Saturday, December 29, 2007


The days before Christmas brought with them a cold, fierce wind. There were whitecaps on the lake, and the wind whipped them into strange and beautiful ice sculptures on the shore...

Friday, December 28, 2007



I like this picture of Paul. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the slightly mischievious grin.

The house was full of energy and music.

Fiona with her Great-Grandma Renaud, singing together.

Handmade, hand dipped temptation. We know a family that, after we made these at their house, they gave it a new name: No Spit Candy. Apparently, Deborah's insistence that the powdered sugar would dissolve if you accidentally got a little saliva in there made the name stick.

We were to have 10 people in the house on Christmas day, so we tried to prepare as much of Christmas dinner ahead of time. My mother-in-law and I were peeling potatoes at 11 at night, and I was dreading the idea of chopping them all up. So, if necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is certainly the father. I remembered a Veg-O-Matic I had inherited from a yard sale, and repurposed a crisper drawer in the refrigerator to hold the cut potatoes. There are 26 potatoes in that drawer...

For me, yes?

It was a time for projects as much as presents. In addition to running a new electrical circuit to so that we could have a light in the attic (and other Shel Silverstien titles) my parents-in-law showed up with a bunk bed kit, and a new mattress, to boot! It took my FIL and I a few hours to put it together, but it looks really nice. Mattresses on the floor no more!

Click, click, click...

It's a mark of desperation — or just a sign of how far my digital camera has gone downhill — that I pulled out a good old-fashioned film camera for snapshots on Christmas morning. And I rediscovered something: I like these old cameras for a reason. They just plain take better photos. I don't think I can afford the roll-a-day habit for long, though. So, Santa: how about a nice digital SLR for next year?

My brother-in-law, Paul. The pile of toys in the background adds an interesting (if unintentional) layer of meaning as he's opening the stocking.

My grandmother-in-law.

My son, Aiden. I love the simple, unclutteredness of this picture — even if that is a cardboard box in the background.

I really like this shot of my father-in-law. The soft, muted colors just came out right... which I wish I could say is something I'd planned out perfectly, but in reality, I just sat down next to him on the couch, pointed it at him and pressed the shutter.

Friday, December 21, 2007


The morning dawned, and it was still coming down. This is when the cat could still walk more-or-less normally in the snow (note the footprints) ...later that day, it was a good deal deeper than his legs, and he looked like he was swimming in it — a frosty furry breast stroke. I wish I had gotten a video. It was hilarious.

That evening, we were still digging out. It took an hour and a half to get one car out. My neighbor came along a few days later with a truck and a chain and helped me get the other car out in under a minute. Guys with trucks live for this time of year.

Park Ave., looking towards the Village.

Church was canceled (for the second week in a row!) so we all tried to go sledding. Here Fiona is trying to follow Deborah's tracks through the snow to the sledding hill.

I have to try it every year, if only to remind me of why I shouldn't. Yes, those are tire tracks out to the alley. Most of the challenge is getting out to the streets, which are plowed; you have to use a variety of techniques, and I made up a few new ones this time around — one that worked well was putting the bike in gear, and walking along beside it, feathering the clutch. Much easier than pushing the bike through drifts, and a lot less likely to spin out, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trees, Reindeer, Lincoln Logs, and Little Boys

Around here, whenever you take your kids in for any sort of appointment — doctor checkups, WIC, etc. — you get BABE coupons. These are good for all sorts of things; you can get a dozen diapers for one coupon, or children's snow boots for two. This year, we also got a letter with free tickets to the Festival of Trees, which is an annual fundraiser where people sponsor and decorate about a hundred trees for charity. You voted with your cash (a penny per vote) for the best trees; I presume there was some sort of prize for the contestants. You could also sign up to win one of the trees. So, a few weeks ago, we walked over — it was scarcely off our block — and took in the displays. The variety and creativity were wonderful. They had other things for the kids, too, like rides on a miniature train, crafts, and a live reindeer.

Aiden was particularly entranced by the reindeer, although he required some encouragement to go touch it. The foam ornaments impaled on the antlers cleverly provided both festivity and protection.

A week later, we got a call saying that we'd won one of the trees! No one knew which one yet, but they asked some questions about the kids' age and interests, and said they'd pick one out.

We got the Little House on the Prairie themed tree, complete with Lincoln Log cabins, and covered with farm animals and plastic period-piece people planting, hitching up wagons, hunting, etc. There were also gifts to go with it: Little House on the Prairie picture books, boots in the correct size for each kid, some drag-racing trucks for Aiden, and a hopping-frog setup for Fiona.

There were, also, the leftover Lincoln Logs in a big Ziploc bag. The cabins under the tree had been strung together with fishing line to keep them together until their decorative usefulness was over, but the rest of the logs were available for playing. Incidentally, these weren't the American Lincoln Logs, but a Chinese copy, which are still made of real wood and, in the case of the little chimneys, decorated by hand. Someone in China has the job of drawing a stone pattern on little wooden chimneys.

Paul, in typical fashion, set to figuring out what was the tallest possible structure that could be made with the available logs:

Aiden, also in typical fashion, knew exactly what to do with that.

Can I knock it down yet? Can I knock it down?
Just look at that mischievious smile...

OK, you can knock it down now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fiona's Barber Shop

Fiona has had about three haircuts in her entire life. One, when she was just a few months old; another, at the beginning of this year; and now that her hair is almost to her waist, a third that she did herself. Oops. Fortunately, it doesn't show much. You notice it most when she has a braid, and little tufts of shorter hair stick out in odd places.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The thing I love about this picture is Aiden's satisfied smile.

Bye bye, leaves.

Halloween pictures

It has (rightly) been pointed out to me that I have posted Thanksgiving pictures, but no Halloween pictures. Let me remedy that.

See if you can figure out what I'm making....

Rip apart an old computer speaker...

Shape a piece of walnut to fit...

Paint 'em gray...

...and attach to the rest of the truck you've been working on.

So, Aiden was a truck. Fiona (at her request!) was a bathtub, complete with towel, shampoo, and rubber duckies.

This is the first year we've both gone out trick-or-treating with the kids; usually, one of us stays home and takes care of the people coming to our place. Thing is... I bought the same amount of candy as I have on other years... and no one was around to hand it out. So we've still got a lot of it. I think we have a year's supply of Nerds left.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Under the Blankets, Over the Rhine

Let’s spend the day in bed
On our very own bed spread
A pajama holiday
Catch a black and white matinee
Spoon-feed these new daydreams
And just stay home

We’ll read Shel Silverstein
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Smile about old friends
Try to comprehend
One single day
No work and only play
Kick off your shoes
I’m gonna spend the day in bed with you

If there was a song for Sunday, that would be it. Paul called early in the morning to let us know Church had been canceled due to the ice storm. And with that, we flopped back onto our pillows and reveled in our laziness — or, at least, until the kids claimed to be hungry. I don't think I even changed out of my pajamas until late afternoon, and that was because I had gotten us tickets to go see Over the Rhine up in Goshen that evening.

It seems strange to think that we could drive all the way to Goshen when we could barely stand up on our own sidewalk, but the main roads were clear and smooth all the way there. We found that plenty of people we knew had made the journey, too, including half a dozen people I know from work. The Goshen Theater was a lovely place to have it; small, cozy, with much character, some of the latter due to some much-needed renovations. We got seats just a few rows from the stage and acted like teenagers on a date. Which we were, aside from not being teenagers anymore.

They claim this is their favorite time of year to tour. It shows, doesn't it?

The opening song set the bar high:

I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need
Why should I autograph the book
That you won’t even read
I’ve got a different scar for every song
And blood left still to bleed
But I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

And I certainly didn't feel like my time was wasted. They had just released two albums in the space of a few months, neither of which I'd heard yet, so it was a treat to hear them live for the first time. The title track off of Trumpet Child was electrifying:

The trumpet child will blow his horn
Will blast the sky till it’s reborn
With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace
He will surprise the human race

The trumpet he will use to blow
Is being fashioned out of fire
The mouthpiece is a glowing coal
The bell a burst of wild desire

The trumpet child will riff on love
Thelonious notes from up above
He’ll improvise a kingdom come
Accompanied by a different drum

The trumpet child will banquet here
Until the lost are truly found
A thousand days, a thousand years
Nobody knows for sure how long

The rich forget about their gold
The meek and mild are strangely bold
A lion lies beside a lamb
And licks a murderer’s outstretched hand

The trumpet child will lift a glass
His bride now leaning in at last
His final aim to fill with joy
The earth that man all but destroyed

Of course, If you only listened to the albums, or read the lyrics, you'd think the band was all sadness and longing and poetry. I hadn't counted on was the humor. Linford Detweiler, (keyboardist/songwriter) has a sense of humor so dry it could be used for kindling. The drummer — aside from having the worst haircut I've ever seen on anyone — comes off as the irrepressible prankster who you need to keep an eye on lest he run away with things. The singer, Karin Bergquist, would just shake her head in a way that said, "Boys!" ...and that was part of the joke, too. Possibly the only person on stage who was playing it completely straight was the bass player — but one can't help but suspect that the corners of his mouth were twitching.

All too soon, we were calling for an encore, and all too soon, that was over, too, and we were on our way back home, the tires hissing in the quiet night.