Friday, September 12, 2014


It's sad when a big old tree has to be taken down.  Some of them here in the Buffer Zone have been senselessly cut down to make room for big houses and trucks that need to maneuver around on tight lots to put up big houses.  But, I think this big guy in the picture was sick.  You can see he had some hollowness that looks like rot in his trunk.  A lady pointed out what she thought was a bluish tinge to the inner bark which she believed to be an indicator of lightening damage.  I wasn't so sure.

Also, here is our last little harvest of pole beans before I cleared out the plants.  The velcro like leaves were yellowing--getting what I think of as "plant fatigue" as August winds up and the hot days stretch on into September.  You know how you start off pulling a few beans and then there are more than a handful, so you put them in your pocket or the front of your shirt because you didn't really mean to start pulling beans in the first place?  Well, that's what was happening here.

It's raining now.  Here at the school week's end, I'm feeling a little bit of "person fatigue" haha.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dream Cars

This weekend we went to a fantastic show of concept cars.  This is the second car show I've seen at the High Museum, and both were amazing.
The cars are so big and shining.  Imagine driving any of them!

This big old guy called the Scarab was a little bit caravan.  Check out the front and back details.

My favorite was this wing-y futuristic model the Ghia Gilda.  I'd love to take this for a spin!  Looks like flame would shoot out the tail pipe at the back.

Loved the door handle! 

This car had a glass bubble like top.

And this one was some sturdy gangster-like model.  A chic girl in white fur would emerge from this.

There was another cool one that I LOVED (a super low Ferrari that looked like it might fly), but my camera was not in my hands and when we got home, we realized no one had even snapped it once.  Alas.
(Funny.  Around our house, we really do say "alas.")

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Lantern Parade

I have been so busy going around and being a half tourist of my own town this week that I have loads to put up on this blog.  However, in the interest of time and attention spans, I am going to break all of it up into smaller posts.
Last night was the annual Lantern Parade in the city.  This was the fifth parade celebrating the construction and completion of a beautiful walking, jogging, biking pathway connecting points through the city in what was once dangerous wasteland where no one dared to venture (or had reason to)-- especially at night.  Now it is full of permanent art installations, fountains, trails, loft space and stylish apartments.
I met up with an old college friend I hadn't seen for over--well, for many years.  We were delighted and amazed.  Her young daughter was with us, so we watched a little of the parade, and marched along a little too.  Everyone brought lanterns, homemade or bought, and we all had a fabulous time celebrating how much we love our city.
People gathering before the parade.

The start of the parade.  Here come the really elaborate lanterns!

I realized pretty quickly that I would not be able to take photos of everything.  I had to just shut off my camera and enjoy the rush and sensation of being there in the moment.  
All of these joyful people and their creative individuality was infectious!  As we left, we were already planning our lanterns for next year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making Things: Granola and Crochet

I am a big believer in eating breakfast.  My ideal breakfast is oatmeal.  However, getting up before dawn and cooking is out of the question, so I keep bananas on hand even though I am not a great fan of bananas.  But it gets me a serving of fruit and is an easy grab-and-go food.  This week I made granola bars.  This granola is so delicious!  My oldest son used to love it when he was little, especially the little clumps of wheat germ.  He would pick them out gobble them up. (It wasn't in bars. We mostly eat it loose.)

cherry almond variety

I always aim to be a healthy eater, though I have to admit I love cheese puffs and Coke.  That is about my all time favorite junk food combination.  I know if I am craving that, then I am hungry and probably tired too.
Luckily, I don't keep those things around the house, so if I am to eat them, I have to go buy them which is an extra step that makes me reconsider and keeps me from caving in.  Most of the time.

Slowly, slowly I have also been working on a crochet scarf.  I love the fall colors.  I have hardly had any time to work on it, and it isn't repetitive enough for me to do in a relaxed half attentive sort of way.  I have to have my brain on to do it, so these evenings of mush mind have not been conducive to this pattern.

Ruden's scarf from Interweave

I'm half done.  By the time fall is here I may have it finished.  No.  I will have it done by then.  I'm just feeling sorry that I can't just push all my school work aside and work on this instead--much more fun!  I just love the leaf like design in this and the yarn.  I bought it as a kit, which I hardly ever do, but I couldn't imagine doing it any differently.

I know this week will be another busy one, though I am beginning to get my feet under me.  And then, next weekend is a long one.  Whoohoo!  Working on this scarf will definitely be on the agenda.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Books and Pho

Oh my!  I have been so busy with school and the change of routine.  One week feels endless.  I am getting up with the moon again and often working at home right up to the time I have to go to bed.  It's always a crush like this no matter how much I do ahead of time.

One of the initiatives I am working on this year is trying to get kids to read.  I have been collecting books so that I will have plenty around for anyone who comes to class without.  Focusing on this got me thinking about these little libraries we have around town.  Anyone is welcome to put one up at the edge of their yard or in front of their business.

At the entrance to the park

I love that this one is right where the sidewalk ends.

Anyone can freely take books they like away, and drop off books they don't need any more.  Of course, I LOVE this idea.  It's fun to see what people around the neighborhood are reading--or discarding even.  Today I took a book called Baseball for Everyone that I thought might interest some of my boys.  We also picked up a book about the Beatles which had a postcard inside and news clippings from the 1970's.
We put in some books that weren't really our style (though best sellers) that someone in our family likes to pass on.

We also experimented with making pho (a Vietnamese soup) this week.  We had fresh ingredients we didn't want to fade, so we made it two nights in a row.  The second broth was better.  It came from a packet.  The first was in a box.  (I don't think really excellent pho broth comes from either of those sources--but that second one was actually really good).  We didn't have quite the exact noodles either, but it was all yummy anyway.

Then today, I was finally able to get out and tidy up the garden.  It is looking wild, weedy, and neglected.  I've cut off the tomato plants in this picture because they have so many yellow leaves they are depressing.  The new growth is nice and green an healthy though.  I've tied bags of moth balls to the tomato cages in effort to keep away mice/rats.  It seems to work a bit.  At least we are getting a few tomatoes and not waking every day to find them chewed.
One big hooray: the tomatilloes we planted from seed are producing fruits!  It certainly took awhile.  We have had flowers and flowers and flowers and lots of bees, and now finally those little balloon lantern like pods.  We'll have to use those and our abundance of peppers to make a salsa.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Creepy Crawlies and Rain

Pools that collect on the granite surface of Mount Arabia

King snake

Poblano pepper

It has been as tropical here as ever.  Little rains come up nearly every day.  Or torrents like yesterday, which stormed in and blew over trees and filled our little dog washing bathing pool up so high it flooded. On those sultry days when the rain doesn't actually fall, the sky is heavy and full and the air feels thick.  It's uncomfortable to move.
On the day we took the nature hike, we were all so sweaty we looked as if we had been rained on.  Our clothes were that wet!  Bleh!
But, it's good weather for toads.  And snakes, who eat toads.
My oldest son is something of a snake magnet.  We also saw a black racer that day, telescoping around among some lily pads, but as soon as he saw us--bam! He was off.  They don't call him a racer for nothing.
Meanwhile, it has been a back-to-school week, which means exhaustion as we adjust to new rhythms and expectations.  August, in my mind, should still be holidays--swinging in hammocks and eating Bomb Pops.  Ah well.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Play, Work, and Learning: Reflecting on the Make Cycles

Well, the summer make cycles have ended.  I feel pretty good because I completed six out of the seven.  The only one I didn't even attempt was the one about making a game.  I really balked at that one because I never have liked games much.  I mean board games or video games or organized sports.  I was always one of those last picked for teams, and I don't have a particularly competitive nature.

However, when I was a kid the "games" I was best at were story games--you know role play games where we pretended to be people stranded on desert islands like Swiss Family Robinson, or kids exploring caves in fear of Injun' Joe.  The other kids would say, "Let's play that game again, and you tell it.  You make the best stories."  And I would spin out a "game" I'd plundered from movies mostly, and I'd always take the boy's role because it was pretty clear that they got to do all the really fun stuff while the girls parts mostly involved imagining up clothes and sweeping out huts and taking care of babies or small animals.

We also played with little dolls and built worlds for them all around the various floors of the houses of my childhood.  I remember playing with my brother, who used a Steve Austin action Million Dollar Man in a game so involved that we were both in tears at the end because the character I had died. !

The picture above is from a book I loved as a child called Knight's Castle by Edward Eager.  (Illustrated by N. M. Bodecker.)  The children in this book have done just as we did, used cans and boxes and books pilfered from here and there around the house, to create an elaborate world for their knights and ladies toys. (In the book the place becomes real at night when everyone but the children are asleep!)  The clmooc make cycle got me thinking about this kind of game, this way of playing.

We all know that play is the work of children.  And it is a joyful work that we lost ourselves in as children do today.  I think of the many times I have called my children to come home, or told them it is time to leave a friend's house, only to have them say, "But we just barely started!" I felt the same way setting up all those imaginary worlds.  We were organizing everything so carefully to prepare for play--we thought--that we didn't even get to play before time ran out.  As adults we realize that the process, the preparation for play, was the play.  The process is as valuable, and often more valuable, than the end product.

Wouldn't it be great if school work were so absorbing that children became oblivious of time?  Project based learning should be like this. Building the project--thinking it up, putting it together, making it real.   Emphasizing the process.  The make cycles this summer have sharpened my awareness of this--brought it to the front of my mind in a way that already I am eager to push to the front of my teaching.

Also, children today don't seem to play like we did, or at least not as often.  They aren't out there pretending to be this or that type of person in this or that place.  They have screen games that show so much to them they don't have to think it all up.  So, classroom projects become all the more essential for working that imaginative, playful, problem creating and solving part of the brain.  I know I felt my brain stretch this summer.  And for that I am thankful.  Way to go clmooc!  I intend to carry on.