

2. To provide good housing for low and middle income workers.  To this day, it's a great place to live, although my impression is that it skews a bit more towards middle class.

3. As an experiment in city planning.  It was designed so that everyone could walk anywhere in town.  There is an elaborate network of walkways and pedestrian tunnels that move people efficiently through the town. The town itself is situated around Roosevelt Plaza, where you can eat at the New Deal Cafe, or see a film in a gorgeous Art Deco movie house. 

Sculptures abound, mostly looking like this.

To be fair, the picture above this one is also this sculptors work, and it illustrates the preamble of the Constitution.  I like it much better, but all the sculpture in the town is a similar, blocky '30s style.  Fun to visit, but not what I'd want in my house!

Our tour wound up at the library (where I had to return some books) and by then the Zoomlians were a bit tired.  This is the stone bench in front of the library.

We finished up at the Greenbelt Pool with a refreshing dip, and then headed home to crash!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tea Bag Rockets

 This was such easy fun!  I got the idea from Toad Haven.

You open the tea bag and empty out the tea (we made tea with ours).
 You stand the bag up on a flame proof surface and light the top.
The bag burns down and then the "ghost" of the bag flies up!

Explanation from Science Wizards: As the teabag burns it creates an up draft of rising air. Cooler air moves in to fill the space left (a convection current), lifting the cylinder off the ground when it has burnt small enough.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Sister's Art

Someone asked about my sister's artwork.  She is Sr. MaryAnn Richwald, SOLT, and she does sell her stuff to support the convent, if you are interested in being a patron of the arts!

This is a watercolor piece, and my favorite of the ones I own.   This is Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The original (on the tilma) is actually a picture of Our Lady, pregnant with Jesus but not showing yet (she is wearing the Aztec equivalent of a maternity belt).  Here she is more obviously pregnant! 

She also is glowing as the dawn breaks over the mountains ("...the immaculate dawn announcing our salvation..." and "How beautiful, on the mountains, are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings.") What I love is the tenderness with which she contemplates the unborn Jesus.
This is another favorite, although, unfortunately, this is a copy.  It's either colored pencil or, possibly, watercolor pencil.  It's St. Dominic (the Emperor and I are Lay Dominicans).

The round shape represents the world.  The grain is the harvest (pray the harvest master to send workers") and the star and torch are from St. Dominic's life.  The star was seen on his forehead at his baptism.  The torch was from a dream his mother had before he was born.  She dreamed her baby was a dog carrying a torch that set the whole world on fire.  (On fire with the love of God!).  He is carrying the Rosary the Dominicans still preach, and his mouth is open, speaking the Word.

I really do love her stuff because it's all so richly symbolic.  She also does quite a bit of work that is similar to icons (but in watercolor).  I had a really nice Pantocrater, but I gave it to my Mom for Christmas last year!!

This is actually a stamp she carved (Our Lady of Divine Grace), but I rarely stamp with it.  I keep it on my windowsill above my kitchen sink.

Lately she has also been doing embroidery, but I can't find the pictures!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Blog by Klenda: Horse Camp

I'm back!  I missed the summer solstice, but I came back in time for the 4th of July. 
You see, on the last day of camp, we hold a big 'Graduation Day', in which all family and friends are invited, (G-Day happened to be on the 1st of July,) and all the students get to dress up a horse. My group did a small horse, named Pixie, whom we dressed up as Tinker Bell.

         We also got to give a show on horse back; my group went second.

I rode on a horse named Dora, and she was soooo sweet!(ahem.)       
Anyway, I had a little trouble, but it looked pretty great.
I trotted, posted, did a half-seat, and cantered!

                                            I even won a ribbon!  All in all, I had a great time!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

 We are having a cook out with some of our favorite relatives and then we will go off and watch fireworks.  How exciting is that?  This will be the first time I've gone to the fireworks since Mxyl was born!

To celebrate, Klenda and I made a cake and decorated it with these candy fireworks.

They are way easier than they look.  I got the idea and instructions here. Basically you make lollipops (boil sugar, water, and corn syrup) and then you drip the molten candy onto baking paper.

We did a white background leaving one big drip for the handle, and the drizzled blue and red to make the firework bursting effect.  I made sure to make at least one for each kid.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Leena :  What is the name of Zooplankton's dog?

Choclo: (Blank look.)

Leena: Fidoplankton! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Monthly Dish

Totally stealing from Moving to Maryland's Cookbook Club, I've started a monthly recipe share with the Hyattsville Moms list I'm on and calling it The Monthly Dish. The only reason I'm not just joining the Cookbook Club, is that they are doing recipes with more expensive ingredients than my budget can handle for 8 people.  Other than that, I highly recommend it!  Anyway, since it was my turn this month, I thought I'd cross post my offering here.

I thought I'd start off with Indian food.  I learned to cook Indian from my friend Bharati.  The year I learned to make jam, I made some as Christmas presents for everyone in the lab I worked with.  I ended up with more than I thought, so I gave some to the people I worked with in an associated lab, and one of these was Bharati.  She offered to trade: if I would teach her to make jam, she would teach me to make Indian food. 

What a deal!  That started a great friendship and, the next Christmas, she gave me Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking so that I could learn to cook meat (she was Hindu and only cooked vegetarian herself). This is one of my favorite recipes from that book, modified so that it is faster to cook and not too spicy for kids.  This will feed 4 -6 pretty easily (cut up chicken breasts in sauce stretch pretty far) but you can always add a little more chicken:

Chicken with Roasted Coriander in a Coconut Curry Sauce

  • 3 T Coriander seeds (or 2 T coriander powder - I have a ton of this if anyone needs some)
  • 1/4 t Fenugreek seeds (optional; I also have a ton of this if you want to use it)
  • 2 t Black peppercorns (or 1 t ground pepper)
  • 6 T Oil
  • 2 Medium onions sliced into thin half rings
  • 2" Cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 Cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (or put through a garlic press)
  • 2 t Grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 t Ground turmeric (can use curry powder instead)
  • 1 Large or 2 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts, in bite sized cubes
  • 1 can Coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 T Lemon juice

1) If using whole seeds, toast them in the microwave: put coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, and peppercorns on a paper plate, uncovered; microwave 30-40 seconds, stir, and microwave until you can smell them (usu. about 30-40 seconds more).  Then, grind them in a clean coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle.

2) Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-hot heat.  Fry the onions, cinnamon stick, garlic, and ginger until the onions are light brown. 

3) Add the powdered spices: coriander, fenugreek, pepper, and turmeric.  Fry a few seconds more and then add the chicken.  Fry until browned.

4) Add coconut milk, salt, and lemon juice.  Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, 5-10 minutes. If the chicken was cooked through when you browned it, just heat until the sauce is hot.

5) Serve over rice.

My "other" recipe is for the caramel bars from the Curriculum Tea since some one asked for the recipe.  I love this recipe because it's a very fast "fancy dessert" that actually tastes as good as it looks!  I got the recipe from All Recipes, but, again, I've modified it (from this recipe):

Caramel Bars
  • 32 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (I actually buy bulk caramel or make this recipe)
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (or to taste) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional: 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, microwave until melted, for drizzling on top
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the caramels and heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth (or microwave it).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter until well blended. Press Half of the mixture into the bottom of a foil lined 9x13 inch baking pan. Reserve the rest.
  3. Bake the crust for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over everything.
  4. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted.
  5. Completely cool (do not cool in refrigerator) then drizzle the top with melted chocolate chips.  Cut into squares or diamonds after the chocolate has hardened.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: It's Summer!

1. It's summer!  Yes, for me, summer only truly arrived this Monday when I cleared my portfolio review! I have officially (and literally) closed the books on the 2010-2011 school year.  Everything from here on goes in a new binder for next year!

O frabjous day! (And happy Fourth of July to the rest of you!)

2.Yes, we do school year round, but not the way most people think.  School kids need the summers off because they've just been in "school mode" for 10 months.

If we are ever in that mode, it's in late summer and late winter, when it's too unpleasant out to do much else.  Most of the year we are doing what is best then.

Think of it like eating fruit in season.  Going on long rambling hikes in the Spring.  Doing museums in early Fall when they are nearly empty.  And always doing a little math, because, if you ever stop, it leaks out their ears and you're doomed.

3. Lena finished her "diorama" of the Roaring 20s. Hers took the form of a 3D picture.

The background is a photo of a speakeasy.  Popping off the page (on loops of tape) we have girls dancing the Charleston, gangsters strutting their stuff and one moll dancing on a table.
4.  What is it with Zorg?  He has a knack for taking pictures that reveal something about their subject.  I call it "the eye" and I know I don't have it.  I took photography classes in college and I can tell you why this picture is great, but I couldn't have taken it myself.

Interestingly, both my siblings have "the eye," and in both cases you could see they had it as kids. One is now a nun and a professional artist.  The other is a police officer and a professional photographer.

5.   I love watching Choclo feed the birds.  He is holding up a branch of millet near the cage.  Courage is nibbling away outside the cage, Love is working on it inside the cage, Hope is on Choclo's head, and delight is all over his face.

6. Went to the zoo this week.

How many monkeys do you see in this picture?

If you are missing Klenda, so are we.  She has been off at a horseback riding camp these past two weeks and she "graduates" today!  We'll be happy to have her home and I'm sure I'll have pictures of it up soon.

7. Oob has been having fun dressing up as a "boss."  This is not the  "boss people around" type boss (although I'm sure he wouldn't mind), but more like the "big challenging fight at the end of a level on a video game" type boss.

He dresses himself up as scarily as possible and comes around saying in a teeny tiny gruff voice, "I'm the boss, will you please fight me?"

Note the scary expression. And the shoes.

More with Jen, don't forget to congratulate her on her lovely new little one!