Thursday, October 28, 2010

This report is music to my ears...

The November 2010 issue of Scientific American has an article entitled "Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind." (Yes, we have a subscription to Scientific American. And no, I don't actually read it. I am grateful that my husband does--it leads to great discussions around the supper table.) You can read the article by clicking here

As a musician and former music teacher, this article will go into my "never throw away" file. It supports what I've been telling my kids for years: that all the piano, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, and fiddle lessons they have endured will benefit them for a lifetime. It states, "Music lessons can produce profound and lasting changes that enhance the general ability to learn." Apparently, neuroscientists have some new monitoring techniques which allow them to see into our brains.  They have found that studying an instrument from an early age can help the brain process sounds better. Musicians are better at concentrating during distractions, mentally attending to several things at once, and learning a new language. If my kids can focus better in science class because of years of piano study and learn how to play the piano, its a BIG win in my book.

When my oldest child was born almost 18 years ago, we received a classical music cd in the goodie bag we brought home from the hospital. (It was not the first classical music cd to be played in our home!) Mothers and fathers played classical music to their unborn babies and in their nurseries at night.  I completely embraced the idea that listening to music did something special to our brains and I had been taught about the "Mozart effect" in college. It turns out that studying music and practicing music has an even greater impact than just listening.

I always knew that I would have my kids take piano lessons and participate in band and/or chorus when they were in school. This new information makes me feel better about the years I have held my ground and not let my children quit piano lessons and drop out of band. I have also watched my kids process through various stages of enjoying their instruments, detesting their instruments, then enjoying them again, which motivates me to have them stick it out for the long haul. Eventually, they come around and stop asking me to let them quit--which is a true reward!  Music has been a wonderful part of my entire life. I hope that my children enjoy it for their whole lives as well. This study gives me peace of mind that even if some of my children won't admit to enjoying music, I can still claim that they have benefitted--after all, they have likely "enhanced their general ability to learn."

As I always say to the kids:
1. You'll thank me someday.
2. Parents have done way worse things to their kids than make them take piano lessons.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cake

I got this recipe from a magazine while I was on my trip. (Possibly Real Simple, not sure) I thought it would make a fabulous October birthday cake. We need birthday cakes frequently in the fall: mine Oct. 21, Ryan Oct. 23, Ellyn Oct. 31, Brandon Nov. 10. Four of the six of us celebrate birthdays in less than a three week span.  I made the cake for Ryan's birthday on Saturday. We loved it and it was pretty.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake
cream together in mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes:
1 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar

add, beating in one at a time:
3 eggs

add, mixing on low:
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. molasses

then combine and add the following gradually:
3 c. flour
5 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt

Pour into a greased bundt pan. Bake 55-65 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 30 minutes.
Invert on rack to cool completely. Transfer to plate or cake stand. Whisk together 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar and 2 T. lemon juice for icing. Drizzle over cake.
***would taste sooo yummy with hazlenut ice cream

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Birthday boy

Today is Ryan's 12th birthday...
He is such a fun kid!

12 things about Ryan:

1. He is easy going.

2. He likes to read non-fiction books.

3. He is a learner and loves going in-depth about specific topics.

4. He is bright and funny.

5. He is introverted and quiet, unless he knows you well--then he might talk your leg off about his newest interest. : )

6. He has a lot of self-discipline. (He has spent the past year being interested in fitness. He ran 7 miles on Thursday.)

7. He is my messiest kid and doesn't mind having this reputation one bit.

8. He plays the clarinet and used to play the piano. He knows more about music history than I do.
 (If you asked him about music, he would say he has no interest in it.)

9. He likes to stay at home.

10. He goes to bed early and gets up early.

11. He likes to cook (but is messy), mostly because he likes to smell things.

12. He has friends of all ages, because he is such a likable guy.

Your family loves you bunches, Ryan. Happy 12th birthday!

Monday, October 18, 2010

RELAXATION--Napa Valley day 3

We are having a great time. Can you tell?
On the topic of relaxation...
At lunch (cooked by someone else), we discussed how we should really try to have a date night every once in a while.
I mentioned that a person can get a massage in our own little town. Even little get-aways are really good, in my opinion.
I feel really relaxed and pampered when I eat a meal cooked by someone else, and ESPECIALLY when I get a massage. But we don't have to go to California or spend a bunch of money to relax.
(We do have to get out of our house, however, because there are a lot of people there who can contribute to stress and make relaxation impossible. It feels like a circus sometimes. Plus they are hungry all the time.) to my darlings: I love you anyway.
We would need to stop getting the mail and answering the phone.
We would need to leave the tv off (hasn't been on once since we got here--thanks honey!) and read more books, play cards and board games instead (but NO fighting during the games--some of our family members are a bit competitive)
We will need to get outside a lot more.
I need to sit by more real fires--bonfires work for me.
I'm pretty sure that Byron will need to quit his job...
Oh wait. That probably won't work.

Maybe we just need to buy two big comfy chairs for the yard.
A little crooked...I used the timer on the camera. : )
And landscape our yard like this:
(There was a wedding right in this spot by our chairs when we arrived Sat.)
I know there are more things that we could do to make our home and down-time more relaxing. But WOW, it is awesome to visit a place so beautiful and have no responsibilities for a few days. I am so grateful that the two of us could come here. We are relaxed and loving every minute of it!

Without a doubt, this helps alot:
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there is a homemade chocolate on my pillow each night before I go to bed.
(Put there by someone else.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Napa Valley - day 2

I woke up to this today:

While looking at this, I enjoyed a breakfast made by someone else (many people), with every food imaginable for breakfast, in a cozy room with a real fire burning and crackling.

After breakfast, we strolled around the property of the Harvest Inn. It's very beautiful here.
Then we planned our day--antique shopping and a massage. : )

It is raining here, so those sound like perfect activities for a damp, chilly day.
Today is all about relaxation:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

San Francisco--Napa Valley Get-Away

Byron had frequent flier miles that were going to expire, so we are enjoying a 4-day get-away to San Francisco/Napa Valley.  I LOVE get-away trips with my hubby! (My birthday is coming up--what a great birthday treat!)

If it were left up to me, I'm afraid we'd never go any place. I am so grateful that he makes the plans, buys the tickets, reserves the car and rooms, gives us a chance to see the country. I know it takes a lot of time to do all that.

It is sooo hard to get away! That's why we would never go any place if it were left to me--it's a ton of work! When Byron plans the trip,  I do my part at home--plan the childcare, stock the frig, cook extra meals, get the laundry caught up and the schedules coordinated.  It felt great to leave town this morning knowing that I didn't have any laundry to do for the next 4 days! (I know... I know... I'll have to play catch-up when I get home, but I'm not thinking about that yet.)

We arrived in San Francisco shortly after noon today. We enjoyed seeing part of the city for a few hours and then headed north to Napa Valley. We'll head home on Tuesday.

Thank you to the super duper friends who are staying with the kids!!! We REALLY appreaciate it!
 See... Don't we look really happy???

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom always made this cookie recipe, and now it is my family's favorite. The oatmeal makes them soft and chewy--just the way I love them! I double the recipe now that I seem to feed an army most of the time.

Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. margarine (I use 1 Crisco stick, butter flavored)
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs

2 c. flour
2 c. oatmeal
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt

1 c. chocolate chips
(or peanut butter chips, M&Ms, raisins with a little cinnamon)

Cream the first three ingredients together in mixer. Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips and mix well. Place dough on greased baking sheet in spoonfuls.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 minutes. Makes around 2 1/2 dozen.

My 10-yr-old made them yesterday afternoon for an after school snack. yummy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ten Favorite Things About October

A top ten list for this special date, 10-10-10:

In my favorite month, October, I love...
10.walking in crunchy leaves
9. cool nights/warm days
8. leaves gradually changing colors
7. jackets and jeans
6. football games
5. hayrides
4. pumpkins and jack o' lanterns on the porch
3. baking yummies with apples or pumpkin
2. lots of family birthdays (including my own)
1. bonfires and s'mores

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Old-fashioned Dishtowel Love

I absolutely LOVE these dishtowels. They were a gift from my mother-in-law last year, who hand-stitched them, which makes me love them all the more. Before my kitchen remodel, I had a tendency to save them for special occasions. When I moved into my new kitchen, they looked so good in it that I started using them everyday. Then I got hooked on how amazing they are for drying dishes and wiping countertops. There's a reason our grandmothers used these all the time--these simple cotton dishtowels of yester-year are the equivalent of today's microfiber cloths!

I finally got them all clean at the same time (which was a serious challenge) for a photo:
I wish I could say that I do the work stitched on the towel for each day, but I don't. 
I don't touch an iron except when I'm sewing. 
And with all the laundry in this house, every day seems like wash day!

These towels are pure happiness!
Thank you to my mother-in-law for such a nice gift.