Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

We all took a walk in the Congaree Swamp, except for Fred and David, who stayed home and cooked and set up for Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time, we served Thanksgiving dinner buffet-style, which made for a less stressful experience at the dinner table. Nana contributed cranberry sauce, Colleen pies, and I made the sweet potatoes. Later on in the afternoon, almost everybody player Settlers of Catan. And Colleen made cappuccino for all who wanted it. Yum!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Marina's New Abode

Marina moved out yesterday. She and some college friends are renting a house in the five points area of Columbia. The house has five bedrooms, of which hers is the smallest - her choice. I think Marina must have the gift of peacemaking.

She begins her third year of college in a couple of weeks, having been accepted into the pharmacy program. She's happy to have found a house so close to campus, so she can ride her bike to and from classes. Marina's blogger name is HeyCordelia.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our Barrel-Ponics Project

David spent a week working on the Hughey farm, learning about barrel-ponics and doing things like helping build fish ponds and washing out a zillion veggie oil barrels. In case you haven't heard about barrel-ponics - we hadn't until Colleen told us about it - it is aquaponics implemented with barrels, using fish and the nitrogen cycle to grow fruits and vegetables in a small space and with limited water. Travis Hughey invented barrel-ponics and is targeting it at third-world countries. For more information, see this explanation. When David left, Travis gave him some barrels and other parts to build a system at home, so Fred and David have a project now!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Julia's Five-Year Birthday

Julia is five-years old today.  We had a "Moon Landing" and celebrated with a family birthday party at our house.  Julia looks so much like her mother.
"Papa" really likes babies!  He's holding Silas here, who is 10-months old.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Princeton Country Dancers 30th Anniversary

We drove to Princeton, NJ, for the 30th PCD Anniversary. This is the day after Marina's birthday. She was born the Monday after the 10th PCD Anniversary celebration, at which, needless to say, I didn't do a lot of dancing. Ten years ago, we went to the 20th anniversary dance -- hope we'll make it to the 40th!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some good meals, for a change

Well, the family had been complaining about always cooking the same old things for dinner, so I really tried to come up with some new things. Let's see if I can remember them:
  • Dish #1: This started out as chili with mushrooms substituted for the ground beef, but the recipe took a turn somewhere and became something else. Sautee 2 8oz packages of baby bella mushrooms (sliced) with an onion (also sliced). Add a 16oz can of blackbeans, 16oz can of chopped tomatoes (seasoned?), and a cup or so of frozen corn. Season to taste with salt, ginger?, curry?, and whatever, and cook a bit so flavors mix. Serve over Uncle Ben's wild rice.
  • Dish #2: Cut up a pkg (about 3/4 to 1 lb.) of chicken tenders into bite-size pieces and saute in canola oil with soy-sauce added for color and flavor. Set aside, and saute an 8oz package of snow peas together with a 3 oz package of sliced almonds. Add the chicken, and serve over cooked linguini or fettucini.
  • Dish #3: Stir-fry some cut-up beef, and set aside. Sautee some sliced onions and muchrooms together with some Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme, and add to set-aside beef. Make a roux of butter and flour, stir in some beef stock to make a sauce. Add beef and mushroom mixture to sauce and cook a bit to mix flavors. Serve over cooked egg noodles or garlic toast
  • Dish #4: Cut up a lb. of polish sausage into 1/4 inch slices, and saute in a little canola oil until nicely browned. Set aside, and fry up some sliced pototoes and onions. Add sausage to pototoes and onions, and season with salt, pepper, and cardamom. Serve with a salad made with fresh spinach, red and green pepper (sliced) , banana pepper (pickled and sliced), and bleu cheese (or feta).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Three Grandsons Visit

Colleen and Shelby went to Hendersonville, NC for a vacation. They took along Silas, Julia stayed with a friend, and the other three boys stayed with us. What a treat! Fred and I took the boys to the zoo and got totally tired out. Elias did, too. We parked at the botanical gardens and waited a long time, and then when the tram finally came, it was full, so we decided to walk to the zoo rather than wait for the next tram. Elias, recently turned two years old, was a good trooper and walked as far as he could before we had to carry him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Culinary Capers

Did I mention that Eric has become quite the cook? David and Fred and I have been away from home at dinnertime altogether too often in the past couple of months and Eric's often had to "fend for himself" for dinner. He's decided that he really doesn't like meat very much, so recently he made Shrimp-Fried Rice and Fish Stew. In the process, he learned how to clean fresh shrimp and cook fish that's not been fileted. His culinary inspirations tend to come from You Tube videos, and he usually finds out he needs to alter the recipe because we don't have some of the ingredients on hand. The picture here is the birthday "cake" Eric made for me - we didn't have any cake mix left, so he improvised with chocolate-chip muffins!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Birthday Surprise

Wednesday was Fred's birthday. It was one of those "special" decade birthdays. Didn't do much to celebrate it then, since we're planning to celebrate all the family's February birthdays - Fred's, mine, and Elias's - next Saturday at Colleen's house. But we did pull off a surprise last night at the contra dance ( Unbeknownst (how's that for an archaic word?) to Fred, I baked a Red Velvet/Chocolate cake downstairs in Nana's apartment yesterday afternoon. While we were at the dance, David brought Marina back from USC to the house, where she decorated the cake, and then Marina, David, and Eric drove to the dance with the cake, paper plates, and napkins, arriving about 5 seconds after the dancers had started singing Happy Birthday to Fred. The timing couldn't have been better! The kids did a great job!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Transcribing Irish Fiddle Tunes

Last Friday, I went over to Andi and Davey's session. I'd been wanting to learn Andi's version of some of the tunes she plays, and she agreed to play some of them so I could record them. So I asked her to play The Coachman's Whip, The Foxhunter's (slipjig), and Sweeney's Buttermilk, which she did, and I recorded the tunes with our Zoom recorder (wonderful little recorder, sound-quality-wise, but terrible user-interface).

Finally, over the past couple of evenings and this morning, I got the tunes transcribed. Since I'm not terribly quick at transcribing from audio, I first looked up the tunes at to get ABC transcriptions of the tunes, then used Audacity (open source .wav editor) to listen to the tunes and slow down the parts in question. From there I was able to modify the ABC to match Andi's playing. Finally I used the Tune-o-Tron ABC converter at to make pdfs for the tunes, which I printed on old-fashioned paper. Pretty cool. Here's a low-resolution image of The Coachman's Whip.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not your usual day...

This has been a rather uncommon day. We knew the day was going to be special because of the Presidential inauguration, and because it is my mother's 88th birthday. What we didn't know was that it was going to SNOW and that the offices at work would be closed - read that, "I had a day off" - and the schools would be closed, too. Now, remember, we live in South Carolina, so snow, even a little, tends to be taken as a serious threat. The picture here shows the snow in our front yard after it had finished snowing and just before it started to melt.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My new hammered dulcimer debuts

We (that is, Cabin Fever! - Fred, Woody, me) played for the Columbia contra dance tonight. It was the first time that this hammer dulcimer was played publicly. A couple of weeks ago, Beth and I drove up to Black Mountain with it to have a microphone (actually two of them - treble and bass) installed. Although I had verified at home that I knew how the hammered dulcimer's internal mics should be hooked up to a sound system, we were unable to get it work at the dance and we had to use an external mic instead. We suspect a weak battery in the pre-amplifier.

An unexpected plus for the internal mics concerns tuning. This afternoon I connected the hammered dulcimer's mics to my Seiko tuner. That made tuning a lot quicker and better. The dulcimer is a 16-15 Masterworks, so that is 62 strings and 94 tunings! Quicker and better tuning is much appreciated!

Friday, January 9, 2009

In Greenville for the Joshua Bell Concert

You might not be able to tell from this picture, taken just before the concert, but Eric (on the right) was quite excited to be seeing Joshua Bell in concert. This was our Christmas present to Eric.

Of the pieces Joshua Bell played, my favorite was by far the Ysaye sonata for solo violin. The polyphony in that piece was beautiful and amazing. Joshua explained that Ysaye is, in his opinion, one of the world's three best violinists, alongside Paginini and Heifitz. Ysaye wrote six sonatas for solo violin - as did J. S. Bach. Eric gave me written music for the Bach sonatas (and partitas) for Christmas, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to play even one movement of one of them credibly.

One of the next things on my "list" is to find Eric a quality violin teacher, to complement his piano. Eric's piano playing is quite good -- maybe I can record him sometime soon and add a recording to a future post.

David is standing next to Eric in the picture. They weren't being particularly cooperative about having their picture taken, do you think? I think I really like Greenville -- I'll put it on my list of places to consider for retirement.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Russian, anybody?

The family has been talking about learning Russian, so I looked for some resources. So far, here's what I've found:
  • Course at our community college - this is offered for five or six weeks in the spring
  • The Rosetta Stone software - pretty expensive to buy (over $250 for Level 1)
  • "A Spoonful of Russian" podcast at - a series of lessons with .mp3 audio
  • Russian language guide at - gives pictures with written and spoken Russian (view with IE)
Why learn Russian? I'm pretty sure Jurate speaks Russian, so that's a good reason!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day, 2009

Today we celebrated New Year's day in a way that comes close to being a family tradition -- we've celebrated this way not every year but definitely many years. We're visiting Barbara, my college roommate, and her family. Last night - New Year's Eve - we watched (on TV) the ball drop in Times Square. Today we went for a walk in John Bryant park, then stopped by Young's Dairy to eat ice-cream and feed the goats. Back at the house, Barbara served up a slew of hor d'ouevres, and then served the traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and peas. Yum.

Barbara's Buffalo Chicken Dip

(quantities below are approximate)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
10 oz. chopped, cooked chicken breast
tortilla scoops or chips (or celery)

Soften cream cheese in microwave. Combine all ingredients (except tortilla scoops or chips) in 9x13 glass baking dish, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Serve with tortilla scoops or chips.

Barbara's Chili Cream Cheese Dip

8 oz. cream cheese
1 pkg. Sky Line frozen chili (just meat, no beans)
4-8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla scoops or chips

Spread cream cheese in 9-inch pie pan. Cook chili (microwave for ~6 minutes), then spread over cream cheese. Add shredded cheese and microwave to melt the cheese. Serve with tortilla scoops or chips.