Monday, September 18, 2006


For several years now, I've been regularly checking a site called The Leaky Cauldron . I found it when I was desperate for news about the next Harry Potter book, which at that time was not yet published and was eventually titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There are lots of Harry Potter sites on the web, but The Leaky Cauldron is the absolute best. Even JK Rowling thinks so.

What makes this site so good? They are very professional. They do talk about rumors, but they identify them as rumors, and give their opinion as to whether or not they might be true. You'd be surprised how many Harry Potter related rumors turn out not to be true, and the Leaky staff can spot a false one a mile away. Here's a recent example: the article about the rumor and a follow-up.

They are careful to tell the truth, but they also almost always have news as soon as it happens. If you want to know the latest news about anything Harry Potter related, this is the site to check. Plus, it's run by adults, not kids, so it has a certain maturity many other Harry Potter sites lack.

After I'd been visiting this site for quite awhile, they started a forum called The Leaky Lounge. This is absolutely the best Harry Potter forum on the internet. Lots of interesting discussions, and even some other Christian homeschooling Harry Potter fans (and I thought I was the only one!)

Then, just over a year ago, the staff of the Leaky Cauldron started a podcast. I had just gotten an mp3 player, though I would have listened to this even if I didn't have one (you can download them and listen on your computer, if you don't have a portable mp3 player). Right from the start, PotterCast was very, very well done. I find myself talking back to the podcast while I'm walking along listening to it -- people give me strange looks. But it's hard to listen to it without wanting to talk back, to express your own opinion or just laugh because, in addition to being informative, they are also very funny.

Since I got my mp3 player, I've found other podcasts I also enjoy. A very eclectic mix of technology-related shows, sermons, etc., but PotterCast is still my favorite. I look forward to it each week and often wish it came out more often than weekly.

PotterCast,the Harry Potter podcast: Celebrity interviews, theories, discussion and more from the Leaky Cauldron
Click here for episodes and info;
click here to use this player on your space and win prizes!

My current favorite segment on PotterCast is called Canon Conundrums. Along with Steve Vander Ark from the Harry Potter Lexicon (another great grown-up Harry Potter site), the staff of PotterCast discuss a different theory regarding some of the mysteries in the Harry Potter series each week. This week's was about why Dumbledore had James Potter's Invisibility Cloak at the time of Jame's death, which, according to JK Rowling, is apparently a "crucial" question that no one has yet asked her. I know I've asked a similar question, just how did Dumbledore get the cloak. I thought that was the same question until I listened to the experts discuss it on PotterCast and realized there are more details here than I'd even thought of. Very interesting discussion, indeed!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering . . .

This is the first year that I haven't felt an overwhelming sadness, remembering the events of September 11, 2001. Maybe it's finally starting to heal. If I feel like that, after 5 years, and I had no connection to any of those who died that day, nor really any connection to anyone really affected by what happened, other than that I live in the same country, the same state -- how must the families feel? Like it happened yesterday? Like it's a nightmare that they'll never wake up from?

I remember thinking, "How could the buildings have fallen down?" I was in denial for about a month. I'd never seen them in person. They were built when I was a child, but I don't remember hearing about it. The encyclopedia I had as a child (World Book from the early 70's) shows them not yet completed. I vaguely remember the 1993 bombing, and the little information I gleaned from the coverage of that event and still remembered eight years later was all I knew about these buildings. There are two towers? Did I know that before the morning of September 11? If someone had said to me, "describe the World Trade Center," before that morning, I don't know what I would have been able to say. Not much detail at all. Odd that I would mourn the passing of buildings that I hardly knew. . .

I spent the morning thinking it couldn't be as bad as the man on the radio was saying. I was at home when the first plane hit, but they thought it was some small plane, a tragic accident. If I have time later I want to write another post describing in detail how I heard, but anyway, I was in the car, driving down the driveway, when the second plane hit. I was on my way to a Bible study with a group of women I hardly knew -- well, I only knew one of them, and only just a little. The rest were strangers. It was the first meeting of this group. I'd been looking forward to it and a plane crash several hundred miles away wasn't going to keep me from going. If I'd still been home when the second plane hit, I probably would have stayed, but I wasn't.

"This guy is confused," I thought of the local talk show host, who I know to be an experienced radio man and not someone to give out false information. "I'm watching a second plane hit the other tower! I can't believe this!" He said something like that. "No," I thought, "he's watching a replay of the plane hitting the [first] tower. Someone's found video of what happened 15 min. ago and they showed it, and he just doesn't understand what he's seeing." Because I couldn't see the picture, of the first tower clearly billowing huge quantities of smoke, while a huge commercial plane slams into the second tower. So, it wasn't truly real to me.

I did ask the women running the Bible study to pray. Some of the women there knew about the first plane. I was apparently the only one who'd heard about the second plane. I still was thinking, however, "It's two small planes, it's a big fire, we need to pray that everyone can get out of the buildings." No idea still how big this was.

So, the Bible study started and we sat there for at least an hour, oblivious to what was going on. Eventually someone's phone rang, she stepped out to answer it and came back with the news that, "both towers have collapsed and 100,000 people are dead." My brain said, "No, that just can't be true. Buildings don't just collapse." Then the pastor came in and told us what had happened, "There might still be more planes . . . the Pentagon was hit too . . . yes, they were commercial, passenger airplanes . . ." The meeting hastily let out early and I got in my car and turned on the radio. A car bomb had gone off in front of some government building in Washington. [That turned out to be false.] I looked up into the sky above the small town I was driving through -- were more planes going to crash, here?

When I got home I sat and watched them replay the events I'd missed, again and again. My husband had stayed home from work, glued to the TV in disbelief. We sat and watched, scared and shaken.

How could a bunch of guys from so far away hate us so much that they'd do this? How could a bunch of terrorists believe so strongly in their cause that they'd be willing to die in the attack? How could this have been planned and carried out without anyone catching on and stopping it? How could those big tall buildings just fall down?

Now, five years later, I have different questions: How is it that we never went after these guys when the bombed the Cole? How could we so quickly forget what we learned and how we felt five years ago? We came together as a country and stopped our petty, partisan bickering. But only for a little while. How is it that many of us can't see the connection between the terrorist attacks we suffered and Iraq? How could we so quickly forget?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Poor Pluto

I guess it was too good to last. One of those constants you think can't change, and one day you find out that it has. I thought they could add planets, if they discovered more. But I never thought they'd take one away.

I guess some good can come out of it. I've learned quite a lot about Pluto over the past couple of days. Did you know it has 3 moons? I hadn't heard they'd discovered 2 more besides Charon. Though I still don't get this "clearing its own orbit" thing.

Just goes to show us, we don't know everything.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Yesterday, we took a day trip to Cooperstown, NY -- about and hour and a half's drive from home. We were motivated by my husband's desire to see the baseball hall of fame.

I'm not much into baseball. The website said that a serious baseball fan could spend 2 days in this museum. The less than 3 hours we spent there was more than enough, in my opinion. It was okay, but I can't see spending even a full day there. There were lots of things to see. First, the big hall with a plaque for each hall-of-famer, organized by the year they were inducted. Then you go a half-flight up and there are some exhibits and a bookstore. Then you realize that you can't go up the seemingly open staircase in the atrium outside the bookstore. The stairs are for staff only and lead to offices. In order for a visitor to get to the 2nd or 3rd floor, they must retrace their steps thru the main hall back to the entrance where there is a stairwell.

At the top of that stairwell is a cute little theater made to look like the inside of a baseball stadium. We watched a short movie about the history of baseball. Then we walked around and looked at the exhibits. The museum provides you with a sort of scavenger hunt with 10 questions based on various exhibits. If you get all of the answers right, you get a free set of baseball cards. This motivated my younger son to pay attention to some degree.

My older son was mostly bored, till we came to a TV that was playing Abbott & Costello's Who's on First comedy sketch. Suddenly we couldn't tear him away.

After the museum, we walked around the little town and looked in the shops. Most of them had a baseball theme -- lots of souvenirs and more personalized bats than all the professional baseballs teams in the world could ever use. One shop was called Rivalries and was devoted to Yankees and Red Sox merchandise. A lot of high priced stuff in all the shops, new and old. One shop had old equipments supposedly used by famous players. A bat that belonged to Lou Gerig was listed for $395.

The town itself is very picturesque. Beautiful houses and old buildings, a beautiful lake and beautiful countryside. We parked on the outskirts of town and took a "trolley" into the main business section, and then back again at the end of the day. I'll have pictures in a little while.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Low Fat Zucchini Bread

I was given an enormous zucchini, and I decided I wanted to make zucchini bread. My trusty Betty Crocker cookbook only had a recipe that called for shortening. Not having shortening on hand, I turned to the internet for a recipe. Again and again I found recipes that contained 1 cup or more of vegetable oil. Ugh! Probably very tasty but not so good nutritionally. But I finally found this one that contained only 1/3 cup oil and used applesauce to make it still moist and edible. Recipe here

I made this Thursday and it was great. I made it again today. I still have almost enough zucchini to make a 3rd batch. (I said it was a big zucchini.)

I did have one problem -- the recipe called for a smaller loaf pan than mine. But it made 2 loaves -- maybe it would all fit in one? But once I mixed up the batter, I could tell I'd have a mess on my hands if I did that. So I used my large loaf pan and put the rest of the batter in a mini loaf pan I have, one of a set of 4 that I bought a while back. I baked the big one longer than the small one, of course.

I also made some modifications to the recipe:

First, I added half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter. The bread would still be good without that, but this made it really good.

Also, I reduced the oil to 1/4 cup, added about a tablespoon of water and about 4 tablespoons of ground flax seeds. I add ground flax seeds to any recipe I can -- you can substitute 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds for 1 tablespoon of oil and it adds lots of nutrition as well. I bought a big bag of flax seeds and I grind them in my coffee grinder. My local supermarket now sells golden flax seeds in their bulk natural foods section.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unsatisfactory graphics

I am embarrassed about the graphics on this blog. I can't figure out the right color for the text of the heading, nothing is easily readable against the background. So I went in and made the area directly behind the text lighter, but it looks like some kindergartener who just learned to use a computer did it. Then, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you see something very unintended that I don't know how to fix. That's what I get for trying to modify the template without really knowing what I'm doing!

I'll probably leave it for now and try again when it's Fall and I feel like a change of graphic motif. Maybe I'll get further then and learn from my mistakes.

I long for the "good old days" of computers -- to me, that means: I remember our first computer. When we took it out of the box, we first had to install DOS (remember DOS?). Then we installed Windows -- a whole stack of 3.5" floppy disks, or maybe it was even the old 5-1/4" disks, remember those? We installed a mouse, and later a hard drive. I knew everything about how that computer worked, I edited the config.sys file, I really felt in control of it. Now, computers are so complicated, with more and more features coming along all the time, that I'm starting to feel that I can't keep up. And the web -- the first websites I visited, you could look at the code and read the words of the text among the few snippets of HTML code, and it was even obvious what the codes did. Now, websites are so complicated -- CSS, PHP, RSS, blogging, tagging, web 2.0, social networking -- it's too much for my small brain to be able to remember.

Though, there is one good thing this new technology has brought -- podcasting! Maybe I'll post more about that later.

Friday, July 28, 2006

End of the Spear

I saw the movie on DVD a couple of months ago. Then I rented Beyond the Gates of Splendor, a movie documentary that covers the same incidents, but you get to see the real people instead of actors playing them, and they do a lot of interviews with the people involved.

But I was still interested in learning more about this remarkable story, so I checked out End of the Spear, the book, by Steve Saint, from the library. I just finished reading it last night, and I can't recommend it enough. The book mentions all sorts of things you just can't cover in a movie, and all of it was fascinating. This is truly a story of a family's relationship with the Lord and how that works out in their lives, in small and large ways, in every day situations and large life challenges. I highly recommend this book, whether you've seen the movie or not.

One other comment: the movie briefly showed some sort of supernatural vision right after the 5 missionaries were killed in 1956. This was not really explained fully and I know some critics took issue with its inclusion in the movie. I'd gotten through the whole book and it wasn't mentioned -- that was the one thing I wanted to know more about that I hadn't found out about in the book. But then I flipped the page to the Epilogue, and there it was. Steve Saint explains how the Waodani told him what they saw and why he believes that it really happened. Very fascinating and encouraging book!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Triumph De Farcy

Or, in other words, beans! I selected this variety of bush bean seeds at my local WalMart (where I buy my seeds, due to their low prices, having nothing to do with the quality -- they've always worked for me, anyway).

So, this variety was represented as "bearing very early and heavily." And, it's true, they do. I planted the seeds in late May (20something) and yesterday, the beans were almost big enough to pick. I had to forcibly restrain myself from doing so. Today or tomorrow they will be ready. Maybe I'll take some pictures.

The pole beans have blossoms, though they look like they will still climb higher on my strange arrangement of PVC pipe they have to climb on. Again, I was unable to get my husband to help, so I just grabbed the pipes and arranged them as best I could. If I'm really brave, I might post a photo of that, too, so anyone who actually reads this might laugh at me.

Off to pick beans before it gets too hot!

Monday, July 17, 2006

the garbage bill

I was looking through the mail after taking it out of the box, and my curious Christopher wanted to know what I was opening.

"The garbage bill," I replied, referring to the bill we receive from the company that picks up our garbage.

Christopher was stumped. "So, you just throw the bill in the garbage?"

Oh, how I wish that's what I was supposed to do with bills! :-)

long hiatus

I just updated the layout, with a photo from my own garden. Now maybe I'll be motivated to post more often.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Narnia #1 movie

The reason I'm so thrilled is twofold:

It's the third weekend the Narnia movie has been out. Or is it the fourth?

And, it's been out a week longer than King Kong, yet it is now more popular than King Kong, and it's also more popular than any of the other new movies that have come out in the past 2 weeks!!!

Now maybe the movie theaters will sit up, take notice, and start making more films like this one. I certainly hope there is now no doubt that Disney will make all 7 movies, and not only 5 or something lame like that!

Podcasting -- not only for men anymore

Click on the title of this post if you want to read an article that says that podcasts are listened to mostly by men. Further, this article indicates that men are the first to adopt all new technology, and then women start using it later. Though it does indicate that women are "adopting" the podcasting technology faster than we have adopted other, less cutting-edge technology.

Somehow I don't think the authors included microwave ovens and dustbusters in their definition of technology.

Anyway, all you women out there, go download a podcast. Don't know how? email me, I'll tell you how. Don't know where to find one you'd like? I can help with that, too.

What's great about this technology? Like email and chat rooms, it's another way to connect with people you share interests with, even if you are separated geographically. Because the audiences of most podcasts start off relatively small, there is the ability for real interaction between those who produce the podcast and those who listen. But beyond that, it's just really nice to be able to choose when you want to listen to something and not be bound by a radio station's schedule. Not only that, but if you get interrupted in the middle, you can pause it, or even rewind it. You can't do that with radio. Several popular national Christian radio shows offer their programs as podcasts, and there are many other less-well-known shows that are available only by internet.

Don't have an mp3 player? They're not that expensive, you don't have to get an iPod. But if you don't have one, you can listen on your computer, though it's not as portable as an mp3 player. There are also devices whereby you can get your mp3 player to play over your car's radio or cassette player.

If you want to know about anything I've mentioned, just go ahead and post a comment, or send me an email.