13 December 2009

the damage report

A wee skiff of snow came.  Then the upper 20's cold snap for three nights.  Quite cold for us!  Now it's raining.  The meyer lemons that had set are fine (Diane, you will be happy to know!).  Many of the late fall buds (only a quarter to half inch in size) that had just started to grow into fruit are black with frost damage.  It won't be the thick crops we've had in the past but enough for friends and family to enjoy, none the less.  The bower vine, which provides us with such striking pink-throated white flowers and fabulous seed pods each year, took quite a hit.  I'll wait until spring before I trim the branches, because nature sometimes has a way of popping back from adverse conditions.  Everything else faired quite well.  Some plants, that in other parts of the country would have been dormant a couple months ago but were still blooming here, have now rested for the season.  They'll require some trimming back in preparation for spring.

When the rain stops, leaves will be raked and stems will be cut back.  The plants are taking their winter intermission.  The only thing that will be multiplying and developing will be the compost.

06 December 2009

a strong potential

Last week was the sudden thunder, quickly followed by hail.  Little balls of ice that came down quick, hard, and fast.

Tonight there's a hard frost advisory, which in itself warrants a "heads up"--we don't get hard frosts, except on rare occasions.  But attached to this sting of a real frost is a "strong potential" that we will get SNOW!  Snow?!  Don't misunderstand:  I was raised in the stuff, walked to school in the stuff, spent hours playing in the stuff.  But I have gotten "soft" living here in the meek and mild California valley the past fifteen years or so.  I don't even own a windshield scraper.  There's no need.  What little frost that may be on the windshield a few mornings a year can easily be taken care of by the defroster in the time frame my grandpa would say was "two shakes of a lamb's tail".

I've gleened the last of the jalapeno peppers off my plants, which up to now have continued to bloom and produce since spring.  They're hardy plants but they won't survive the potential 27 degree (F) temperatures predicted.  Winter crops which have just started to come up are covered in straw.  Citrus trees are being covered, "house" plants that normally live outside on my patio year-round are being covered, bird feeders are filled.  I'm ready.  Bring it on.

06 November 2009

the wool is coming out

That cool snap of fall is definitely here!  Now, I know it's not the same as for friends and family farther north or higher altitudes, but for us in the California valley moderate-climate zones 8 and 9, it's chilly in the evening and early morning (no, really, it is).  I won't discuss the (ahem) near 80 degree (F) weather we have during the day, or mention (only briefly) to you about the lemon trees that have decided to bloom again leaving a sweet scent in the air.  The shadows are longer, the minutes of daylight are dwindling, and the deciduous tree colors are now into the yellows, oranges, reds, and browns.  Those are the perfect signs of seasonal change for savory soup, hot bread, and a favorite mug filled with a tasty warm liquid.

Wool yarn, which was untouchable in the summer heat, has been happily finding its way into my knitting basket and bag.  Six items are checked off the holiday gift list.  Of course that list seems to have a life of its own and appears to be adding items in the middle of the night...my, oh my!  It's a bit concerning when I notice the date on the calendar.  I am, however, determined to stick with my two-fold plan of a handmade and parred down holiday this year.

30 September 2009

thank you, september

What a lively month, a month teeming with color pencils, ink, watercolors, canned jams and fruits, last garden harvests, knitting, simplifying, organizing, and celebrating.

Right now, I'm:
::  sensing a shift from summer to autumn (finally)
::  listening to Prairie Home Companion and Pandora
::  savoring fresh apple butter on hot crunchy french bread
::  celebrating my birth day this last day of September (or as my brother-in-law says:  another ring around the trunk, another barnacle on the hull, another candle on the cake, another layer of moss on the rock)
::  sipping hot Moroccan mint green tea
::  playing Gin on the weekends
::  welcoming chance and life
::  falling (once again) deep into the brilliant writings of Margaret Atwood
::  simplifying our home

So I ask, where are you at as this month comes to a close?

29 September 2009

something's a-brewing

There's a chill in the air and a gloomy overcast in the sky.  Now, this feels like autumn!  Yes!  Bread dough is rising, spinach and potatoes are being chopped, and the tea pot is whistling.  Today we celebrate that snap in the air with hot french bread and steaming soup.

22 September 2009

five halves

Everything around here seems to be split into two halves.  Nothing is quite done, but too far to just stop.

::  autumn equinox is upon us once again--half sunlight, half darkness.
::  my work space at home is spread out in the hallway and living room while I catalog, organize, shred, and shelve.  Must...get...it...done.

::  I had bushels of peaches and apples (a few pears were thrown in for kicks).  Peaches are done.  Apples are not.

::  Handmade goods for the upcoming holidays are coming along.  I must confess that they are not halfway completed; however, they are all planned out and budgeted.
::  Yard clean-up/trim-up done.  The garden is looking neglected and, well, used.  It's slated for clean-up for autumn/winter planting this weekend.

09 September 2009

don't forget about "me"

"When I grow up, I want to remember that I always wanted to be about a thousand different things and one lifetime didn't seem nearly enough. When I grow up, I hope it's at the very end when it doesn't matter anymore anyway."
**story people**

School is well underway for the year.  I get great joy in teaching children, in sharing my excitement for learning, writing, reading, and the amazing world of numbers.  When I can work beyond the dry mandated curriculum, when I can have the learning take place by seeing, doing, experimenting, exploring...that's when I see those "ah ha" moments in their eyes and an animation in their discussions.  And my heart flies knowing that the big idea, the concept, will stick with them because it has become a part of their exploration using all their senses.  Sadly those times are few and far.  Teaching to the test, for the test, is the norm.  A teacher's job may depend on the test scores being high (which means successful in the government's eyes).

~It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom~ Albert Einstein

We, as a planet, need creative, revolutionary thinkers-tinkerers.  We need students who can, yes, be able to answer the questions put to them, but who also know those answers not because they have memorized the words, the phrase, the formula, but know those answers because the questions have been explored, felt, pondered, experimented, connected.

We need students who will grow up, keeping some of that inner child with them, that sense of wonder.  Take a moment to watch this creative wee animation, which captures my heart.

I know I have that child in me and she pops out quite regularly (sometimes my fabulous husband thinks she's out a lot).  I'm the adult you will find playing in the puddle, noticing the mushrooms sprouting, daydreaming while watching clouds.  I'm the teacher who thinks about that puddle, those mushrooms and clouds, and wonders how to use these to teach and explore about physics, biology, mathematics, writing, and reading.

I'm the teacher who regularly takes the classroom outside.  We take our reading, discussing, experimenting, calculating outside with sunshine, fresh air, and movement.

I'm the teacher who has opted out of taking on a classroom full time.  I'm not sure where these thoughts I've shared here will lead me in my zest for teaching, learning, and exploration.  I do know that this is the right move for me.  I'm excited, a bit nervous, and completely pumped about my options and opened avenues!  Yes!  Welcome September and creativity and zest!

08 September 2009

a history in sand

This video is quite moving and so much more than simply saying "amazing".

From Youtube: "Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine's version of 'America's Got Talent.' She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and 'sand painting' skills to interpret Germany's invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII."

07 September 2009

color explosions

The "arts" component of education has been stripped away over the years, replaced with what feels like "drill and kill" and "teaching to/for the test". Quite sad. It creates teachers and students who are starving for color, movement, and life.

As the school year gears up each September, Sacramento has a sidewalk art festival, called "Chalk It Up!" to raise money for children's art education. In their words:

"Chalk-It-Up! to Sacramento is a non-profit organization created to benefit children's art education programs. Chalk-It-Up! raises money through several annual events including its annual Festival.

All money raised by Chalk-It-Up! funds grants, sponsorships and art programs for children throughout the Sacramento region."

It's a feast of the senses to walk around this small block of park each year--the intense, saturated colors of chalk, the live music on stage, the giggles of both children and adults, the amazing graphic art. I especially love the almost palpable creative energy that just seems to bubble up and transform these ordinary strips of sidewalk into something temporarily beautiful.

02 September 2009

a banner end to august

A friend warned me about the current placement of Mercury but who knew it would involve a small fire (a smolder, really) in my dryer? Oh, and who, I would like to know, has their dryer professionally cleaned each year, as suggested by the manufacturer?! Well, the short version is that we now have a new dryer, and believe me, it will get cleaned out each year (by me).

The first thing I thought of, as the dryer and washer were being pulled out by my cool-headed engineer husband, was to clean behind those appliances and choose a fresh wall color. Painting makes me happy and who gets these kinds of opportunities to freshen up a room that is normally filled with heavy household machines? (It's also a fantastic way to rid the small room of that burnt-electrical-blackened-lint smell.)

I must confess, I find joy in walking the hardware store. The shiny ladders in so many different sizes, the isles of tools that I'm sure I could use for something, the neat stacks of fresh lumber with that lingering smell of pine, the many rainbows of paint chips. The final color choice: "Sage Sweater".  I believe a fine fitting name.

05 August 2009

fresh-picked peaches and a multitude of berries leads to...

...spending an outstanding afternoon teaching a friend to make jam for her first time--she loves the "pop" of the lids as they seal almost as much as I do.

...mixing boysenberries, blackberries, marionberries, logan berries, blueberries, strawberries, and peaches for a flavor that is so extraordinary and intense.

...making fresh loaves of banana bread, topped with cream cheese to properly sample the still-warm berry jam (my man's new favorite snack).

...constructing a peach cobbler to share at knit night.

wordless wednesday :: nephews at oregon creek

29 July 2009

rolling on vacation

Eighteen hundred air miles and six hours in not-made-for-comfort airplane seats took us to Chicago for a week.

Didn't take a camera (so sad, really). How did that happen? I needed, no...longed, pined, craved for, my camera.

There were fireflies, city rats, three-foot narrow spaces between lovely narrow two-and-three-story brick houses leading to secret gardens in the back, ornate iron gates, brownstone houses that would make your knees weak, sidewalk fairs, Chicago "dipped" beef sandwiches with cheese and hot peppers requiring half-a-dozen napkins per person, the Newberry Library book sale, fresh beet salad (beets gathered at a farmers market), spectacular afternoon thunder storms, sidewalk cafes with some seriously amazing foods, card playing into the wee hours of the night, rib-sticking German food (complete with live polka music and a dance floor), an evening at the Steppenwolf Theatre to see "Up", and an evening with family, friends, wine, with my husband's own recipe made-from-scratch beef wellington dinner.

A few facts to share:
:: second, third, and fourth story walk-ups have steep, narrow stairs that list ever so slightly to one side.
:: everyone I know in Chicago lives up these stairs.
:: neither wine nor beer improve the ability to trek these stairs.
:: people who live in Chicago are used to walking and traveling in distances measured in minutes and blocks (and in the case of using a cab, in dollars), not miles.
:: cities are noisy and have a cornucopia of smells (let me just say, not all good).
:: airports, buses and subways are the best for people-watching.

09 July 2009

forestry camp

Hey ho ... a dear friend and I have returned from the Stanislaus National Forest with six days of forestry camp for teachers (Forestry Institute for Teachers: FIT). Early mornings, late evenings, games, presentations, soil digging, tree measuring, star gazing, sleeping bags, campfire songs with fiddle and guitar, s'mores (no sir, no camp would be able to hold their head high without that sugar-fest of chocolate, graham crackers, and roasted marshmallows), as well as field trips to private and federal logging sites, a cedar saw mill, and a co-generation electric plant (which cleanly burns the waste from the saw mill as well as the collected yard waste from homes nearby--now this is good green technology; what little waste the plant creates is used in dairies).

We came back with many books, knowledge (from all the various viewpoints left to right), and the best hands-on supplies to outfit a study unit on forestry.

I think we also came back weighing at least five extra pounds. It seemed to always be meal time, with the most delicious banquets. Between the meals there were never-ending freshly prepared snacks (rice crispy treats, warm cookies, popcorn, fruit).

Proof below that I am not the only goofy teacher who dresses up.

25 June 2009

the journal :: a beginning

This wonderful journal, by Keri Smith, came to me recently as a gift with the directive to absolutely follow as many of the page's directions as possible. Ha. It sounded easy until I flipped through this seemingly benign little black book. I couldn't possibly abuse the book as instructed to...could I? I was raised to revere books, treat them with kindness and respect, never abuse them. I put it on a shelf, gently slipping it between two craft books, until yesterday.

Again, I carefully read through the pages, wondering where to begin. It seemed to go against the "rules" (if there is such a thing with a book titled "Wreck This Journal") to start on the first page, so I took it with me to the shower (as instructed). A cleansing, a beginning, if you will.

It felt a little naughty, a little bad, to do such a thing as purposely soaking a book. I have to admit I looked at the page "bring this book in the shower with you", closed my eyes, and the little black book and I took the plunge into the falling water. She (yes, the book is a she, and no, I don't have a name for her yet) is now out on the edge of the garden, drying and most likely being invaded by ants.

24 June 2009

reflection, part 2

As I was cleaning up, organizing, and reminiscing my way through oodles of photos (you know, like you do...), I came across some sights specific only to the town I grew up in. Those formative years, those years upon which impressions of the world are built. Caution: the county has legal gambling (which for some folks is not such an "oh!" these days) everywhere...in the grocery store, at the petrol station, at the bowling alley...everywhere.

Someone years and years ago killed, stuffed, and mounted a polar bear. It still resides inside this casino, forever on display behind a huge glass box, standing upright to greet everyone who enters. I have never felt good about seeing that regal creature, even as a child, in such a state.

The county also has legal prostitution.

I don't know how to add on to that last statement. These establishments are located over the "tracks" and down by the river. That sounds cliche but it's true.

Growing up with these businesses in town was normal for me. Some have been around since long before my time, some have sprung up since I have left the area. They were just part of the town. Such as small towns are, I'm sure everyone knew everyone else's "business". We knew my friend's uncle spent most evenings in this neighborhood. The first places we went as high school-ers to sell raffles and fund raisers were here. The last places we would tell anyone we went by were here.

23 June 2009

fever of summer

Yikes! Summer heat has hit. Knocking at the door of the hundred degree (F.) mark today. With this heat comes the sweetening of foothill peaches and mandarin oranges, the ripening of tomatoes to a deep luscious red, and the making of fresh lemonade.

22 June 2009

reflection, part 1

Time doesn't seem to be a constant. I know this to not be true, but there were times during this past school year when minutes seemed like hours, and then hours cruised by like minutes. For sure there were a few valleys as well as the many beautiful peaks. I prefer to savor the peaks, those high points that make everyone's day.

With my trusty "tech support" friend holding my hand through non-Apple quicksand, I (we) created CDs of photos I took over the school year for my little sixth grade fledglings.

21 June 2009

signs of summer

Welcome SUMMER! Glad to see you again.

The rope is ready for "pond dropping".

The dock is the perfect spot for dipping feet.

I do believe the fish are hiding amongst the cattails and lilly pads.

Grape jelly is forecast. Just look at those wee grapes!

A perfect start to the summer season. These snapshots are seen daily by my folks. I spent the day moving rocks for my mom, sipping iced green tea, and clicking away with my camera.

24 April 2009

yes, and yes

All I can say is "wow"--oh, and YES!

Thank you, Patti Digh.

22 April 2009

earth forces

"I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny, invisible, loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like a capillary oozing water, yet which, if given time, will rend the hardest moments of human pride." ~~William James~~

This Earth Day brings promise and hope. I believe that. Yes, there are cascading events happening around our planet showing us heart-breaking destruction. But I believe there is hope in individuals making change. There is greatness inside us--strength, with attitudes that our cup is "half full".

11 April 2009

candy for the senses

Loving this song today as I dance around in the sun beams, dye eggs, and make fresh bread for tomorrow's BBQ. The tequila and lime...they're for the fresh scallop ceviche (we are in charge of appetizers and bread).

I want this music to play when I open and write in my journal! Be still my heart!

This video puts the biggest grin on my face. Oh, the creativity!

These doves make the most wonderful purring/cooing sound. They, too, are enjoying the return of the sun.