Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Update

 Here we have Zorg lighting up the pumpkins.
 Mxyl finished his in the nick of time..

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

 Chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin faces in the kitchen.

Paper pumpkins in the window, carved pumpkins on the porch.

Marie Antoinette scarecrow on the porch chair (this is her with her head on, sometimes she holds it in her lap).

Pumpkin muffins and roasted pumpkin seeds from the oven.

Costume pictures tomorrow - Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Pumpkins!

How terrifying do you find it?

Some people had help!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Anatomy and Physiology: Heart Videos

This is a good overview of the flow of blood through the heart by none other than Bill Nye.

And here is a  more detailed explanation (there is a strange pause at one point, just fast forward to the 2 minute mark):

Kahn Academy also has an excellent explanation, less flashy, but very clear and well presented:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Love of All

Love overflows into all
Glorious from ocean's depths beyond the farthest star,
Bounteous in loving all creation;
For to the King most High
Love has given her kiss of peace.

By St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Taken from the book Flowers of Heaven, by Joseph Pearce

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Silliness

1.  Oob: My doughnut has a spider web on it?!  This looks like a job for...Eat Doughnut Man!  CHOMP!

So now, in those crisis situations where there are doughnuts to be eaten... you know who to call.

2. Researcher (doing a developmental research study): Is there anything that makes you feel scared?

Choclo: A giant nut party! That's pretty much my nightmare, because I really don't like nuts.

(I had no idea he didn't like nuts.  Clearly, I have scarred him for life. Also, it feels like a giant nut party pretty often around here.)

3. I have a very dear friend who does not have sweet tooth - she has a vegetable tooth, instead- so we had to get creative with her birthday cake.

The "layers" are sections of a giant purple cabbage, the "frosting" is frilly lettuce, and the "roses" are radishes.

She loved it!

Why was I taking this picture?
4. At the arboretum this week, enjoying the fall leaves,

 Oob: Take a picture of me! (stuffs leaves in front of his face)

Me: Oob!  What are you doing?  It came out like this. (shows him picture)
He went thataway

Oob: Will you put it on the blog? (evidently) 

 5. Also from the arboretum trip.  Not exactly funny, just Mxyl looking awesome!

You lookin' at me?
6. We had a spectacularly successful trip to the thrift store this week: we found really warm winter coats for the two kids that needed them, one pair of snow pants, games for the co-op, a new tea cup, and...a giant chicken!

Zorg found this at the last minute and was willing to spend his own money.  It was a great investment!

Yes, the mask is a little creepy, but there is something special about casually mentioning that you got a giant chicken, then producing said chicken while it makes strange clucking noises.

7. It may be just my sense of humor, but I find the chicken endlessly amusing (as can be seen in the following text).

Which may be all you need to know.

Have a great weekend!

More quick takes over with Clan Donaldson.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kidneys and Nephrons

Here's a good animation  and explanation of nephrons:

An excellent (and slightly more detailed) description done with animation and music!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ducky Day

Last week's rainy day!

When Mxyl and Klenda were toddlers, we loved rainy days.  There was a park near our house which developed large shallow puddles, and we would suit up and go splash and dabble about like ducks.

Somehow, this turned into "Ducky Days!"

Whenever it rains enough to get really nice puddles, the kids all go out and play in the rain, quacking like ducks.

Then they come inside for popcorn and warm chocolate. Yum!

When thy were very little, they would then often watch a movie of some sort while I washed and dried their clothes, but they don't get quite so muddy nowadays!

We haven't had a good several day rain in a while.  It takes several days to really fill up the big puddles.  This Ducky Day was really one good rainy day, and they were just playing in our yard.

In the past, we have had days and puddles where the water topped the wellies and we had to dump out all the boots!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Poem of the Week

We have been enjoying breezy nights with the full moon silhouetted against fantastic clouds.  It always makes me think of this poem, one of the first I ever memorized!

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door. 
HT (and the rest of the poem at): Poetry Foundation
Photo by AugenStudios

Friday, October 18, 2013

King of the Footsie Team

Do you remember when Oob wondered why he ever joined the Footsie Team?  At the time, I thought it was a passing, random, bizarre comment.

It turns out it wasn't passing.

Last night he proclaimed that he was King of the Footsie Team, and that Mxyl's black moon chair was his throne (Mxyl, the ever indulgent older brother, hasn't commented on that).

What does the Footsie Team do (besides wear footsie pajamas)?

Oob (airily): Oh, we save people and stuff.  Like if someone is falling off a high place, we save them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gum Trees

Young gum trees near my house
 I have been having an interesting conversation with Sue, down in Australia,  about gum trees.

We both have lots of gum trees, but our gum trees seem to be nothing alike! 

My sweet gum trees are Liquidambar styraciflua. 

They get very tall, usually 50-60 feet (20 meters) in my neighborhood, but up to 150 feet (50 meters) in the wild.

This is all one branch
I love them for their beautiful fall colors: most trees here turn yellow, but sweet gums turn every color, all at the same time, often on the same leaf!

Gum balls!
They also have interesting seed balls which we call gum balls (although you wouldn't want to chew them!).

The fun part about the seed balls is that, when they dry out, you can shake them and the seeds fly all over the place. 

Also, we like to paint the seed pods gold or silver and put them on our Christmas tree.  Their spiky form makes them look like stars.

We do not have gum trees where I grew up - they are a coastal southern tree.  When I moved here, and asked about them, I was told that they were called "gum trees" because the native people chewed the sap (like gum). That turns out to be true.  It is still used today as an ingredient in chewing gum, and, it smells so good, it's also used in perfumes!

I was also told that there was a "sour gum," although they weren't sure how to tell the difference.  I presumed that meant the trees looked very similar, but it turns out they don't!  The sour gums are tupelo trees.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thanks, Dad!

I almost forgot!  The reason I brought my large (grubby) van up on my visit to New Jersey was so that I could bring this chest of drawers back with me.

My Dad found it in a rather battered state at a second hand store, but recognized that it was a good piece, solidly built, so he refinished it for us.

As the kids grow, their clothes are bigger.  An odd consequence is that the smaller chests of drawers no longer fit the clothes of the bigger kids.

Leena, who had been cramming her clothes into teeny, tiny, rather shabby drawers for a while now, really appreciates the new furniture!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I'm Back!

This is the backyard I grew up with
 I spent the week end visiting my Mom and Dad!

Mxyl and Zorg were off camping, and the Emperor had fun with the rest of the Zoomlians while I had a lovely visit up north in New Jersey.

It was neat to see that autumn had progressed a bit further than it has in Maryland.

Dad and Mom

But the most fun was my parents, proving that it's never too late to spoil your child!

They took me out to eat, played games with me, and cleaned out my car for me.

No kidding!  And the fact that it was my big grubby van means that it was no small task!

We spent a lot of time just chatting.  I was able to do a bit of work with my Dad, sorting pictures and talking about interesting things he's done.

We spent a fair bit of the time out in the garage, refinishing my Aunt Jeanette's table. This was a huge deal to me!  Aunt Jeanette was my Dad's Aunt (Grandpa's sister), and the one tangible thing we have from her is this table.

Back when I was 17, I tried to refinish the table with disastrous results.  I think that what actually happened was that the chemical stripper I used dissolved the glue holding the boards together.  At any rate, the leaves of the table separated - the whole thing literally fell apart! 

I felt so bad.   Helping refinish it with my Dad (who actually knows what he is doing) was wonderful!

Mostly, just spending time with my folks was lovely!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Visit to the Walters

We went for a visit to The Walters last Sunday.  I don't think we've ever been there on a weekend, but it was not as crowded as I had feared.

There was plenty of space to sit and sketch, and they had "art carts" with blocks, books, and activities themed around the exhibits!

Mxyl was actually there on a field trip for his college art history class, but the rest of us tagged along and just enjoyed the museum.

I think my favorite part is their medieval section. It's really fun for the kids, and I enjoy all the religious art.  There is something so special to seeing a rosary that's 800 years old, or a Mass kit that's 1600 years old (!), and realize that connection with people across time: they prayed the way I do... What was essential to them is the same thing that's still essential to me!  It's such a deeply personal connection.

I guess it's a physical connection to the Communion of the Saints!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I almost forgot!  Leena did her presentation on Venice.

She was very funny, especially when talking about eating cuttlefish with "ink" pasta!

She did a great job, and her venetian cookies were a real hit.  We are thinking of making them again for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

63 Pounds of Apples!

Perfect apples!
 Does that seem crazy?  What does anyone do with that many apples?

The first thing I do is go through and sort the apples.  The absolutely perfectly beautiful apples go in the refrigerator to be saved for eating later, and to give to special friends.  One rotten apple really does spoil the rest, so only a third of the apples make that cut.

Apples with minor imperfections get set aside in our "pie" bin.

Klenda makes really good pies!
We do make pies from some of them (or at least Klenda does - those are two of her caramel apple pies), but we use them for all sorts of cooking, like making these fritters. We have a peeler/corer/slicer that makes preparing apples fun and easy.

That accounts for another third.

The big jar is for her!
The last third are the apples that get bruised or nicked.  These will spoil quickly, so I cut them into quarters and drop them in a giant pot.  I add some whole spices and some apple cider, then cook them down into apple sauce.

The next day, I press the sauce through a colander to remove the seeds and peels, then we eat some apple sauce and use the rest to make apple butter.

I love making apple butter! I always make some for my dear SIL for Christmas (it's her favorite), and I think of her all day while the house smells like apples and spices!

Some of the "immediate use" apples actually get cut up for apple dippers (we dip them in caramel and peanut butter.

And, of course, there's a lot of just eating apples going on...

In the week since we went apple picking, we've used up about 50 of the 63 pounds!

Still planned: bobbing for apples, apple turnovers, and caramel apples.

Okay, nothing to do with apples, but, at Choclo's request, I made beer cheese soup in bread bowls for dinner ).   I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but this time I tossed some shredded cheese and sour cream in the bread dough (and  some powdered onion and garlic).  Yummy and beautiful! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apple Picking

 Last week we made it to Larriland for apple picking!

It was an amazingly beautiful day: perfectly clear and about 75 degrees while we were there.

They had Mutsu (my favorite), Empire, Ida Red, and Golden Delicious (no relation to the icky Red Delicious) varieties ripe.

63 lb=29 kg
The Zoomlians rapidly picked 63 pounds of apples (!).  Actually, I think it was 65, but they told us not to pay for the ones we ate (it was factored into the price).

 Next it was off to the pumpkin field where everyone quickly found one they liked.

I remember there being a lot more angst when the kids were younger: does this pumpkin truly express who I am?

Or, possibly, it was the fact that the cool rainy summer produced a huge number of very large, very perfect pumpkins!

Next up, we stopped by the broccoli field, intending to get two, perhaps 3 heads of broccoli.  But I didn't specify that quickly enough, so we ended up with six heads... nearly 8 pounds.

I thought it was a problem until I tasted the broccoli: that was the best broccoli I've ever had! We had it as soup, as plain (steamed) broccoli,  raw, and also added to other dishes.

We also got some mini pumpkins, some warty gourds, some very pretty popcorn on the cob, and an amazing array of summer and winter squashes!

Next time, I'll tell you where the first 40 pounds of apples went!