I grew up in a home that was always dressed appropriately for each season, even obscure holidays, such as Columbus Day or Presidents’ Day. My Mom loved to decorate! When I got old enough, I would decorate my bedroom, but usually only for the big stuff like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Once I moved out on my own, I would decorate all of my home, be it apartment, condo or house. I still do.

For the most part, my kids appreciated the decorations, especially Kendall and Abby. I tell myself that it mattered/matters to Alex, although he usually tells me he doesn’t care. On a good day he tells me that it matters to him because it matters to me. 😉 Gaylon loves the decorations, and enjoys helping me and Abby put them out. Except for Christmas lights. But that’s probably another post, entirely, LOL!

I always feel vaguely nostalgic when Autumn rolls around, but moving to Texas has made me miss the woods and the color so much it hurts, sometimes. There is really nothing in the world that can compare to North Carolina in the Fall, and lately I’ve been feeling really homesick. It happens every year, I shouldn’t be surprised. So, I decorate. I set out all the little scarecrows and pilgrims and pumpkins. My mother bought most of them, because Autumn was her favorite season. And so this year is particularly difficult, but Abby and I felt it was important to decorate anyway. It’s the first time she has not been her to help, but it almost feels like she is here, enjoying it with us. AndIMG_2984 I can almost smell her pumpkin bread in the oven. Almost.

I sometimes look for things on Pinterest and can usually duplicate what I find pretty well. But what I cannot seem to recreate is a house full of people. All the lovely decorations in the world won’t create the illusion that our family is all still living here. If I close my eyes really tight, I can sort of almost imagine that the boys are upstairs in their bedrooms, and I can hear the music coming from Kendall’s room. Abby is outside in the woods, playing with Anamarie. They’re laughing and calling to each other as they jump into the piles of leaves they’ve created, in the shadows. I can almost imagine that we still have six cats and four dogs, and that the leaves outside are all fiery red, yellow and orange, and I just almost smell the smoke from the chimneys all through the hollers. Almost.

Our summer has been super busy, and so I decided to head north to visit my best childhood friend, Emily, who lives just north of Boston. On average, the temperature has been 20 degrees cooler here than it is in Austin, and today even felt like Autumn!  (As I write this, the temperature here is 56, while it is still a balmy 84 back home in Austin.)

Our first evening here, we went out to dinner at the Legal Seafood Test Kitchen in downtown Boston. The food was amazing! I spent the next day resting and playing around on my computer, catching up on email and tinkering with this blog. You can’t really tell, because I ended up going right back to what I started with, but it wasn’t a total waste.  I have some great ideas now. 🙂

Plum BeachYesterday, Emily took me to Newbury Port.  I was absolutely delighted with the charming and quaint buildings, the board walk, and all the friendly people!  What a delightful little town!  I kept thinking how much Gaylon would love it, and how much he would enjoy going out on one of the beautiful sailboats that were in the water there.  I think it would also be a blast to go “whale watching”!

But, speaking of the water here.  When I was packing to come up here, I threw in a bathing suit, thinking it would be great to spend a day at the beach.  When I expressed this to Emily, she said I could go swimming if I wanted to, but she would not be getting in the water herself.  Well, she is the one who has always loved the water, so I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to go swimming with me.  She enlightened me by explaining that the water here is cold.  Like, 66 degrees. And this is August!

I have to admit that I was stunned by this.  I mean, I’m a southern girl, and I’ve never encountered water that was that freaking cold in August! Not even when I spent a

Emily & I at Plum Beach ;)

Emily & I at Plum Beach 😉

summer in Southampton on Long Island back when I was a kid.  This was a strange, mind-boggling thing, and I had a bit of difficulty wrapping my mind around it.  Nonetheless, when we got to the beach at Plum Island, we walked down to the water, and I let it lap up around my feet, just to, as they say, ‘test the waters’.  I actually let out a yelp when it hit me! It was freezing!!

Today, we went down to Salem.  I have been fascinated with Salem since I was a little girl, and Emily had a board game that we used to play about the history of the Salem Witch Trials. (Her dad was from this area, and on a trip out here, he had bought this game for her.)

I find it ironic, and more than a little disturbing that the one thing the Puritans were so very terrified of, the thing they tried so famously to eradicate from their midst, is the thing that is most prevalent there today. There are references to witchcraft everywhere.  There are all sorts of t-shirts and cutesy souvenirs, but there are also some very serious shops that sell the necessary ritual items for anything one could imagine (and probably some things I cannot imagine!), as well as all sorts of witchcraft training schools, museums, and the like.

Salem Witch Museum

Salem Witch Museum

The Salem Witch Museum is particularly ironic, in a very sad sort of way. It is housed in what used to be a church. I cannot begin to imagine how horrified those Puritans would be to see their little village now. It is still very quaint. After all, it’s in New England! But Salem will forever be branded with witchcraft, only now they embrace it! (I know there are plenty of folks there who are not into witchcraft, as evidenced by the many Christian churches I saw, like the First Baptist and the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, but those are just not what stand out about the place.)

We didn’t have enough time to tour the House of Seven Gables, but we did get to do something that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember: we got to see the Fabergé Egg exhibit! It just happened to be at the Essex County Museum until sometime next month!! It was definitely the highlight of my day!  Of course, there were so many other exquisite items on display besides eggs!  But I loved seeing the eggs! There is something so hauntingly lovely about the Romanov family, and seeing those intricate and gorgeous pieces, created just for them, made it all seem so real.  And they were such a beautiful family. Wow. God rest their souls.

My favorite was the Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912.  According to information

Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912

Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912

on the Peabody Essex Museum’s site:

The Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg of 1912, on view at PEM, was a gift to Empress Alexandra from her husband, Emperor Nicholas II. The egg commemorates their son Alexei who nearly died the previous year of hemophilia. For the shell, craftsmen joined six wedges of highly-prized lapis lazuli and hid the seams with an elaborate gold filigree encasement. Inside the egg, a diamond encrusted Romanov family crest frames a two-sided portrait of the young child.

We finished up our day with a Ghost Tour of Salem. It was not the most interesting tour, but I did get some pretty interesting pictures with my iPhone.

Tomorrow morning we are starting our day out at the Cathedral in Boston with the Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form!) and then are going to take a Trolley Tour of Boston, which will include Paul Revere’s House, Beacon Hill, The Old North Church, Boston Commons, and most importantly, Cheers! (Just kidding about that last one being most important, but I am looking forward to seeing it, and it is on the tour!)

 

One of my oldest son’s best friend is an amazing young man named Joe Armstrong.  I feel like his is one of my own children, as I really think he spent as much time in my kitchen when he was growing up as he did in his own mother’s kitchen!  He has recently finished competing in a Solar Decathlon (sponsored by the US Department of Energy) with his alma mater, Appalachian State University, and we have an opportunity to vote on the house he and his team built.

Here is the link to vote: People’s Choice Award Registration.  You have to put in your email address, and you have until September 30th, 7:00 p.m. EDT to vote.  So. . . .please, if you have a moment, vote for the house built by Appalachian State!  We are very proud of Joe, and the hard work he and his team have put into this project. 🙂

And, here is the information about the Solar Decathlon, itself, from the United States Department of Energy:

About Solar Decathlon
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The next event will take place at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23–Oct. 2, 2011. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today.
Purpose
The Solar Decathlon:
Educates student participants and the public about the many cost-saving opportunities presented by clean-energy products
Demonstrates to the public the opportunities presented by cost-effective houses that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems that are available today
Provides participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter our nation’s clean-energy workforce.
Impact
Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon has:
Involved 92 collegiate teams, which pursued multidisciplinary course curricula to study the requirements for designing and building energy-efficient, solar- powered houses
Established a worldwide reputation as a successful educational program and workforce development opportunity for thousands of students
Affected the lives of 15,000 collegiate participants
Expanded its outreach to K–12 students by inviting schools in the Washington, D.C., area to visit on class tours.
In 2009, the Solar Decathlon:
Provided 307,502 house visits to the public over 10 days
Offered 32 workshops onsite for the public and held a dedicated day of workshops for builders and industry, which were attended by 506 professionals
Partnered with the National Education Association, which broadcast daily educational programming to classrooms around the nation
Reached millions of readers and viewers in markets across the globe through various media.


A quote gleaned from our Catholic Homeschool Support Group:

In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.
~Flannery O’Connor~ (From “A Memoir of Mary Ann”)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

http://www.prayerfoundation.org/st_patricks_breastplate_prayer.htm

Prayer Upon Arising.  Psalm 5 may added.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Not our righteousness; Christ’s.

This is exactly how I feel most of the time. I love this comic!!!

Living In A Perfect World

“The truly humble soul must sincerely desire to be despised, derided, persecuted and falsely accused. How else can he better imitate Jesus Christ? Oh! how wise he will one day be acknowledged who on earth was happy to be regarded as unworthy of the approval and even the good opinion of others!”
~St. Teresa of Avila~

They are calling for yet another winter storm this weekend.  I think there has been one week since December 18th that we have not had several inches of snow on our back deck.  We had to pay to have the driveway scraped this past weekend (and it was worth every single penny!!).  And now, they are calling for more snow.  Alex is supposed to go snow skiing this weekend with Father Winslow and all of the altar servers from St. John’s. They are going to Sugar Mountain.  Now, it’s looking like that may bet cancelled.  Oh, man, he is going to be miserable to live with if he doesn’t get to go snow skiing. And Faith has Achievement Night for 4-H tomorrow evening, too.  Arrgghh.

I remember as a child fantasizing about snow like this.  As a teenager and young adult I always hoped for snow like this, because it meant the ski slopes would be amazing!  But now, I really can’t find a good reason for it.  It’s cold, it keeps us homebound, and when it finally does melt, it is really muddy!

Snow On Our Back Deck

Snow On Our Back Deck

I’ve made a lot of cracks about Global Warming, and how I think it’s ridiculous.  At this point, I think I might actually clock anyone who tries to tell me that it’s real.

Oh, and one more thing: they are calling for more snow next week, when I go pick Gaylon up in Charlotte at the airport.  I am really praying that it doesn’t happen.

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