Friday, April 27, 2012

Will's Drummer - part of today's MAESA Fair art competition

I'm not sure that Will won anything but I loved his sculpture.  He created this in art class as part of a group assignment to create a band.  Will's drummer doesn't represent anyone in particular but some of the boys in class made sculpture that represented a real person or had some other creative idea behind it (e.g., one group created a band called JB 3 - Justin Bieber, a Jonas Brother and John Brown (whose "body lies a-moulding in the grave")….that guy rattled his chains).  I had meant to photograph some of the other art on display and never got to it. I LOVE children's' art and there were some beautiful pieces that were part of this exhibit.  

I hope all these kids appreciate how lucky they are to have actual studio art classes and to have them all the way through middle school. I would have *loved* that opportunity but it was not available.  At my school elective classes ran a whole year so you had to choose between art, music, drama, etc. I remember a lot of agony over that choice.


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Friday, April 20, 2012

Will and Lyra do the Macarena!

Lyra picked this up pretty quick!

IMG_0046.MOV Watch on Posterous

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Cutest cotillion ever!

Lyras's been dying to dance all of cotillion season and she is finally getting a chance! Will has really looked after her all evening. He took her under his wing during the class dinner and shared his very enormous dessert with her. I think the girls in his grade might be impressed.

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Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pond Cleaning: AKA Monsters of the Deep

One of my least favorite spring activities is cleaning our small ornamental pond. It takes at least half a day, always requires a trip to the hardware store, and usually involves some injury, or at least getting wet. However, there is usually some unexpected entertainment. This year was better than most.

We always try to keep frogs(s) in our pond for their singing, and also to eat mosquito larvae. However we have been having trouble keeping the tadpoles alive, and suspect the culprit is the catfish. (See below.) Last year a friend gave us a tadpole that was a refugee from a science project. It went in the pond, and was never seen again. Low and behold, today when I pulled some of the plant containers out of the pond I saw a frog shaped blob underneath. My first thought was that it was a clay frog that had fallen in the pond, but no, it was an actual frog, and of respectable bullfrog size. Our assumption is that this is Konrad, the long lost tadpole. Of even greater interest was the capture of our catfish. Quite a number of years ago, I bought a small (like four inch long) catfish in the hope that it would eat some algae and help keep the pond clean. The catfish went in the pond, and we did not see it for several years. When we did see the catfish, it had grown considerably and was more like ten inches long. That was a couple of years ago. Now the catfish is a monster (relative to the size of the pond) over a foot long. During the summer when we feed the fish it hoovers up most of the fish food, and we suspect, any small fish we introduce to the pond. At least I know we loose a lot of fish and never see their cadavers. In catching the catfish, I relearned an important catfish anatomy lesson. They have a very sharp spike under their back fin. I was able to catch the fish and put it in bucket, but at the cost of a deep puncture would in the base of my right index finger. I am hoping catfish don't carry tetanus.

Via iPad

The Cat Fish! Our garden is the wild animal kingdom today...

As he was draining the pond, Bill caught the catfish that's been hiding in our pond for ages. I've posted about him before. This seemed a good opportunity to get a photo and see how big our fish really is. 

The first photo is OK, you can see is poor wild eyes but his tail isn't really in there. Bill thought since he'd gone through all that work to catch the fish that we should take another photo.  So we did and in the second photo, you can see the whole fish including his wild eyes and tail.  But then milliseconds after that photo was taken, the catfish slithered out of Bill's grip and began flopping all over the bridge and in the mulch trying to get back to the pond. That is the third photo.

Now I am not good with anything that scurries around and it appears that random floppiness = scurrying. I am a little embarrassed to say that I took the last picture while shrieking and jumping around. Poor Bill slid into the pond (hip waders are a good thing) and the catfish nearly flopped himself under the edge of the bridge. Mr./Ms. Fish is now recovering in a big bucket.  PHEW. 

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Look at our Konrad, our HUGE FROG!


About 2 years ago, we took in the last surviving tadpole, Konrad, from a neighbor's science fair project. We've had a couple of Konrad sightings here and there but none for a long time....UNTIL TODAY.  Bill is cleaning the pond today and as he was draining it, he saw a very large mud-covered frog shaped thing.  We used to have a frog ornament sitting on the edge of the pond and that is what he thought it was because of its size and because we haven't seen Konrad in so long.  He poked it and what a surprise! Konrad was surprised and indignant at having his hibernation disturbed and Bill was surprised because he really didn't expect it to be a live frog. I don't know how long frogs hibernate but it must still be early because Konrad went right back to sleep.

His camouflage is quite good.  The muddy blob in the yellow circle is our froggie.  Look carefully, his folded hind legs give him away.  We are very happy Konrad will be helping with mosquito control this summer!

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Lyra has learned if she wants me to do something, she needs to write it down.

There were actually two notes about wanting a bath, so that was very important to her. But look at the other note! How funny! And cute! And true :) Now if I can just get the other kids to write me notes instead of expecting me to keep 40,000 things in my head that are not really my responsibility, that would be helpful. Maybe Lyra can train them.


Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Monday, April 02, 2012

An amazing show - Cirque Mandinque, Roundhouse London #circusfest

We saw the most amazing acrobatic performance Friday evening at the Roundhouse in Camden Town. The Roundhouse does a series every year of 'contemporary circus' performances. I like the concept as it seems to me that circus is under appreciated as a form of performance art.

The first artist in the series this year is Cirque Mandinque - please check out the video here

The video is great, but it does not do the show justice. One of the members of Cirque Mandingue is a contortionist who does things with his body that Gumby can't do. The power and control of the acrobats makes all of the gymnasts I have seen perform look physically weak in comparison. I truly could not believe my eyes at some of the moves.

As visually stunning as the show was, the music took it from being an athletic display to an artistic display. The drumming created urgency and anticipation, and seemed to urge on the performers.

Perhaps best of all, this was truly an all ages event. Our family aged 6 to 50 loved every minute. Via iPad

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Jamon Iberico and Other Treats from Borough Market London

One of my favorite things to do in a big city is visit the local food market. Some cities like Washington, DC have lots of smaller markets. Other cities like Melbourne in Australia have a huge central market. Some markets are temporary locations in a parking lot, others are large permanent halls.

Whatever the size or scope of a market, it usually provides an opportunity to experience the food culture of a city in a way that is not possible just through restaurants or traditional grocery store food.

Borough Market in London ( is near the London Bridge Underground. It has a permanent location spanning several buildings, and is open Thursday - Saturday. While there are many farmers selling their produce, I would call Borough a food market more than a farm market. There is a great mix of artisans who sell food products they have made, specialist resellers of wine and other products, and of course lots of vendors of fresh produce, meat and fish. While Borough is not as big as Victoria Market in Melbourne, that is the market it reminds me of the most.

I visited on Saturday with Will, and did not spend as much time exploring as I would have liked. However, we really enjoyed the artisans, and have a variety of jams we are taking home. We also bought dinner for our last night in London, including caprese salad ingredient, delicious fresh sausage (spicy chorizo and venison with cranberries), and Jamon Iberico. The jamon came from the vendor Brindisa ( and it was really special. I love pork, and if I could only eat one meat, it would win out. There are many great ways to eat pork, from pulled pork barbeque to artisan bacon to thick cut porkchops. However, in my opinion cured iberico ham, made from pigs fed on acorns and allowed to forage in the forest, is pork raised to its ultimate form. This is a relative of prosciutto and other cured (hung and air dried) hams, but it is drier than prosciutto and I think has a much richer and nuttier flavor. Brindisa has been importing Spanish food to England since 1988 and they had several varieties of Iberico ham. We bought 100g of a version that was aged for four years. It was lovingly cut by hand, and we happily devoured it at dinner last night. It was pricey at 15GBP for 100g ($108/lb) but that is probably less than it would be in the US. Of course, buying from a merchant so vested in the quality of their product is a great experience in itself.

Via iPad