Books – Ambrosia for the Mind

An encore post from several years ago – I still remember the child popping up and looking confused. I would have hugged him, but I’m sure he would have been utterly embarrassed. As we’re saying goodbye to my book-loving stepfather, this post reminds me that books are amazing.

It was a typical class transition, which in my class means a struggle to get everyone to shift gears mentally and physically. Then, guide all 25 of them into the hallway (quietly!) and across the hall for Science, and welcome the other group of 9- and 10-year-olds into my classroom for Social Studies. We made it through these maneuvers, I allowed one girl and one boy to use the rest rooms, and then turned out the lights and turned on the overhead projector to introduce the details of the upcoming research project.
Suddenly a confused-looking face peeked up from the Book Nook corner behind the computers. One of mine, looking confused, stood up and shook his head a little. He had been so involved in the book he was reading, so totally lost in its world, that he never noticed the rest of the class putting away their math books, getting out their science folders, and leaving the room. He smiled sheepishly, gathered his materials and left the room.
No, I didn’t give him grief. I couldn’t. You see, I recognized a little of the fourth grade me in this kid. My mother remembers the time I walked home from school reading a book and I walked right past our house. Books? They’re great. Who needs TV?

In case you’re wondering, the book was a Junior Classic, an abridged version of Robinson Crusoe that I picked up for $1 at a thrift store.
It was a dollar well spent.

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Flat Stanley returns – Encore

I might carry my watering can purse to a few places – like a traveling gnome, but much cuter. Flat Stanley, however, has been traveling for many years. Here’s his visit to my workplace – an encore post later reprinted on my workplace’s national blog!

(By guest blogger Flat Stanley)

 I went to work today with Daisy.
Daisy is a teacher in a newfangled kind of school; she teaches online.

Daisy’s students (and those of the school) live all over the state of Wisconsin. There’s a map in the school offices showing where the students live. Wow! They’re really spread out.

Daisy took me around the high school side of the school. I met the Social Studies teacher, and we fooled around with Google Maps. He was looking for Westminster Abbey.

The high school language arts teacher has a cubicle full of posters encouraging reading – everything from Shakespeare to (be still my flattened heart) the Cat in the Hat.

Ah, high school science. I look forward to biology and earth science. I have a little more math to learn before starting physics. It’ll take more than just knowing how to add, or so I’ve been told.

Back in Daisy’s cubicle, she taught me to use a rubric to grade writing projects.
She looked over my first one and decided to grade the rest herself. I guess teaching writing isn’t my strength – yet.

Well, science is still one of my favorite subjects, so Daisy logged me into a Virtual Class in middle school science.

Cool. Very cool. The teacher called on students and then let them “write” on the virtual whiteboard to connect vocabulary words with their meaning. This would be a great way to learn, at least for a flat geek like me. I could keep on traveling, as long as I had Internet access.

I looked over Ms. W’s shoulder as she worked on lesson plans.

Then I moved once again to middle school language arts. They write a lot of essays. Wow!

We couldn’t stay away from Daisy’s desk for long, so I offered to help her make phone calls.
A fifth grader needed help with her math. Ooh, those multi-step problems. They rock my socks! Wait. I don’t wear socks. Never mind.

Daisy and her coworkers were great hosts. They told me if I want to teach like they do, I need a working knowledge of computers – and a talent for making coffee.

Thanks to Flat Stanley, visitor from Irving, TX, for the guest post today.

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Brahms, Death, and just being there

Readers, I lost someone dear to us tonight. I’ll write a tribute later. For now, I’ll bring up a piece of wisdom from a past post.

A long time ago, when I was young and studying piano, I was struggling to play Brahms. I could play the notes, it sounded nice, but my performance was lacking in the emotion and the intensity that makes Brahms’ works the dramatic pieces that they are.
My teacher stopped and thought. Then she told me:

I once had trouble playing Brahms. I couldn’t express it properly, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was missing. I never knew what to say at funerals, either.
Then my husband died. And I realized what I had never known; that there was nothing anyone can say at funerals. All you can do is be there; and being there is the most important thing of all.
And then, then I could play Brahms.

Well, I stuck to Debussy and Chopin for a long time. But I know now; even if there is nothing to say, no way to help the grieving, it’s important to be there.

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Daisy’s traveling purse

The short version of the story: I saw this.

The green option.

The green option.

I said to myself, “Oh, self, that is amazing. Can I find one like it?”

So I did.

Pink Purse hanging in cubicle

Pink Purse hanging in cubicle

Tonight, we went out to a local restaurant for dinner. I set my purse on a shelf next to the table. It seemed to work.

The waiter did a double take.

The waiter did a double take.

So, friends in the blogosphere, expect more adventures of the Pink Watering Can Purse. I predict more adventures like this one.

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What Not to Eat

I have felt uneasy about lawn services for a long time. We cut back on ours, but Chuck wasn’t quite ready to give it up altogether. A post from the Smart Ingredients Blog arrived in my inbox, and it made a lot of sense. I really don’t want those pesticides seeping into the soil near my garden, no matter how seldom.

In the post called Intentional Eating, the blogger discussed ingredients that are harmful and hidden in processed foods. Here’s a sampler.

  • MSG – Can causes weight gain, brain damage, depression, headaches. Found in seasonings, broths and packaged foods.
  • Aspartame – A carcinogen. Found in diet foods and gum.
  • High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Can cause weight gain, tissue damage, diabetes. Found in sweets, breads, salad dressings, condiments and more.
  • Food dyes – Can cause hyperactivity. Found in many items, the not-so obvious ones include kids’ medicines, vitamins, pickles, muffins, salmon.

Her list was longer, but you get the idea. The solution? We’re doing a lot of it already, but I know my family could get better. Suggestions start with:

  • Change something. Small steps lead to better lifetime habits.
  • Make your own. Get in your kitchen and start making cleaner foods for your family.
  • Read labels. You may be surprised – even shocked! – at what’s in commonly purchased foods.

To read the entire post about Intentional Eating, go to the Organizing Dinner Blog.

This is not a sponsored post. It just reinforced what I’d been thinking and gave some specific examples. Readers, what else do you do to cut out the chemicals in your family’s foods?

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Ready for Storms – or whatever

I was thinking as we watched The Weather Channel last week. Amigo and I were following the big tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma. I was wowed by the video of funnel clouds forming, and he was fascinated by the commentary. I kept hoping the camera I watched was on its tripod and working automatically – I wanted to know that the photographer had taken shelter! The close captioning messed up once and called the tornado a torpedo. Not so far off, as damage reports go. One is a natural disaster, while the other is…never mind.

We’ve had a long stretch of luck weatherwise, relatively speaking. Knock on wood (firewood, perhaps), we haven’t had a power outage in a long time. But if (when?) we do, we’re ready.

firewood, if we need a little heat

firewood, if we need a little heat

Then there’s mealtime. If the power is out, the microwave won’t work. The gas stove needs its electric ignitors, a.k.a. pilot lights. We could make peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwiches, or I could, maybe, cook over the fire. Somewhere in the basement we have a long fork for that purpose, and I have a few cast iron pans, too. Here’s the dutch oven —

iron dutch oven

 

I have two smaller cast iron pans, too. One I bought for myself, and the other ( the mini) was a gift.

Medium and small pans

Medium and small pans

If I’m forced to get creative by a lengthy storm or other disaster, we can still eat reasonably well. There’s also the charcoal grill, if outside cooking is an option.

So, readers, chime in. Do you have an emergency power outage plan? Kit? Provisions? Tornado season is upon us in some regions and will be upon us Northerners soon.

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Seedlings

They’re here! The seeds are coming up. They’re kind of spindly, though, and they’re stretching their little necks – er, stems – toward the wee bit of sunshine that comes through the windows.

Okay, everybody, lean!

Okay, everybody, lean!

I set them outside a few days ago when the temperatures got near 60. Then I brought them inside to soak in the heat of the grow lights. If I can do that a few more times, it’ll help the spindly stems strengthen. Say that ten times fast, if you can.

I have herbs that wintered indoors, tomatoes, peppers, and — radishes.

Radishes in coffee cans - Chuck's suggestion.

Radishes in coffee cans – Chuck’s suggestion.

We’ll see how they all grow. Most years, I put the pedal to the metal, er, the seedlings in the soil at the end of May. These little tiny starters should be ready by them.

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Doomsday? Not so fast.

I blog about life, my life, and that includes a lot of gardening, canning, and otherwise preserving summer’s fresh bounty for the long winter months. Every now and then, I get comments or emails from so-called Doomsday Prepper groups. These are people who share my fascination with self-sufficiency, but for different reasons. Many Prepper groups expect the world as we know it to end soon and without warning. Their fears range from the massive changes due to global warming to a complete collapse of our government.

I’m not a doomsday type of person, but I do like to stock up when the veggies are fresh and I have time to can. This stock-up process gives us good quality jams and pickles and more goodies in the pantry and locally grown vegetables in the freezer. We don’t do it to prepare for some mythical End of the World, but it does ease our winter grocery budget and bring a taste of summer to the table when there is snow on the ground.

So when I started reading Michael Perry’s book Coop, I could identify with his statement in the Prologue.

Whether through prescience or too much nervous reading, we have developed a low-key doomsday mindset regarding the imminent future, and believe the time has come to store up some potatoes and teach the young’uns how to forage.

He hit it right on the head. Maybe I should stop reading so much dystopian fiction. Or maybe I should just water the seedlings, spread the compost, and always remember to vote.

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Bunnies! Spring decor

I’m not a designer or a decorator. I’m content if the Christmas decoration are put away by the time the snow melts. So putting away the snowmen and snowflakes during Spring Break was a reasonable goal.

The next set of decorations featured – do you want to guess? Oh, I gave it away already. Bunnies. Spring means rabbits.

La Petite's collection

La Petite’s collection

This set of (mostly) bunnies was in La Petite’s old room. In the process of turning that into an office-slash-guest room, I’m taking down some of the decorations. These will do a little time in the den, and then I’ll pack them up with bubble wrap and bring them to the bunny whisperer herself, La Petite.  Here, take a closer look.

Kids with bunnies

Kids with bunnies

Oops - This one doesn't belong.

Oops – This one doesn’t belong.

Okay, readers, it’s time to share. What are the signs of spring in your humble homes?

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Celery?

My wonderful sister-in-law has started getting organic produce delivered to her home regularly. She now has a dilemma: what to do with all the celery. Since she didn’t take my suggestion and get a pet rabbit, I’ve decided to come up with a list. Friends, family, and Internet acquaintances, please chime in.

  • Ants on a log: celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins
  • Variation on ants on a log: celery sticks with Nutella
  • Add diced celery to: casseroles, soups, salads, baked beans,
  • Use it as a garnish – to almost anything, not just Bloody Mary or V8.

I ran a search for “recipes with celery” and found lots of suggestions.

  • Apple-celery salad, anyone?
  • Almond baked celery
  • Sweet and sour celery
  • Celery and rice
  • Stuffed celery
  • Celery sauce…the list is endless. And don’t for get celery root! That’s an entirely different flavor.

Then there are the other uses. Slice a long, leafy stalk halfway up – lengthwise (does that make sense? I really need a visual.) It’ll have two “legs” that come together at the top. Set each end in a separate glass of water. Add red food coloring to one glass and blue to the other, and let my darling young niece learn about capillary action.

Does that help, SIL? Readers, give her a hand. What else can you do with celery?

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