Monday, November 29, 2010

Sugarplum Fairy Visit

Whoa, it was a chilly one this morning!  My car thermometer read 27 degrees when I pulled out of the driveway to take Henry to strings at 7 AM.  Henry, I might mention, was wearing shorts.  I guess he didn't get the frost memo...

When I got home, the sun was up, and I noticed that the last of my knock-out roses were shimmering with a dusting of ice, courtesy of Jack Frost or the Sugarplum Fairy.  They looked yummy enough to eat!  Don't get any ideas, Papa... (my Dad has been known to reach across a fine dining table and eat a rose from the arrangement just to make the point that roses are in fact edible).

 Everybody stay warm!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Cape St. Claire folks!  For those staying put, enjoy a lovely day here in the Cape.  For those who will be driving over the holiday, I wish you open, traffic-free roads, quiet kids, and reliable cars.  For anyone braving the airports, safe travels, and I hope you avoid having your "junk" touched in the interest of air travel safety.  :)  In case you missed it, here's the link to the youtube video of the guy going through airport security who is very sensitive about his goods:

I understand the frustration, and I'm not sure it's truly possible to effectively screen for every threat and maintain some semblance of dignity and privacy, but we all need to do our part to get from point A to point B, safely and responsibly.  Frankly, my "junk" is not that sacred.  As long as the person searching me is being professional, and the policies are well defined and consistent, I'm willing to endure the inconvenience.  It's better than the alternative.  But then, if the policies are TOO well defined, it makes them predictable for those who would attempt to thwart them, and where does it all end?

I think I come down on the side of the TSA on this one, but I go back and forth.  Anybody have any thoughts about the new security procedures implemented by TSA?  Keep in mind, this time last year, a guy got through security with bomb materials in his underwear.  It was a very close call, and we were none too happy about it.  It's bad enough that he managed to get explosive material through security, but even worse that other red flags slipped past multiple layers of security prior to boarding.  Are we, the public, paying the price in inconvenience and indignity for shoddy work by Homeland Security, etc.?  How do we strike the proper balance between security and privacy?

Let's hope we get through this holiday season without more of the same.  Wishing us all patience and composure during this stressful time of year.  I hope everyone gets where they're headed safely in time to enjoy a wonderful day of food and tradition with their families and friends.  Have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birthday Wishes

Wishing a very happy birthday to two of my favorite people - my best friend Helen and my husband, Mark, who coincidentally share a birthday. Maybe I should seek out people with November 20th birthdays. It's been lucky for me so far.  Love you both.

glitter graphics
Glitter Graphics, Happy Birthday Glitter Graphics

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Suicidal Leaves

I made the monumental miscalculation of doing a full-yard leaf raking on Monday.  It was a multi-pronged approach involving a leaf blower/vacuum, lawn mower, and good old rake.  I am still sore from the effort, but my yard is NOT still leaf free.  It looked tidy for all of 48 hours.  Last night, the season earned its name when a mighty wind blew through, stripping the trees of the vast majority of their foliage.  The photos below show before and after pictures of the trees in my yard taken 48 hours apart.

Before                                  After

Before                                   After

I wasn't naive enough to think that more leaves were not on the way, but come on now - all at once?  This time, I would have been correct to procrastinate.  The clip below demonstrates pretty closely how the leaves came down overnight (jump ahead to the 49 second mark to skip the leaf family suicide and go straight to the mass defoliation).

My motivation to get the leaves up was company headed this way at the end of the week.  I knew it was supposed to rain Tuesday and that Monday would be my only opportunity before they arrived.  Ah well, I will have to go with the seasonal look.  If this wind keeps up, maybe most of the leaves will blow over the edge of the yard anyway.  On a more positive note, my view has improved dramatically.  I am just beginning to get a peak of the end of Deep Creek out my kitchen window...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Broadneck Bookworms

Several years ago, one of my running buddies mentioned that she and her daughter were in a mother-daughter book club here in the Cape.  Being a big reader with a particular affection for young adult and children's books, I was immediately interested, but didn't have the nerve to ask to be a part of the group.  When I asked my daughter, who is also an avid reader, what she thought about joining a mother-daughter book club, she was not particularly excited, although I don't think she really had much of an idea what it was.  I put it to rest but secretly harbored a wish to be part of this group.

Two years ago, I got my chance - the call-up from the big show!  There was an opening in the club, and they wanted to know if my daughter and I would like to join the group.  I excitedly asked her how she felt about it, and again, she was lukewarm.  Well, forget the warm and fuzzy mother-daughter part, I was going to be part of this club if I had to drag her kicking and screaming.  I told them that we would both be delighted to join the group and eagerly awaited our first meeting.

Fast forward two years (I mean that literally, and no pun intended), and the book club has been everything I had hoped it would be.  I know that my daughter has enjoyed it every bit as much as I have, if not more.  The Broadneck Bookworms consists of eight young ladies, all now 8th graders in middle school, and their mothers, in addition to two girls and their Moms who are on "sabbatical".  One of the girls lost her mother in the years before my daughter and I were in the club, but she continues to be a part of our group, and we are so happy to have her in our fold.

The format is as follows:  We meet once a month for two or three hours to discuss our latest book, have some snacks or dinner and maybe a glass of wine or two (the Moms - duh).  We rotate hostesses and meet at their house, or if the weather is nice, at the beach or the pool.  An activity is usually planned that relates to the story we've just read, sometimes even a field trip, but occasionally the girls just run around or talk girl talk when the discussion is over, and us Moms have a chance to catch up on the latest in our Cape lives.

An obvious goal of any kids' book club is to encourage reading and reading comprehension, particularly in the earlier years, and I think we have accomplished that, although most of the girls are big readers anyway.  It's also a great way to get your kids to read a broader variety of books - to step outside the genre to which they're typically drawn and discover other styles.  My daughter and I both enjoy fantasy books, but by reading book club selections chosen by other girls in the group, we've had a chance to try some different subject matter and have enjoyed many of them a great deal.

More importantly, what the mother-daughter book club has provided is an opportunity and forum to have conversations with our daughters about all the life topics that come up when we read.  Some of the books we have liked the least have led to some of the most dynamic and thoughtful discussions.  We have discussed romance, friendship, loss, poverty, racism, death, politics (domestic and foreign), current events, family roles, media influence, the environment, bigotry, sports, body image, stereotypes, and yes, even sex in recent months.  I particularly value this aspect of our club as we navigate the middle school years and head into high school next year.  As much as we like to believe the communication lines are open with our girls, it's good to have this extra venue where our daughters are at ease with people they trust and enjoy to say things that they might otherwise hold back.

The middle school years can be tumultuous for the most together of young people.  Kids, and I believe girls in particular (biased, perhaps), go through dramatic physical and emotional changes in a very short period of time.  I feel like we've found in our book club a sort of refuge from some of that - a place that's consistent and familiar and safe.  And for us Moms, as diverse as our beliefs and political views may be, we have a strong mutual respect and fondness for one another as mothers trying to guide our girls to adulthood in as healthy a way as possible.

Get the flash player here:

I suppose if I were worth my salt, I wouldn't have sat around waiting to be invited to a book club and would have just started one up myself (although I'm especially happy to spend time with this particular group of lovely young girls and their Moms).  I highly recommend it for girls OR boys (my friend in CA is in a mother-son book club), and I don't suppose there's any rule that says it couldn't include Dads.  It would require a more "evolved" Dad than most husbands, I imagine, but it's certainly not out of the question.

A group could also be tailored to any age, but 3rd or 4th grade strikes me as a good time to start - when the kids are reading chapter books and more able to sit still for a meaningful conversation and then go play or do an activity fairly independently.  We actually have The Little Prince on our list for our December meeting (we try to keep it short for the busy holiday season).  Profound ideas can be found in the pages of very small books and in the minds of very young kids.

Starting a club during elementary school also gives the kids a chance to gel as a group before reaching the chaos of the middle school years.  The more allies the better!  While our girls do not necessarily move in the same groups at school and have diverse interests, they share a camaraderie born of book club bonding that is always comfortable and serves them well out there in the middle school jungle.

For older-aged groups in the age of social networking and cell phones, there are a slew of effective tools for communicating book club news.  E-mail has served us well, and we just recently created a private Facebook Group for the Broadneck Bookworms that allows us to post messages, book suggestions, meeting times, etc.  In addition, the girls text one another frequently (sometimes constantly!) which is a helpful reminder about the upcoming book club meeting.  Books are easier to access through technology, too, through, or the even snazzier Kindle (or other e-reader of your choice).  For purists, the local public library continues to do the job very well.

You can find plenty of information online about starting your own book club.  I wasn't around when ours was started, so I can't offer much advice on that front.  Our intrepid leader, Mia, is the brains, and frankly the heart, behind the operation, and she is always prepared with her camera, notecards for each of us to write down an impression of or thought about the current book, a list of book suggestions, and a calendar for planning our next meeting.  It's really a fairly minimal effort with a tremendous payoff (maybe I should ask Mia before making that claim).

Mia actually has a second book club for her 3rd-grade daughter called the Page Flippers (how cute is that).  I entertained the notion ever so briefly of starting up a club with my son, but I had serious doubts about the viability of such an endeavor.  I got enough static about the now defunct piano lessons and taking him to Broadway shows (he will be a well-rounded young man if it kills me, and it might).  I'm not at all sure I would be successful engaging him and a group of his Halo-playing buddies in a book club conversation that involves sitting still and coming up with insightful observations about The Secret Garden.  Clearly it would need to be tailored to a different audience, and I think I would have needed to have started earlier when I had a little more control and energy.  Thankfully, he's turning into a great reader in his own right (kudos to Percy Jackson, Hiccup the Viking, and Alex Rider...)

Whatever the case, if you're so inclined, gather up the bookworms in your circle of friends (or those that need a little nudge to become one) and consider creating a group for yourself.  It's a terrifically valuable social outlet for both the kids and the parents.  And in a fast moving world of sound bites and twitters, I think it's important for kids (and parents) to find opportunities to stop and spend a little time forming and expressing their own thoughtful opinions about what's in front of them.  A book club is just one way to go about it.  You'll have to find your own club, though, because I'm not giving up my spot!


I came across a column this week on Hometown Annapolis (the online Capital) by Eric Hartley about a book controversy at North County High School.  Apparently Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was assigned to a high school class, and a petition has been signed by a group of parents who want the book banned.  This is a book that consistently shows up on the short list of greatest novels of the 20th century.  I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read it, but I certainly will, now.  I might even suggest it for book club in coming years when the girls move up to high school.

I personally believe that we do our kids a disservice by not exposing them to a range of thought provoking, age appropriate material before they head out into their own brave new worlds.  Every kid is different, but the world they will join as an adult one day is the same for everyone - full of unimaginable things for which we can't possibly prepare them on a case by case basis.  I think we owe it to them while under our tutelage to expose them to a variety of ideas and experiences in a controlled setting and teach them how to weigh options and anticipate consquences (no, I'm not talking about buying them a 6-pack and knocking it back with them).  These years are flying by incomprehensibly fast.  We have a very brief window in which to instill just a startup dose of wisdom.  If not by the end of high school, when?

What do you think?  Have you read Brave New World, and would you object to your high schooler reading it?  Do you think shielding our kids from behaviors that we find objectionable is the best way to prevent them from joining in?  Or do we arm them with knowledge - have the hard conversations with them - in the hopes that they will make good decisions for themselves when we're not around to slip the blinders over their eyes?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the North County controversy and whether you've heard of similar issues here at Broadneck.  Happy reading!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Darker Evenings but Brighter Mornings

The time change has finally come, and I am ready for it this year.  I think the extension of Daylight Savings Time - starting earlier and ending later - is a big improvement.  I'm prepared for shorter days by the time the temperature drops in November, and it feels like spring comes a little sooner with the earlier leap forward in March.  Why didn't someone think of this sooner?

It's always hard to leave warm, long days behind and prepare for winter chill and earlier darkness, but there's also something comforting and cozy about it.  I love the feeling of my family being safely tucked in for the day earlier in the evening.  Soccer practices come to an end, and our dinner time naturally shifts earlier leaving us with more together time before heading off to bed.

Mornings, on the brighter side, don't feel so middle-of-the-night, at least for a while.  It is refreshing to head out across the Cape at 7 AM, in daylight instead of darkness, for my Monday morning orchestra carpool, making it easier to dodge the high schoolers crawling through the streets on their way to school.  I find it a little creepy on dark, foggy mornings the way they materialize through the mist - like the walking dead.  As with most things, they are not as frightening in the light of day.  What IS frightening is that I will be a parent of one of them next year...

Everyone make an extra effort to get your full eight hours of sleep to head off the ill effects of our time-shifted world.  Statistics bear out an increase in traffic accidents and general fatigue following time changes.  Be extra alert as you head out into the week, and return home safely to the Cape, before darkness falls if you can, to your bright, warm homes.  It's time to hunker down a little as winter descends.  It's a special time of year in its own right, and we can be secure in the knowledge that it will be followed by a joyful spring forward in a few short months.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Magothy Tide Chart

I've added a page to Cape Blogger with a 2-day tide chart for the Magothy - specifically Mountain Point, which by my best Google Earth calculation is at the southern tip of Gibson Island (as in, the end of Mountain Road, I guess) - right at the mouth of the Magothy.  Some on-the-ball company in Kaikoura, New Zealand called OceanFun Publishing provides this free version of their graphic tide charts, among others.  I have to give credit to the Yacht Club of Cape St. Claire for this cool link.  I shamelessly borrowed from their good find.  I've been unsuccessfully searching for local tide table code and was happy to stumble onto this source - literally at the ends of the earth.  It looks like the image below:

Mountain Point

I may tweak it cosmetically if I can figure out how to do it, but the information is accurate, down to the moon phases, and moon and sun rise/set.  You can click around it to get interactive details at a given time, and it can be advanced into the future.  Awesome!  Now I can add Kaikoura to the list of places I'd really like to visit one day!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cape Safety Awareness Day

The Strawberry Festival Committee is hosting the first Cape Safety Awareness Day at the Main Beach on Saturday, November 6th from 10 AM - 2 PM.  This is a free event, and it sounds like they're going to have lots of really cool activities and exhibits.  Check out the following link for details:

Just a few of the especially cool sounding activities:
  • The children and adults will be amazed at the BGE exhibit which fries Hot Dogs on Live Wires.
  • Anne Arundel Traffic Engineering will entice the children with an interactive pedestrian signal.
  • Anne Arundel County Road Operations will provide the opportunity for an up close and personal interview with the Snow Plow Man and his Dump Truck.
  • Anne Arundel County Police and The Sheriff’s Office will entertain the entire family with a K-9 Demo.
  • Anne Arundel County Fire Department will provide the children the opportunity to learn about fire safety while exploring their gear, a fire truck and an ambulance.
  • The Maryland State Police will offer tips on driver and pedestrian safety while allowing the children the opportunity to explore their vehicles.
I don't know about you, but fried hot dogs on hot/live electric wires, watching police dogs do their stuff, crawling through fire trucks, ambulances and cop cars, getting up close and personal with the snow plow man, and playing red light green light with a pedestrian crossing signal sounds like kiddie (and grownup) nirvana to me! Bring the kids down between soccer games for free fun and safety education, all on our beautiful Main Beach. Bet you even learn something useful yourself!

Here's my all time favorite safety song (well, after the BGE "Do Not Touch" song that my kids sang ad nauseum). You can find the original 1982 Men Without Hats video, extended version (very weird!) at this YouTube link:

I kind of prefer this 2008 remake by some goobey college kids.  Come on, sing it with me now, "Ssss-Aaaa-Ffff-Eeee-Tttt-Yyyy, SAFETY, DANCE..."


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Last Farm on the Magothy

Came across this story in Bay Weekly. Cool little piece of Magothy history. I hope they can manage to preserve the land.

Last Farm on the Magothy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cape St. Claire's Olympic Hopeful

So did all of you know that one of Cape St. Claire's own is headed to the 2012 Olympic Games in London?  I did not until I received a notice last week about a fundraiser this Friday at the Cape Clubhouse for Farrah Hall.  Farrah is Cape born and raised, a Broadneck High and St. Mary's College graduate, and now a world class windsurfer - number one in the US.  How cool is that!  The fundraiser is a spaghetti dinner/silent auction/raffle/presentation to be held this Friday, November 5th, at 7 PM.  The cost is $15/person.  Kids under 10 are free.  Farrah will join us at her old stomping ground to fill us in on her journey to the Olympics and raise some funds to put toward the effort.

For those of you who would like to learn more about Farrah and her story, she has a website at and a blog at, in addition to a Facebook page and a Twitter account, chronicling all her exploits and progress toward her goal.  It's clear from reading about her that she is a very special young woman and a terrific role model for our kids and our community as a whole.  Take advantage of the opportunity this Friday to meet her in person and show your kids what a winning combination hard work, focus, and a passion for anything you love can be.

Are there any other Cape athletes headed to the 2012 London Olympics or with their eyes set on 2014, or 2016 even?  If so, I would love to hear and blog about them.  I don't know about you, but winning an Olympic Medal - heck, just participating in the Olympics - is up there on my top three list of fantasy experiences.  It might even be number one (neck in neck with winning a Nobel Prize for Peace or Physics and flying on the Space Shuttle - all equally unlikely).

Attending the Olympics as a spectator is as close as I'll ever get to Olympic glory.  We are actually contemplating a family trip to the 2012 Games in London.  The kids will be the perfect age for the full on Griswolds' European Vacation experience, and they are as crazy about the Olympics as my husband and I are.   If we do end up going, we will be front and center in our loudest red, white, and blue attire and voices cheering on Farrah and any other local sons and daughters with our best, "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A", or perhaps instead, "C-S-C, C-S-C, C-S-C"...