Monday, March 29, 2010

All those comments are just...GONE! Aaaah!

When, in January, I moved this blog to this address from its old address at, for some reason the comments didn't transfer along with the posts.  I did a little research and found that I'm not the only blog-address-changer to have had this problem.  Hopefully Blogger will fix things shortly.  For the time being, if you're browsing old posts and want to see the comments, you'll have to find the matching post at the old address, linked above.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Beautiful March Day

I posted this on Facebook, but somebody (*cough* Mercy) is always telling me "You have to put stuff on your blog, because not everyone uses Facebook."  Okay, Mercy, here you go.

This was taken at the end of a beautiful March day.  Too much driving, as usual, but very nice weather, and I discovered a great place to go for a run/walk; the Terry Hershey Park/trail (in Katy).  But if you ever go there, be sure to look at a map, because I got lost.  I thought I was going down one side of the Buffalo Bayou, crossing a bridge, and coming up the other side, but I was actually going up a fork on the way back.  Eventually I figured this out but my run/walk was a bit longer than I had intended.  Oh well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shape Note Singing!!

I was following yet another internet rabbit trail the other day (don't you love those internet rabbit trails).  I started out googling church acoustics.  Jeshurun has done a lot reading about church acoustics and has a lot of opinions, and I wanted to see if he was right (he was, of course).  I happened across this site which contains really nice clips of a capella singing done in an old church building with excellent acoustics.

Prairie Harmony song samples

I shared some of the clips with Jesh and he said "Hmmm, shape note singing is usually much more vigorous."  Shape note singing?  Huh?  I hadn't heard of that.  So of course, I turned to wikipedia and Google.  Turns out that shape notes are a type of musical notation which originated in 18th century America, in which every note is a different shape; this is supposed to aid congregational singing by making sight reading easier.  Shape note songbooks are still used today by several churches in the South, like the Primitive Baptists, and by other groups such as the Mennonites.

A subset of shape-note singing is the Sacred Harp tradition (nice sample there on the Wikipedia page).  Sacred Harp singing is generally not done in church services, but in gatherings in homes or larger venues.  Singers sit in a square facing one another, with each part on one side.  Singing is a capella and the pitch is set by a leader.  Melodies are polyphonic and often on a minor scale with lots of fourths and fifths (I only barely understand these terms, just including them for those of you who know what they mean. :) )

I came across a Sacred Harp Singing in Texas website that was pretty interesting.  Please take a minute to click on the "Sound Clip from Southwest Texas Convention."  Jesh said it might be the best shape note singing he's heard, and if you know Jesh, you know that those are pretty strong words.

Then I had a flash of inspiration.  "I wonder if I can find shape note singing on Youtube."  Well, duh.  Here's a nice example of a fuging tune.
If you want to hear more, search "Sacred Harp" or "shape note singing" on Youtube.

Sacred Harp singing is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  Sacred Harp singings can be found in many locations (several in Houston, actually) and in many places, one can find all-day regional singings, complete with an afternoon pitch-in meal.  Why is Sacred Harp singing so popular?  An article entitled "The Initial Appeal of Sacred Harp," on the Sacred Harp Singing in Texas site, explains its appeal as follows: the music is powerful and joyful yet mournful at the same time, it's an emotional and spiritual experience, everyone is welcome to participate regardless of their singing ability, participants share a strong sense of community and fellowship, and singers feel connected with history as they sing the songs the way they've been sung for hundreds of years.

Sound familiar?  Many of us are part of an even older and richer musical tradition.  We sing songs written three thousand years ago, and set to meter at the end of the Protestant Reformation.  We sing the songs to tunes written over a span of several centuries.  And the songs we sing were inspired by our Father and are suited for worshipping Him unlike any song written by man.  May we who sing the Psalms of David never lose sight of the blessing that is ours.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Running in a skirt--success?

If you read my comments section, you'll know that I ordered an "Exerskirt." Here's a picture borrowed from the website.
This is the only modest exercise skirt that I was able to find online.  Modest swimwear is actually much easier to find, believe it or not; here are a few examples.  But anyway, back to the skirt.  It's mid-calf length, made from a stretchy nylon-blend fabric, with matching, stretchy shorts attached beneath (the shorts hit me just above the knee). 

Here's my opinion of it.  It's reasonably well made, and the material is a nice weight.  It looks all right, though I wouldn't say that it's the cutest thing I've ever worn.  When I first got it, i took it for a short test run--just down the street and back--and thought "wow, this just might work."  But I reserved judgment until I had a chance to test it more thoroughly.  That opportunity came yesterday, when I was downtown again and went for a three-mile run/walk around Hermann Park.

It was a windy day--the worst of conditions for running in a skirt--but the skirt didn't blow up at all, or ride up on the windward side.  Nor did it blow between my legs, which is something that will happen with a skirt that is too full.  The material was soft and smooth and didn't chafe.  And it was stretchy enough that I was able to do a few lunges without the skirt riding above my knee.  In all, I found this skirt to be quite comfortable and practical.

I discovered a convenient little pocket hidden inside the waistband, just big enough for my car key and ID.  This detail wasn't mentioned on the website.

I didn't get any odd looks or comments.  At one point I heard a shout "How you gonna be running in that?" from some guys on the golf course, but turns out they were shouting at their friend who was running behind me. :)

Now I don't want to say that this skirt is the perfect solution to all my running problems.  For one thing, it was expensive, at $50.  But I suppose the high price is inevitable since the skirt is produced by a very small company.  I doubt that big clothing factories are going to start mass-producing modest exercise skirts any time soon. :)

I also had a few technical complaints about the skirt.  I thought the waistline came up a little too high in the front and not quite high enough in the back.  I would prefer that the skirt be a couple of inches shorter, so that it wouldn't flap around my calves so much; though since the material is smooth and lightweight, the flapping isn't actually uncomfortable, just annoying.  Last complaint: I wish it came in a lighter color, like a medium gray; I'm afraid that navy blue will be too hot in the summertime.

Overall, I'm happy with this skirt and expect to use it regularly.  If you've struggled with running in a skirt (I know that several of you have, and thanks for the sympathy, by the way) then consider giving this one a try. :)  I'm going to keep experimenting, and if I find other things that work, I'll let you know. :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Saturday

Today I got up at 7:30.  I had quiet time, then computer time (and coffee).  The boys got up and we ate breakfast.  I did a little housework, and got the boys and myself cleaned up and dressed.  We had family worship, late, then an early lunch.  Then the boys and I headed out.  It was raining.  I stopped by Old Navy looking for a skirt I had seen online, but they didn’t have it.  Drove downtown and turned the boys over to Mike (the ex) and his girlfriend.

Next I drove to a Barnes and Noble where I tried to decide what to buy with a gift card I had.  It was between a set of wall maps (U.S. and world) or a globe. Couldn’t decide so I sat down (on the floor, no seats available) and read a book that I picked up about walking.  It looked promising but turned out to be pretty stupid, except where he said that walking helped with his depression, which I thought was interesting.

Then I picked up and read the The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.  I have been trying to read this book for ages but it’s the sort of book that is always checked out at the library.  While I was reading it, a college-aged guy walked by and said loudly to his female companion, and I quote, “Now this is the stupid stuff.  A whole section on the Civil War.  I mean, it was a hundred fifty years ago.  Nobody cares.”  I stifled a smile.

Someone vacated a comfy arm chair so I claimed it.  Across from me was a man in his fifties in a baseball cap, studying a math workbook.  He was tracing the words with a thick finger and sounding out the words under his breath.  Every now and then he would heave a tired sigh and stare off into space for a while. 

I kept reading.  The book was pretty interesting.  Did you know that for many years, it cost more to produce a bushel of corn than the selling price of that bushel of corn?  Why would anyone grow corn, you ask?  The answer, in a nutshell, is government subsidies.  Also, did you know that it takes a quarter to a third of a gallon of oil to produce a bushel of corn?  Even the fertilizers that are loaded onto the corn (corn takes a lot of fertilizer) are derived from petroleum.

At five o’ clock I realized what time it was and hurried out to my car.  The rain had stopped and been replaced with a strong, cold wind.  I drove to Hermann Park, changed skirts, and slipped into my New Balance 790's.  Best running shoe I’ve ever had; too bad they aren’t making them any more.  I locked up the car, then cut across the park to the trail around Rice University.  Back to the car fifty minutes later; I was tired, cold, hungry, muddy, and happy. :)

Went to the Children’s Museum and picked up the boys from Mike and his girlfriend.  Both boys were kind of wound up and tired at the same time.  On our way home we stopped at the grocery store and picked up sausage, potatoes, and lots of frozen vegetables.  The people in front of us at the checkout lane were buying sushi, pound cake, strawberries, ice cream, and whipped cream.  I wish they had invited us over for dinner.  Next we stopped for gas.  It was getting dark.  When we got home, I put together some burritos and we ate.  Elijah played with Lego for a while and Noah curled up on the couch with a blanket and his “right one” little pillow.  You know, the right one, as opposed to the wrong one.  Finally, I put the boys to bed, and wrote this post.  The end.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hermann Park in the Rain

The boys and I go to Hermann Park (downtown, next to the medical center and Rice University) often, usually once a week and sometimes twice.  The boys enjoy the playground or a museum with their dad while I go for a run or a long walk, run errands, etc.  Yesterday, it was raining, so the park was quiet.

  A redbud tree.

A live oak tree (I love these, one of my favorite things about the South).

Can you see Sam Houston?  Between the two buildings, on the horizon?

There he is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wildflowers, I mean, Weeds

This house is only a couple of years old.  It was built on what had been a wild and scrubby lot, and was only roughly graded before my parents moved in.  Mom did a lot of work to get the yard level and get a lawn started.  The yard, however, still thinks it is part of the wilderness, and sprouts thistles and weeds as soon as we turn our backs.

Today I spent a good part of my day rescuing the grass from those thistles and weeds.  I also did other yardwork, like chopping up an old stump in the back yard.  Half of the stump was soft and squeaky like styrofoam, and full of fire ants (I escaped with only one bite).  The other half, however, remains, as it is quite solid.  I have this idea that I can hasten its decay by drilling it full of holes with a power drill and spade bit.  What do you think?  Would that work?

The bulk of my time outdoors, however, was spent on the weed-pulling.  Pulling weeds is very therapeutic work.  The sun was shining and the breeze was warm and the air smelled sweet, like clover, and strains of music were coming through the air from somewhere...okay, that part was kind of eerie.  The boys were playing happily in the driveway with their bikes and with sidewalk chalk.  I would have been happy to keep going for hours more, but my bending-over muscles were getting tired.  However, I'm happy to say that there are plenty of weeds left, and more sprouting every day, so I will have many opportunities to enjoy the task again.

By weeds, I mean wildflowers, really.  Only they were growing in the lawn, which makes them weeds.

Yes, these were all really blooming in our weed lot yard today, and half-a-dozen other varieties, too.  Aren't they lovely?  I don't know what they all are (Mom??).  I felt a little guilty about pulling them.  But I had to, or the grass wouldn't stand a fighting chance.  At least they can thrive along the roadsides, as in Texas, they don't mow along the country roads until wildflower season is over. :)  Have I mentioned that Texas is growing on me?

(I just discovered that I can make collages with Picasa--I love this feature!  Picasa is a free photo-editing program that I like a lot and use regularly.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Favorite Book: Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House
Years ago, Mom and I were house guests in a home that I've always admired: clean and beautiful, warm and welcoming, delicious meals served on time at a beautifully set table, etc. etc.  While we were there, I spotted a fat volume sitting on a side table, and the title immediately caught my eye: Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House.  I surreptitiously paged through the book a couple of times and was fascinated. 

Fast forward a couple of years, when I was setting up a home of my own; imagine my delight to find that the lady of the afore-mentioned house had given me this book as a gift. :)  

My sister borrowed the book from me so many times, that I finally got her another copy as a thank-you gift for helping me out when Noah was born.  I think she'll also attest to the book's usefulness.

Home Comforts has become my go-to reference book for everything related to housekeeping.  The initial chapter or two draw me in, every time, with a warm-and-fuzzy narrative about how the author (a busy lawyer) became interested in housekeeping, and why it is important; the the remainder of the seventy-two chapters (I told you it was a fat volume) get down to the nitty-gritty details of keeping house, everything from meals and laundry to safety issues and legal concerns.  Some of my favorite chapters are the ones about preparing and serving meals; the one entitled "Fabrics that Work," which is all about different types of fibers and their advantages and disadvantages for various applications; and the chapter about bedding.  And I'm morbidly fascinated by the chapter about dust mites (when I need motivation to vacuum and dust and change the beds, I read this one).

I use this book both for quick reference as needed, and also for inspiration; if I'm feeling particularly domestic, or on the other hand am NOT feeling domestic and need to be reminded about the importance of what I do, I'll sit down and read straight through a couple of chapters for the umpteenth time.

Looks like the price of Home Comforts has come down a bit in the few years since I've bought a copy.  It's worth the money, in my opinion. :)  If you've read it, or if you read it in the future, comment to let me know what you think. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Of Books and Amazon

Hey friends,

As you may have noticed, every now and then I review one of my favorite books for y'all, and usually I provide links to Amazon so that you can read the reviews and learn more about the book yourself.  Well it finally occurred to me that I may as well sign up to be an Amazon associate, so that if you end up purchasing the book via the link I provide, I get a small commission.  I'm just letting you know for the sake of transparency.  If this makes you uncomfortable and you'd rather I not get any commission for purchases that you make, don't click on the links I provide, but rather go straight to and look the book up there.

Adios for now. :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Scheduling and Meals

I get a lot more done when I operate on a schedule. Here's a scheduling resource that I really like:
(Click to be taken to the Maxwell's website)
This book is full of great tips for scheduling a busy household, though Mrs. Maxwell's recommendations for scheduling infants are a bit extreme, in my opinion--I ignored those. The key to making a schedule work is having a plan for the children, too. If I don't have Elijah and Noah busy with something while I'm washing dishes, for instance, they're bound to create interruptions. But if I plan ahead of time to have Noah playing with Legos in the living room, while Elijah sits next to me and reviews his memory work, then I have a better chance of getting the job done.

The best part of this book is the scheduling kit that comes with it. First you write a list of all the things you need to get done in a day, and calculate how much time you need for each job. Then you total up the time and realize that you've got more work than you can complete in twenty four hours. Then you grumble and think and erase and consolidate and think some more, until you finally have the activity list down to twenty four hours. Repeat for each of your children. Next you write each activity onto a little square of paper (a different color for each member of the family) and start arranging the squares on a chart until you've got everything figured out. I'm a visual person so I found this step really helpful.

I got this book and kit a couple of years ago, but sadly, haven't made use of it since I moved to Texas. But a few days ago, I finally got it out again and created a schedule that runs just through 2 p.m (our afternoons and evenings are really unpredictable, so I'm leaving that block of time unscheduled for now). Let me tell you, just since implementing that rough, partial schedule, my productivity has improved quite a bit. And the boys love being scheduled because they know that I won't neglect the things they love, like story time, outside time, and "school" time (which consists mostly of coloring and puzzles and reading aloud, nothing too rigorous).

Of course, the schedule still needs a lot of tweaking, and I'd like to expand it a bit, too. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how much time is reasonable to spend on meal preparation and cleanup. Here's where you come in. :) If you're willing to share, moms, how much time do y'all spend cooking? Do you cook from scratch at every meal? How long does it take you to prepare breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? What about cleaning up afterwards--how long does that take? Do you have help? How long would it take you if you didn't have help? Do you have/use a dishwasher? Do you like to cook, or are you just trying to get the job done as quickly as possible?

(Don't feel like you have to answer all of those questions! But feel free to ramble if you're so inclined--it's always fun to compare notes!)