Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vocabulary Builder Sunday

It isn't every day I learn two new and impressive words. Mark this one on your calendars, folks.

It started out with a weather forecast this morning. I don't usually tune in, but there had been some mention of a blizzard, and I wanted to see whether that was still on the menu.

I then heard the TV weather guy say a fancypants word that was totally new to me: bombogenesis.

The meteorologist explained that it had to do with a rapid decrease in barometric pressure, which, under certain conditions, could make for some very nasty weather, indeed. We're experiencing the result of the process embodied by that fancy word today. The snow is coming down thick and fast, with no end in sight tonight.

The other word, unrelated to the storm, is Zimbelstern. I had been surprised on Christmas Eve by a tinkly bell sound during the final refrain of the Gloria. I heard it again this morning during one of the hymns, and I asked the music director about it after mass. I am now enlightened, and will be looking for ways to work this wonderful word into a column or article in the near future (it isn't likely, but I can try.)

Not a new word, but a new concept that also came into my life today is the USB lamp. My sister and brother-in-law gave this to me as a Christmas gift, and it is the greatest little thing, especially for those of us whose eyesight isn't what it used to be. It definitely falls into the category of "things I didn't know I needed."

Here ends the vocabulary lesson for today.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Today's Milton Musings had me reflecting on the family history on my Christmas tree. Hope your holiday was merry and bright, too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Fays!

Earl and I are pleased to offer our third annual "green" Christmas card for your viewing pleasure. Featured this year: the Fay Jingle Choir. From left, Brian, Abby, Timmy. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mom's pumpkin bread

My December 18 column for GateHouse references my mother's pumpkin bread recipe, which I am pleased to share, below.

Mom's Pumpkin Bread

2/3 c shortening (Mom is very specific: NOT butter, NOT margarine)
2 2/3 c sugar
4 eggs
1 16-oz. can pumpkin
2/3 c water
3 1/3 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
2/3 c chopped nuts
2/3 c raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix shortening and sugar thoroughly with an electric mixer. Add eggs, pumpkin and water and mix. Add flour, soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves and mix. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into 2 well-greased, 9" loaf pans. Bake 65-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

These breads are REALLY sweet. If you like them that way, go for it. I've been experimenting with a little less sugar, but I do like them sweet, too! I also use double the amount of nuts and raisins (Mom uses walnuts; I used pecans the last time and they were delish! I also like to use golden raisins, which do not turn bitter when they're baked. Of course, you can make the breads without either, which is how I bake them for my children, who are fussy that way.)

Like all nut breads, these taste best the day after they're made, once the nuts have released some of their oils. Mmmmmm.

These breads freeze well, and make nice little gifts when baked in mini-loaf pans (for less time...I usually just watch them so I don't have a baking time for that!)

I plan to do my second pumpkin-bread baking extravaganza this weekend, and will post a picture when I've got some finished breads to show. Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good news

I'm very pleased to share that I'm the new children's choir director at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood, Mass.! This is the good news I was hoping to be able to write about in a previous blog post.

I'm excited to begin this job. Choir directing has always been my favorite aspect of any music teaching position I've had, including my current job at St. Mary of the Hills School. I'm jumping in with both feet, as I'll be preparing the choir at St. Catherine's to sing at a mass on Christmas Eve, two weeks from tonight. I'm not easing into this one! The first rehearsal is a week from today, with two more packed into the following few days.

I am amazed at the opportunities that have come my way in the last few months, beginning with the St. Mary's position in September, followed by my daily column for Milton Patch in October, and now this. To be able to earn a living doing what one truly loves is a blessing, and for me, that's music, teaching and writing. The chance to be a positive force through my words and my teaching is also a profound blessing as well as a serious responsibility.

I am looking forward to working with the children and families of St. Catherine's, as well as the parish staff. God is good.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Family column

Last weekend's "Just a Minute" ran only in the print version of the Ledger. Here it is, for readers who didn't get a paper copy. Enjoy!

On the road with Justin Bieber

Like millions of Americans, I packed up my family and made the traditional over-the-river-and-through-the-woods trip for Thanksgiving this year. When the alarm sounded on Wednesday, I didn’t moan and slap the snooze button, as I usually do. No, I jumped up, threw on my comfiest clothes, roused three sleeping children, poured two travel mugs of coffee, and took my place in the copilot’s seat of the van, while the nearly-full moon shone down through the darkness.

When we drive to visit my family, 400 miles away, we like to make an early start to beat the traffic, especially on the busiest travel day of the year. We left on Wednesday morning at 5:00, and imposed a “no-talking-until-6:30” rule in the car, so Earl and I could enjoy our coffee in peace. The youngest kiddo actually fell back to sleep, the oldest contented herself looking out the window, and the middle child stared at the clock for an hour and a half.

Of course, at 6:30, the conversation exploded. Where are we? Is it time for breakfast? What time will we get to Grammy’s house? How far have we gone? Are we in New York yet? Then Timmy woke up and had to share a song he learned in kindergarten, complete with interpretive motions.

Before long, we were exiting the highway at our favorite bagel shop. We stormed the bathrooms and then ordered breakfast. Classic rock thumped from the overhead speakers. Normally, George Thoroughgood would be a little much for me at that hour, but having traveled 120 miles by 7:30 a.m., I was feeling pretty bad to the bone, myself.

After we’d broken our fast, gotten some gas and filled up our travel mugs again, we were back on the highway. I announced that it was music time, and broke out the iPods. The kids looked so cute with their little headphones on, but they needed help remembering to sing along inside their heads instead of out loud. When we reached New York at 8:30, there was general rejoicing in the car, but Timmy was disappointed.

“I don’t see the Statue of Liberty,” he complained.

“That’s because we’re in Albany,” I said.

Miffed, he turned back to the iPod and squeezed his teddy bear for comfort.

We’d made hotel reservations, as the entire extended family was spending Thanksgiving at the old homestead. Abby asked if the hotel would be in England, but we assured her that it would be in Rochester, just like Grammy’s house. Snippets of songs floated through the van: "Do you do you do you do you wanna dance?”…”Hot potato hot potato”…”Baby baby baby oh…”

“Uggghhhhhh,” Timmy moaned. I started looking for a plastic bag, sure that he was about to be carsick. Justin Bieber has that effect on me, too.

“What?” Earl asked him.

“Yankees fan,” Timmy answered, wrinkling his nose in the direction of an SUV with a Yankees logo stuck to the tinted window.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” Earl said with a smile, as we passed the offending car.

We arrived at my mother’s house just after noon, quite possibly a new speed record for travel with three children. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that getting there was half the fun, but for our one and only holiday trip this year, it wasn’t bad, even if we had to bring Justin Bieber along for the ride.

Copyright 2010 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some rights reserved.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blog dropout

I feel like a blog dropout. What used to be a wonderful outlet and a fun way to jot down news and thoughts about life in the Fay family has now become a billboard for my writing that is published elsewhere. I didn't mean for that to happen. It just did.

Part of the reason I haven't been writing here is that my life has risen to new levels of busy-ness. I thought when Timmy started full day kindergarten in September, that I would have oodles of time to write. It hasn't turned out that way, as two part-time job opportunities came my way, and I grabbed them. These jobs take time, and a lot of it.

It's been very good for me to have new commitments this fall, and it's also been a challenge. My "organizer" personality has gotten a serious workout, trying to fit everything in. I've had to accept help with tasks and responsibilities I'm not able to keep up with any more (thank goodness I have a husband who doesn't mind vacuuming.) I've had to just put my head down and go, go, go.

On balance, I've done pretty well. It's only this past week that I've gotten what I call my "stress bumps" on my hands and feet -- painful little blisters that bubble up when I'm under stress for a long time. I chalk them up to the self-imposed pressure for my upcoming Christmas Concert at school, which I know will be fine, but I'm still stressed about. That, plus Christmas in general; last year at this time, I had a serious plan for shopping. I knew what I wanted to get for people, and had a plan to accomplish all the necessary ordering and trips to stores. This year, I don't have a plan yet, and very little free time to think about it, let alone get out to stores. My wonderful husband has volunteered to help, which is great, but I know I'll feel better once I at least have the plan in place.

I don't even know what the kids want for Christmas. I guess that will be a good topic for breakfast conversation.

I can't promise I'll do much more blogging than I have recently, except maybe during Christmas vacation (when I'll have monumental lesson planning to do, in addition to finally tackling the disorganized mess that is my home office.) I'll take a break from planning music classes and organizing more music downstairs to tell all you in blogland about my lesson planning and organizing!

Hoping to be able to expound upon some good news soon...will keep you posted. Happy second Sunday of Advent!