Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Today is foggy - just like yesterday - with a thick, gray blanket between us and the skies.

I plugged in the Christmas lights on the little bush just outside the kitchen window, just for some color, some brightness.

Is there a sun anymore? Is there blue above us? Are there still sunrises and sunsets and clouds?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Memorizing the Presidents

Meant to publish this on Presidents' Day, but never got around to finishing it. So, either belatedly for this year, or early for next year (so you have time to memorize them??), here's my little strategy for memorizing all the United States presidents.

First, we "chunk" the names into manageable groups. It's easy to chunk them in groups of three, which then are grouped in chunks of three, which gives us five sets:

Set One (1 - 9): Washington through Harrison. For these, we use some rote memory.
Set Two (10 - 18): Tyler though U.S. Grant.  A couple of mnemonic devices help with the first six, and the last three of this set revolve around Lincoln, one of the four assassinated presidents, which make them easy to recall.
Set Three (19 - 27): Hayes through Taft. These I call the "Funny Name Presidents" for reasons that will become apparent.
Set Four (28 - 36): Wilson through Johnson. As with Set Two, the first six have some mnemonics (they are the "Double Letter" Presidents), and the last three revolve around JKF, another assassinated president.
Set Five (37 - 44, so far): Nixon through Obama. For me, this is what we call "current events". For my kids, a little memory work helps.

So, ready? Here goes:

The first three have a place of honor, and thus should be memorized with their first names -- along with a factoid or two.

1. George Washington (stepped down after two terms, setting a long-lived precedent)
2. John Adams (was Washington's VP)
3. Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration) 
The next three all have first names starting with "J":
4. James Madison ("Father of the Constitution")
5. James Monroe (Monroe Doctrine)
6. John Quincy Adams (son of the first Adams)
7. Jackson
8. Van Buren
9. Harrison (William Henry, to be distinguished from the future president Benjamin Harrison, his grandson)
SET TWO with some mnemonic devices:
10 - 12: TYLER POLKed TAYLOR (visualize Tyler poking (Polk) Taylor!)
13 - 15: FILLMORE PIERCEd BUCHANAN (a fencing match, perhaps? again, a visual there... )
And the next three should just be memorized, with some dates, as they revolve around Lincoln:
16 Abraham Lincoln (elected in 1860, assassinated in 1865)
17 Andrew Johnson (became president after the assassination; same last name as Kennedy's successor; impeached but not convicted)
18 Ulysses S. Grant (memorable for both his initials "U.S." and as a Civil War general)
SET THREE: The "Funny Name" Presidents.
19 RUTHERFORD B. Hayes (Rutherford? Really? He's much loved in Paraguay, by the way)
20 James A GARFIELD (as in Garfield the cartoon cat)
21 Chester A. ARTHUR (as in Arthur the cartoon aardvark)
22 GROVER Cleveland (as in Grover the Sesame Street muppet)
23 Benjamin Harrison (OK, not a funny name, but he's in the middle of a Grover Cleveland sandwich...)
24 GROVER Cleveland, again.
25 McKinley (a man with the NAME of a mountain - Mt. McKinley)
26 Theodore Roosevelt (a man ON a mountain - Mt. Rushmore)
27 Taft (a man as BIG as a mountain, haha; he was about 300 pounds)
SET FOUR: The "Double Letter" Presidents (and some 3-initial nicknamers)
28 WOOdrow Wilson
29 WaRRen "G. I wish I hadn't died in office" Harding
30 Calvin COOlidge
31 Herbert HOOver (or Hoobert Heaver, as he was once famously introduced)
32 Franklin D. ROOsevelt
33 HaRRy S. Truman
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE)
35 John F. KeNNedy (JFK)
36 Lyndon B. Johnson - (LBJ; no double letters, but he is memorable for taking the oath of office on a plane, after JFK died.) 
37 Richard M. Nixon (notable for being the only president to resign)
38 Gerald Ford (notable for being the only president never elected to national office; he was moved up first to VP and then President after the double resignations of first Agnew the VP and then Nixon)
39 Jimmy Carter (notable for ... oh, never mind.)
40 Ronald Reagan (of fond memory)
41 George H. W. Bush (who was Reagan's VP)
42 Bill Clinton (impeached but not convicted)
43 George W. Bush (son of George H. W. Bush)
44 Barack Hussein Obama
And there we are. God willing, we'll add a 45th name to this list in January.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reasons for good cheer

I couldn't make the Religious Freedom rally in Milwaukee yesterday. Hundreds of people did, however, and thousands across the country attended other similar rallies. Perhaps there weren't many priests and nuns at Tea Party rallies a couple years back, but they were out in force at yesterday's rallies.Had they known what was coming, I suspect more would have been at the Tea Party rallies, too.

More than ever, I am convinced that these events - as well as the phone calls to legislators, the political activism, sharing of information with friends and relatives - all make a difference. 

Politics can be discouraging; it can tempt us to cynicism or even despair. I believe we have to fight that temptation and stay engaged.

This article from The Weekly Standard explains how pro-lifers are winning legislatively, and just as important, are winning the battle for hearts and minds. It's great encouragement for political activism, as it shows how voting in pro-life representives really matters. It's just not true that there's "no difference" between candidates. There is, and it matters tremendously.

We should also be encouraged by recent Supreme Court decisions -- both of them unanimous, which is pretty amazing. One decision slapped down the federal EECO in a matter of religious freedom. This was very encouraging, as the HHS mandate will probably have to be fought in the courts. Nice to know that this Supreme Court -- unlike the Obama Administration -- seems to understand what religious liberty really means.

Another, just last week, was also unanimous. It defended the right of a couple in Idaho to sue the EPA. The details of this case were incredible; the EPA was fining this couple $75,000 a day - A DAY! - for refusing to comply with the bureaucracy's interpretation of "wetlands". (The lot they bought, in an existing subdivision, was never listed as a wetland, but the EPA somehow decided it had "navigable waters" and therefore couldn't be built upon.)

These two decisions cheered me tremendously! I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court justice who was viciously attacked by the leftists during his nomination hearing. He's known as the "quiet judge"; but he's had a great impact on shaping this court toward a more conservative view of the law.  (Somewhere, recently, I read an article about that, but can't find it now, sadly.)

Let's hope that this same Supreme Court will exercise that same good judgment in the Obamacare decision.

Be of good cheer!

Note: I'd originally posted this in our homeschool discussion forum, and am posting here with some minor edits, just so my two readers have something new to read. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Perfect Pot Roast, vintage 1973... or 2010...

So today I went searching through my Pot Roast recipes to find one for Sunday dinner.

First I found my Mom's recipe for "Perfect Pot Roast". It's a worn copy of a magazine page, softened on the fold lines from frequent use, dotted with splashes from previous pot roasts. In her handwriting, a note along the margin: "4/8/92 - Sorry I couldn't copy it in color. Mom."

Next, I pulled a recipe clipped from the Penzey's catalog, and guess what? They were the same. Identical.

Mom's recipe was from the June 1973 issue of McCall's magazine. I couldn't find that exact issue online, but it would have been in this bunch from the '70s. (Being the vintage-stuff-loving-person that I am, if I could find it online, I'd be sorely tempted to buy it.)

Unlike my editor/proofreader mother, I didn't note the date of the Penzey's recipe I'd torn out of the catalog. But as always, it didn't take long, with Google's help, to find out: it was from the Winter 2010 issue of Penzey's catalog: "Perfect Pot Roast".

So I have two identical pot roast recipes, just published 37 years apart.

And that's what we're having for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

About to-do lists

I've been trying, over the past year or two, to go electronic with my daily to-do lists. I've tried a whole bunch of things.

One that I liked, for awhile, was Teux Deux (cute, yes?)

Another that coaxed me to sign up - but that I never used - was Cozi, the family calendar.

Then there's ToodleDo.



Remember the Milk.

I've also tried Google calendar very recently.

And I've decided I don't like any of them.

There's something very satisfying about using yellow legal pads and a nice pencil for all my to-do lists. It's a sensory thing; I love the sound and feel of writing on paper. I like old fashioned wooden pencils, newly sharpened, but also like mechanicals for their ever-sharp points and never-used-up erasers.

My paper of choice is an 8-1/2" by 11" yellow legal pad. I consider it a significant luxury, coming from a home where the only scratch paper we had came junk mailings, blank on one side, torn into thirds.

The most satisfying thing of all, as any list-maker knows, is checking off the tasks as they're done. I'm one of those list-making-types who will actually write down an already-done task -- just for the fun of checking it off.

So I better go find my list and write down, "update post on blog" so I can check it off now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

De Profundis

On this All Saints holy day, I'm thinking there are a few psalms that I'd like have the kids commit to memory. This is one:

Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.
I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,
For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption;
And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

And of course another is Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He guideth me in straight paths for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear Maman

Our youngest is in 7th grade in our homeschool. She wanted to learn a foreign language this year - French - and since we already had "Tell Me More: French" from our oldest's high school days, she began using it.

It's working. The other day she started talking to me in French - and I hadn't a clue as to what she was saying. It's more than a little disconcerting to have your 12 year old speak to you in a language you don't understand.

Lately, she's been leaving me her wake-up request notes in a charming mix of English and French:

Dear Maman,

Si vous plait, wake moi up un heure avant le pumpkin farm.



And yes, we went to the pumpkin farm yesterday. But this year, it was just two parents and our French-speaking youngest. Quite the startling contrast to our trip to the same farm in 2002:

We had a very nice time on the bumpy hay ride out to the pumpkin fields, which were particularly beautiful this year. It was a good year for pumpkins; they were huge, and plentiful, and, from a distance, the big orange squashes dotted the fields like bright polka dots .

So today the kids go trick-0r-treating. As is our tradition, we'll serve up beef stew to the neighbors who pop in for a bite to eat, midway through the candy collecting.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

An unforeseen danger

For several years now, my favorite soap-box topics have been the twin evils of overpriced colleges and the associated crushing levels of debt taken on by students.

College administrators were encouraging this irresponsible behavior by calling these loans "an investment", when they had to know that nobody makes money on a $60,000 "investment" in a Women's Studies degree or a $100,000 "investment" for a Masters in Social Work. Too many parents failed to warn their children against taking on too much debt -- perhaps because they, themselves, were already up to their eyeballs in mortgage and credit card debt, or perhaps because they bought the "it's an investment" line.

The federal government bears much of the blame, because ever since they got involved in the student loan business, colleges started jacking up tuition at nearly criminal rates of 5 - 6% a year, when inflation was running at about 1%. It's the third-party payer syndrome, just as in health care: when somebody else is paying (or at least appears to be paying, by dishing out deferred payment loans), nobody feels responsible for caring much about what it all costs.

For several years now, I've realized what a terrible danger this was for the students. They would spend decades -- maybe a lifetime -- paying off these loans. They would have to postpone marriage, buying a house, starting a family.

What I didn't realize - until now - was that this would also be a terrible danger to our republic.

Obama just announced that he will start a structured debt-forgiveness program for student loans. Other than being a naked attempt to buy the votes of young people, it's also a horrible idea.

I got into a bit of a discussion this morning with a young acquaintance of mine -- a good, responsible, bright young woman -- who basically said, hey, I have a lot of student loans and I'd sure like to have them paid off. At one point I said,

If we are to remain a free country, a republic with productive, independent, responsible people, then we have to stop rewarding bad behavior, and stop encouraging people to "vote themselves the Treasury." Life is all about making choices. What about those young people who decided, realistically and responsibly, they couldn't afford college, so they went to community college, lived at home, took online classes, or maybe got a job instead. Why should they now have to pay for OTHER people going to expensive colleges they couldn't afford? Because, in fact, taxpayers WILL pay the bill for this, since Obama nationalized the entire student loan industry a year or so ago.
Here's a good article, "A College Loan Scam", which I found today via Instapundit (still my favorite news aggregator).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A very weird coincidence

So tonight at dinner, my husband said he happened to check out this blog today and was stunned to find that I'd actually posted something here.

What are the odds of me posting out of the blue, and him visiting the blog out of the blue -- on the very same day!!?!?

Freaky, huh?

Blogging is so retro

Yes, blogging just feels so old, so last-decade.

Twitter is the new blogging. And I don't do much with that, either.

Facebook is the new blogging. It's much more interactive than Blogger ever was for me, but that's just because I didn't have much of a readership here. (Although once, I had an Instalanche from Althouse; that was definitely the high point of this blog's traffic stats.)

I certainly don't have the time for it -- which is the main reason I dropped this blog like a hot "potatoe" (hello, Dan Quayle).

My life is different in many ways than it was the last time I was regularly posting here. For one thing, my Dad - who I blogged about a few times in the last years of his life - died on August 4, 2010. It was my Mom and Dad's 54th wedding anniversary. The priest came to Dad's hospital room in the morning, anointed him, blessed their marriage. Mom helped Dad eat lunch. And then Dad told everyone to go home; he was tired and wanted to rest and they should all just leave.

By the time Mom got home, the phone was ringing: come back to the hospital. They did - and he was already gone.


Other things are different, too.

Our two oldest daughters are now in college.

I can't kiss the top of any of my children's heads anymore.

After a seven year absence, I'm teaching at Carroll College University again. I quit because our youngest had started home kindergarten and I need to focus on having all four kids in homeschool; I've started up again because our homeschool enrollment is down to just two.

But for some reason I'm feeling the urge to get back to this old blog again.

We'll see.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Great quote


"For giving an impassioned speech, every man wants to be Jimmy Stewart; for a dressy affair, every man wants to be Gary Grant; for working in the office, every man wants to be Clark Gable.

But day in and day out, every man really just wants to be Spencer Tracy."

From my husband, just now, while watching Tracy and Hepburn in "Adam's Rib".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Links for our Science Co-Op

Here's a website that allows you to compare the sizes of the planets by using pull-down menus to compare

Planet Size Comparison

And here's another that's pretty cool:

The Size of Our World

And finally, a Star Size Comparison -- with the same music -- but a different perspective:

Friday, March 12, 2010

The talking babies get it!

h/t to the Wolf Files, a blog written by a doctor who happens to be Obama's second cousin.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

George's birthday celebration yesterday

When I was a kid, mom always made cherry pies for George Washington's birthday - with little hatchets cut out of the extra pieces of crust, baked on top.

So, of course I carried on that tradition -- but yesterday, our youngest took it all to a new level.

In honor of President's Day, she decreed that we each would choose a president and give a speech about him at dinner. In addition, we would have to be addressed all day by that president's name instead of our given first names.

Therefore, we went around yesterday saying "George", "Abe", "Teddy", "Ronald" (a.k.a "The Gipper" or "Dutch"), "Millard", and "Rutherford". The organizer of the day became quite annoyed when anyone slipped and referred to someone by their baptismal name, marking it down with a tick mark. (I slipped up a lot.... )

At dinner, we heard the speeches, were given prizes (those who messed up the least on the name changes were given special awards), and, for dessert, had pie.

My fellow Americans, it was a delightful evening!

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Let me Google that for you"

Here's the phrase I Googled last night. Go ahead, click on that link.... let me google that for you... :)

It led me to a very cool site, Cookthink, with a great idea for a light and easy dinner for a bunch of tired but hungry people: ham, Swiss, and sliced pear pita sandwiches, grilled golden brown just till the cheese got a little melty. Mmmmm.

For my non-ham-eaters, we also made turkey, provolone, and Granny Smith pitas. Just as delicious.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

About love

Tonight during dinner, looking at all the beautiful faces around the table talking and laughing, I realized I would walk across hot coals for these people. Every one of them.

I don't get many opportunities to do that, however, so in the meantime I will have to settle for doing their laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, putting fresh sheets on their beds, taking them where they need to go, praying for them, and cheerfully (most of the time) doing everything else that comes with the wife-and-mother territory.

When you think about it, the hot coals trick might be easier.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Feingold in Pewaukee: Listening Session, 1/11/10

Thanks to my brother (who attended a "listening session" in Rhinelander) for sending me this link. (Language warning!)

Will he really listen? Unlikely.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


"We tried to warn you... but you wouldn't listen."

I never voted for Obama, obviously, but otherwise, this video expresses my sentiments exactly.

Good-bye and Good Riddance, Chris Dodd

Check out the "Dump Dodd" website: "We did it!!!! Who's next!???"

Yes indeedy: Who's next? I think there are about 59 more who ought to be shown the exit door in a hurry.

Wait, make that 99 more in the Senate, and several hundred in the House.

Then we start over with ordinary citizens, less than half of whom are lawyers, all of whom love freedom and the Constitution.

Monday, January 04, 2010

We have a shepherd!

Our new Archbishop, Jerome Listecki, is being installed today. We've been watching the ceremony on and off this afternoon. (Thanks to WTMJ-4 and WISN-12 for broadcasting it.)

And while we're talking about shepherds... as you may recall, I love the song "My Baby Needs A Shepherd". It can bring me to tears in a New York minute.

Just think about those lyrics...

My baby needs a shepherd
She's lost out on the hill
Too late I tried to call her
When the night was cold and still
And I tell myself I'll find her
But I know I never will
My baby needs a shepherd
She's lost out on the hill

My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly
She'll not reach sanctuary
Just by looking to the sky
I guess I could have carried her
But I didn't even try
My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly

My baby needs a pilot
She has no magic wand
To help her part the troubled waters
Of the Rubicon
But in my soul I know she'll
Have to go this one alone
After all that is only way she's ever known

My baby needs a mother
To love her till the end
Up every rugged mountain
And down every road that bends
Sometimes I hear her cryin'
But I guess it's just the wind
My baby needs a mother
To love her till the end

None of my children are lost, either physically or spiritually, thank God! And yet, I still can torture myself by thinking about the terrible sadness of these lyrics.

But yesterday, while praying for my children I realized that no matter what the future holds for my children, they have all those precious things mentioned in the song.

They have a shepherd: Christ.

They have an angel: their Guardian Angels.

They have a pilot: the Pope, pilot of the Barque of Peter, who will steer them safely through the roughest of waters (as long as they stay on board).

And they certainly have a mother to love them till the end: me, and of course, our Blessed Mother.

They are in good hands.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Obama has lost Mo Dowd

Read the whole column (h/t Instapundit), and note especially the last line:

"Heck of a job, Barry."

If Hopenchange has lost Maureen Dowd, he's toast.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


There is hope!

The odds are still against Republicans picking up the 41 seats they need for a House majority. But it's interesting that when Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano, fresh from a second-place finish in the primary for Edward Kennedy's Senate seat, was asked to tell the Democratic caucus what he had learned on the campaign trail, he replied in two words: "You're screwed." How many of those listening decided that it would be a good idea to spend more time with the family after 2010? (emphasis added)


Now, if you want to help send Michael Capuano's message to Democrats, please go here and Strike a Blow for Freedom, right now, by making a donation to Sean Duffy for Congress.

At least go to his website and take a good look at the future. It means retiring Democrat David Obey - who's been in Congress since 1969! - and sending in his place a true conservative, a husband and father to five young children, a prosecutor and log-rolling champion.

I can't wait till 2010!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Obama: Destroying our economy, one step at a time

Remember this?

Obama said he wanted to bankrupt the coal companies.

Looks like he's making progress on that goal.

Pittsburgh-based coal company, CONSOL Energy, will lay off nearly 500 of its West Virginia workers next year and its CEO blames environmentalists dead-set against mountaintop mining who have waged “nuisance” lawsuits for the job loss.

But CONSOL Energy’s political problems are not unique to the mining industry, which has suffered under the Obama Administration. The Environmental Protection Agency is already holding 79 surface mining permits in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The EPA says these permits could violate the Clean Water Act and warrant "enhanced" review. And, agency went even further in October, announcing plans to revoke a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia.

Full article here.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Congress: Like Satan

This cracked me up:

One telling moment came after Hart asked each voter to write the name that comes to mind when they think of Congress. Bill, a 62-year-old retired automobile-industry executive and independent who backed Obama, wrote "Satan." When Hart asked why, Bill answered, "Because I wasn't sure of the correct spelling of 'Beelzebub.' " Now that's intensity.

I can't say I disagree with Bill.

Via The Conservatives and Insty.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Why Bernanke shouldn't be reappointed

This is all you need to see. It's so disheartening.

And note: it's a Democrat doing the questioning. Good for him!