Thursday, August 29, 2013

OMG These Pickles Taste Like PICKLES!

Let me start by giving you the recipe in case you can't read fast enough to get to the bottom.  I've waited too long to make these refrigerator pickles.  No one should wait for even one. single. second.  Click here for amazing refrigerator pickles.

Make them right now because you have to refrigerate them for a week before you can eat them.

I made these refrigerator pickles last year and loved them.  They are sweet pickles.  I made them this year and didn't love them as much.  I'm done with them.  They are too sweet.   I like a tart pickle.

With the wild amount of cucumbers I've been picking this year, I knew I needed to try more pickles.  I had pinned this recipe because these are supposed to be more like a dill pickle.

I picked my usual morning harvest.

Seriously, I get this many at least once a week!  And by the way, this is WAY too many for this recipe.  I doubled it and still didn't use all of these.

I have a great tomato cutter that isn't Pampered Chef but should be.  I thought it might work really well to make consistent cucumber slices.  The Mandoline was cutting them too thin.

I love how serrated it is because that it just pounds through tomatoes, mushrooms and thankfully, cucumbers!  I left the skins on because I think they hold together better with all the vinegar.

I made 8 pint jars of these pickles and only stopped because it was getting late and I wasn't sure if they would taste good or not.  Each jar get its own seasonings, along with sprigs of dill.  Add the cucumbers and then you pour the boiling liquid right over them.

The worst part is that you have to refrigerate them for A WHOLE WEEK!!!  A WHOLE WEEK!  That's a really long time to wonder how they will come out.

They will blow your mind.  They actually taste like what I think a pickle should taste like.  Slightly sharp, spicy.  DELICIOUS.

Why mystifies me is the process.  You don't do a water bath or pressure canning.  But, when you put the covers on, they do snap as they suck down when they cool.  They actually seal and you have to use a can opener to open them.  Does anyone know how long they can stay in the refrigerator, unopened?  I don't know how sealed they really are.  I know they have to stay in the fridge but I wonder if they were left unopened for a few months, would they still be good?

I am definitely going to make more of these with my next big harvest and probably give away the jars.  K-ster liked them so much he asked me to send some to work with him for a coworker.  That's like the most unusual request ever.

And in case you're wondering about that man hand holding the jar?  It's is a man's hand.  I'm not that manly.

Linking here: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From Sad to Almost Fab

Since I don't live in the south, I still have another week before school officially starts.  I can't believe some of you bloggers have already been in for a week or two!

That doesn't mean my mind isn't on school 24/7 but I am not required to be there until next Tuesday, so I am dipping in and out of my room at will.  I haven't stopped thinking about school since I took that cool IPAD class in mid-August.  Thankfully, I am sleeping fairly well and I'm not really having wild dreams about school, but I am thinking about it during all of my waking hours and I'm a little more anxious about my new school than I expected I'd be.

It's weird because I know 90% of the teachers, 100% of the material I will teach and 2% of the kids.  The change in grade levels and change of building that is really sinking in right now.

And I don't especially like my room.  I get down on my knees to thank God I have a room (foreign language teachers often don't have their own rooms and have to go from room to room on a cart) every day.

I like the location.  It's very close to the office, which means close to the action.  I never like to feel hidden away somewhere.  It should be no surprise that I like to be in the middle of things.  Thankfully, it's not down in the bowels of the school which I only discovered yesterday.  (we have a 2nd gym that I knew nothing about!)

I also face a courtyard which is nice for my gardening soul but it's really out of control at the moment, so it's almost sad to look outside right now!  Overgrown, weedy, things breaking due to neglect. 

The school has a very institutional feel and I am going from a school that has so many windows you feel like you are in an aquarium to one that has nowhere near the same kind of windows.  That means totally different light.  And a totally different feeling overall.

For example, my room has 2 windows just like my old room, but these tip in, like most school windows do, and they don't add much air.  I am coming from a school with big push out windows that allowed a TON of air in.

Another reason I am really bothered by my room is the lack of cabinet space as I described here.  I sucked it up and bought a shelving unit but even with the cabinet and the shelves, I don't have good storage and my room is kind of a mess.

They keep telling us we will get cabinets in the fall but that means I have to start the year with some disorder and then some magical day, I will get a cabinet.  My concern is that I will never really move these boxes that I've stashed away and I will just go and make or get things I already have in those boxes.

I did a few improvements to make the room feel more like mine.  In my old school, I once bought some purple paint that became my signature color.  I painted the heater registers and some bookcases and even when I changed rooms, I brought it with me.  People always comment on it.  It's ridiculous because I actually hate the color purple, but somehow it works in my room.

I know nothing about decorating and my house has no kind of theme, but I want my classroom to have some order.  Especially from day 1 or it's just downhill all the way.  I remember all of my elementary classrooms feeling bright and colorful and nice.  Then I got to high school and there was none of that.  Just a couple of posters, maybe.  It was so sad.  I want my room to be a place where people like to be.  I have always had great compliments from adults on how my room looks.

That must mean they can usually overlook the clutter that occurs when you have projects up to your eye balls, all over the effing place.  By October January, my room is knee deep in projects that have been done or are in the works.

When I got to my new room, it looked like this.

Nasty old beat up looking heater register.

Weird tape on the wall behind where I put my desk.  These walls have some sort of fabricy type covering because they are the kind that used to open up for a large classroom.  Two of my walls are like this.  They are a nasty dirty mustard color.  We aren't allowed to paint them, after someone painted her room a very bright yellow.  The only bonus to these walls is that I can staple, thumbtack and screw right into them.  That's a good bonus, actually.

The one bookcase I was given.  The woman before me didn't have the shelves sitting right so they rocked and threatened to fall down.  I can't stand things like that.  Just fix it!!

And the fabulous institutional teal that is on all kinds of desks all over our district.   I think the teal is meant to be soothing.  Just like the dark mauve and darker teal were in the 90s.   I really dislike this desk because the drawers that are meant for hanging folders are missing the metal racks that make the folders hang.  Right now, my files are just laying there and I can't stand it.

I had the good sense to have the previous teacher send me a picture of the desk so I would know if I should have mine sent over.  I don't know where she stood when she took the picture, but it looked just wonderful and big.  It's neither.  I shouldn't have had that good sense.

So, off to the hardware store I went to get more of my personal color, which they now have under my name in the computer.  I don't mean like you can  now go in and say "yes, I'd like a quart of this Sparkling74 purple".  I mean that next time, if I give her my name, she can look it up and get the exact numbers for the color mix.

A few days of painting, which I really don't like to do in any kind of weather, but especially not in summer, and here's what I have.

A desk that is more eye pleasing.  I didn't use any special paint, so with my nails banging on the drawers to pen and close them, I am sure it will scrape off.  The desk is metal so it's just asking to peel off.   But for now, it's so much better than teal and everyone who comes in mentions it.

In these modern times, the teacher's desk isn't usually in the center of the room, under the chalkboard like they still portray on TV.  The teacher isn't the center of the world anymore, if you believe what we're told these days.  So, my desk actually faces the wall.  That means if I were to sit at it, I would be ignoring my students.  But I don't actually sit at my desk.  It's just a place to have things and I like it against the wall so nothing falls off the back/front.  And, it takes up much less room this way.   The woman before me had practically built a fortress around her desk and I couldn't believe how much space it all took up!

The heater looks so much better.  I guess now I have to do the white part because that really looks like crap.

The bookcase is much better in purple.  BUT, because I lack closets, I have to use it for storage of boxed things and all of my paper.  This is so unideal but I am grinning and bearing it for now.  That mess on top will be straightened out before school starts.

Here's the cabinet that I brought form home and it filled in 2.3 seconds.  But, it's the things I really wouldn't want idle hands to get into and ruin, so I really needed to put that stuff in there.

I decided that my big plan for today was to try to get the furniture situation straightened out.  So, I put all of the unopened boxes under a couple of tables, to get them off the floor, and I moved tables around until I got it the way I think I want it.  I just realized that I took this before I put the chairs around the tables to see how they would work.  The chairs make it look more like a classroom.

After my 2nd year of teaching, I got 4 round cafeteria tables instead of desks and I grew to love them and never want desks again.  The one thing I said I needed for this new room was trapezoid tables (they can be apart for one or two people or together to make a bigger table) or the half circle tables (same thing) so I could move them as I wanted.  When I came upon these small, round tables, I was really excited because they are better than the traps.  I do have one set of trapezoid tables in case I want to use them and a couple of desks.  There are always a couple of kids that either want or need to sit at a desk, slightly away from the others.  I am currently using them to hold books but I could easily use them for a kid if I needed to.

I made a cheesy poster like this 2 years ago and when I brought it in to school this week, it had wrinkled and was gross.  There was always a problem with it anyway because I had a glue issue at the last minute and I was always annoyed with it.  And it was HUGE.

I decided to make a new one, slightly smaller and after my first attempt was eaten by the laminator, I made yet another one.  That's 3, if you are counting.  The leaves have the 5 strands that we use in our standards and the quote in the center of the flower is the quote that is at the front of the standards.  The phrase at the bottom is all me.  I'm really queer like that.  The cheesier the better!

I made the color poster, too.  Sometimes, I like to buy posters from companies because they are neat and nice, but often, there are not enough of the words I want to use, or of the many words that exist for an item, they use one that I don't, etc.  I make a new color poster every few years, when the colors have faded and I am tired of looking at it.  I also made the classroom items poster next to it, which I've never bothered with before.  Since I will only see them once a week, they will need as much visual reinforcement as they can get!!

Now, if I could just get a couch or recliner in there, this classroom might not be so bad!

Linking here:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why You Don't Buy Tank Tops At the Grocery Store

Recently, I saw some small tank tops at the grocery store for $2.50.  I figured for $2.50, I could wear it to ride and not be annoyed if it got filthy and ruined.  I wanted to take it home and try it and then go back and get one in every color.

I bought the biggest one I could find, which was a large, and had trouble fitting into it when I got home. When I don't buy my tank tops at grocery stores, I usually wear a small or medium, so it struck me as strange that the large was super small.  I guess that's why it was only $2.50

And for sale at the grocery store.

I wore it once or twice and tried REALLY hard to stretch it out.  I figured it would be one of those poor quality shirts that would stretch out after a few washes.

And then I wore it to the barn the other day.  The day I didn't take a good look in the mirror.

The day that a reporter was there to do a follow up story from May.  The day that she took my picture.  In my $2.50 grocery store tank top.

The day I discovered just how horrid it looks.  Have you ever seen such sad boobolas?  I am wearing a sports bra.  I swear. And I didn't buy THAT at the grocery store.

I couldn't even give this tank top to Good Will and make someone else have to look that dreadful, so it's a rag.

I'm glad it was in the local paper**, just as school begins, with my name on the picture and everything.

Whoooooo.  Hooooo.

Linking here: 

**Ok, as my dad so helpfully pointed out, the picture wasn't actually in the paper.  It was in the online version.  They chose someone with perky boobolas, who doesn't buy her clothes at the grocery store to be in the actual newspaper.  Phew.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Life Is A Highway....

When I get off the highway in my neck of the woods, I have to confess that I am never sure which direction I will have to turn once I get off the exit.  It's always a surprise right up until I get there.  I always know right where I am, I just can't remember if  I'm coming from one direction, which way that will put me when I get off the highway.

I know my mother is rolling her eyes, saying "you've done it hundreds of times, how can you not know?"

I don't know.  I still can't remember which bridge takes me where when I'm leaving.

Where I live, we have a real 2 lane highway but mostly, my family and I don't use it.  The only time I remember using it when we were younger was when we went on a trip somewhere farther than 30 minutes away.  Most of the time, we use back roads and roads that have highway numbers but they aren't like I-95 or I-75 or whatever you people have out west.   They are more like Route 66.

When I took Driver's Ed, some of the lessons were about highway driving and to me, that was pretty wild.  Fast driving, paying attention to exit numbers, changing lanes- it was all foreign to me and a great deal of effort.  I was so glad I didn't have to do that in "real life".

I had certainly seen highways before and understood that some can be 4 or even 6 lanes wide in one direction.   But highway driving wasn't what I was brought up with and it's still not what I do much of today.

The first time I drove in a city with an actual grid, I was like "whoa, roads that make sense?  CRAZY"  because around here, we don't have blocks and squares and nice grids to our roads.  They're mostly former dirt roads that have now been paved and don't make much sense.  Mixed in with brand new roads that are straight and do make sense.

It's no wonder my sense of driving is skewed.

And then the names of longer roads change like 3 times in the length of the road.  So they get called by all sorts of names.

When I went to college, I had no choice but to become very familiar with city driving once I started student teaching.  It became a normal thing to do, but it was very hectic.  I even drove back and forth to Nashville a few times and managed to figure it out.  

I was thrilled to come back home to simple roads.  I just don't love to drive and I really don't love to drive on highways.  It took me a while to learn that if you miss an exit or get off at the wrong one, it's not the end of the world, you can just backtrack.  It still causes me a panic today, though.

Where my sister a-ster lives, almost every trip out involves some highway driving.  And there's always traffic.  And you have to plan for all of that time to get there, do your thing and come back.  I don't know how she has adjusted to it all. 

With our super tiny bladders, it's a wonder we make it out and back without wetting our pants.  

That's not how it is here.  Unless I'm driving into the city, which I don't do very often at all, I'm mostly driving around 40mph  or less for like 15 minutes at a time. 

It's nice, I have to say.  A day full of appointments can be broken up by running home to do this or that because it's along the way.  My commute to school will be doubled this year because it's further away.  A whole 6 miles instead of 3.  I know.  Cry me a river.

Some people I know will drive into the city on a whim and not even care that it's 77 miles away.  Some people  need that connection to culture, the theater, better shopping, etc.  We just aren't those kind of people.  I have tried to get k-ster to go to Boston around Christmas time to see the pretty decorations but he just won't do it.  And I don't really care that much.

When people come to the campground in the summer, they say they love how quiet it is but when they've stayed for too long, sometimes they complain that there's "nothing to do".   They say there's a lot of traffic.  And it takes a while to get places.

And I laugh because I know the backroads and how to avoid a lot of the summer traffic.  But I don't tell them because that's part of the whole experience :)

So basically, when you want to live with scenery like this:

You have to put up with a longer drive when you actually need to get to the big city.  But the trade off is less traffic, less wild highway driving and more scenes like this.

And if I'm your driver, the fun of not knowing which way you'll turn when you get off the exit!

Linking here:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Where We Come From

I don't usually share much in this blog about my exact location because I do try to maintain some anonymity.  I am a teacher in a public school district and they might frown upon the number of postings of my butt or some of the comments I have made about things over the years.  I think it's all pretty tame, but you know how things seem to be going these days.

I have, a time or two, mentioned specific things about where I live, but you'll have to do some sleuthing to find them.

I think it's pretty clear that I live in New England, near the water.   Because I've said "I live in New England, near the water."   So go ahead, comb through the states of New England that have coastline and see if you can find me.

In the meantime, let's talk about where k-ster and I grew up and what it's done to influence us.

We live exactly where we've lived our whole lives, except he had to move two towns westward.  I live in the house I lived in for much of my childhood and the same property that I've lived on since I was 2 years old.  My mother grew up here as well.

From our houses, we can almost throw a rock to the river.  Well, I probably couldn't even hit my parents' house from mine with a rock, but k-ster could probably get it closer to the river.  Especially if there were no trees in the way.

And if he was launching it from a cannon.

But the point is, when it's low tide, we can smell it.  If I run really fast, I can be at the beach in like 5 minutes, the river in 2.  In the fall, I can't exactly see the water of the river but I can see where it is when the leaves are down.

K-ster's house was slightly farther from the beach growing up,  but maybe like 1 minute farther away.  He spent many summers of his childhood out on a beach where you can drive and set up came for 72 hours if you have a truck camper.  This is as foreign to me as spending a summer on the moon.  He tried to instill this love of living on the beach with me but it just didn't work.

Ironically, I couldn't care less about boats, even though I'm supposed to know all about them since I live on the coast.  I took sailing lessons from the town when I was a kid and really liked it, but I have no interest in having my own sailboat or going outside of the little cove where we took lessons.

K-ster has a motorboat that he finally put in the water this year, so the other night, I went on a very quick ride (like 5 minutes because it was getting dark).  It was right at sunset and soooooo pretty.

These pictures  look much colder than it was.

K-ster's friend who has a house on the water let him keep the boat there for the weekend so he didn't have to put it in and out when he wanted to use it.

This is called a "finger" and there are a few houses on each side that have docks.  There are like 5 or so fingers that go out into the river, and then eventually go to the ocean.  It's super convenient to put your boat there and then just go out when you want.  Not so convenient to own the house because they are soooooooooo expensive, being on the water.

Before you get too excited, let me remind you that k-ster isn't a millionaire and I'm a teacher, so the boat is no yacht and in fact doesn't have seats.  K-ster's beanbag chair serves as a seat for passengers and he has to stand the whole time he drives.  This is obviously a boat for fishing and for men.  Not wining and dining the ladies in comfort and style.

What I'm really trying to say is that there's not potty on this boat.  Therefore, I don't spend time on it.

Our little tour went out of the finger and sort of into the river.  K-ster's lights don't work so we can't be out after dark or the water police will arrest you.  Maybe it's not that dramatic but they do frown on not having lights, so we came back before dark.

We went around the corner, where there are LOTS of houses like this.  I used to teach an aerobics class for this little wealthy homeowners association.  Everyone had these gorgeous homes and there was a pool and little clubhouse that had a patio with a tent.  Someone got the brilliant idea that they should offer fitness classes there, so for a couple of summers, I did.  They weren't as dedicated as I'd like and it sort of evaporated after a few summers.

It was kind of like teaching at Richmere.   A fantasy world just down the road from my own, with cash flowing like I could never imagine.  Not exactly Hollywood, but the only thing missing would be handlers for these people.  Maybe if they had handlers, the fitness classses would have continued because they would have been scheduled to actually show up for them.

The funny part to me was that if I kayaked over from my side of the river, it would have taken like 5 minutes.  To drive all the way down the river, across the bridge and back up the river on the other side was about a 15 minutes drive.  But, since we don't live on the beach, I would have had nowhere to leave the kayak, so it wouldn't have worked out.

Plus, I can see all sorts of disasters with the "I'll just kayak over" method.  Like they're all standing there watching and I'm stuck in the current, the weeds, behind a boat, etc.

Hmm, there was a point to my post when I started.  Oh yeah, about where we live.  Scenery like this must be the reason we choose to stay here instead of opting for city life or life out in the country.  We need to smell that salt air.

Or low tide.   Which bears a fabulous similarity to sulphur.  It's a joy you can't get away from.

Linking here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Windows Open or Windows Closed?

For me, summer is all about opening every window and door and letting in all that is good about summer air.  The sounds, the smells and sometimes, the rain before we can close the windows!

The summers I remember from my childhood involved curtains blowing in the breeze.  Doors that never opened otherwise would be open in the summer to let in more air.  I would totally forget we even had a door there until summer (there are many doors in that house that make no sense).  Windows that you had to rock back and forth, jiggle and bang and then hold open with paint brushes or books or whatever you had nearby when you finally got the effing thing open.

We didn't have air conditioning in our house until we moved to a new house when I was in high school.  Except for the really humid days of summer, I loved not having AC.  Just a fan at night and for about 90% of the summer, that was all I needed.  This was the way my friends lived too.

We had to run around and close the windows when it rained and sometimes that meant banging, wiggled, and jiggling those windows to get them down.  There was probably swearing involved.

When we moved and got central AC, my parents decided to leave it on upstairs all summer and only use it downstairs when it was too humid to breathe.  This was a constant fight because my sister a-ster and I liked having the windows open at night.  They told us to close the AC vents but I think it all still leaked out.  It leaks from upstairs to downstairs anyway because there isn't a door to block it off.

That's why I am such an energy nazi.  I have to make up for all the AC my parents put out the front door.

Today, I live in the first house I describe, the one without AC.  Except for the one unit we have that cools 2 rooms when it's so humid I'm not sure if I've wet the bed or not.

I love opening every.single.window and leaving them that way all summer.  Except when it rains and then we I do the run around and close windows dance.

This is the front door of the house but we never use it to go in and out.  One time, a salesman came to the door and that was really weird.  NO ONE uses that door.  Even the Jehovah's witnesses seem to know this is not the door to use.  In the winter, it stays closed and then when the sun starts to really shine in the front of the house around March, I open it with the storm glass in and let it heat up the front of the house.  As soon as I can put in the screens, I open this door every time I am home because I really think it blows the breeze right through the house.

You might be able to tell that the windows are newer than when I was 10, so the rock, jiggle and bang maneuver doesn't have to be used.  Downstairs, anyway.  We didn't replace the upstairs windows because no one sleeps up there or uses it much, so when I do decide to open some of them, it's quite a workout.  Sometimes, swearing is involved.

Lately, I notice more and more houses around my area that have windows completely closed all summer.  More houses are being built or renovated and getting central air and even when it's only 72 degrees and as dry as a bone, the windows are still closed.  Great to keep out the dust and pollen but sad.

Gone are the days when every house had curtains blowing in the wind, every window wide open.  Old houses like mine would have the rickety stick method of holding open the windows.

Today, I pass many a house with rows and rows of windows, sliding glass or French doors everywhere.  And nary an inch or two open.

Some say it's because it keeps the house cleaner.  True, I do have an inordinate amount of dust in the summer.  But I have that same dust in the winter, so who would know?

Some say it's safer because people can't just break in through the screens.  True.  I was alone one night a long time ago and woke up to what I was CERTAIN was a madman with a knife cutting through the screen.  Sawing back and forth, with what I envisioned was a steak knife.   Of course this didn't happen and I'll never know what it was but it paralyzed me for the rest of the night.  It didn't make me shut my windows, though!

Some say they can't live without AC because they can't tolerate the heat.  True, but only if it's over 80 degrees AND humid and really, only if that's the case at night.  During the day, I can almost make do with the temperature and humidity, if I don't have anything pressing to do. At night though, if the bed is damp and it's hot.  LOOK.OUT.

If k-ster had his way, we'd have central AC and it would be on about 90% of the summer.  I am pretty sure that in our current climate, I could not live this way.  I had enough trouble trying to enjoy summer when the patio was on hiatus.  If you shut me in and stopped me from hearing the birds, bugs and even traffic?  I'd lose it.

So, what do you do?   Windows open or closed?   And what's your rationale?

Linking here:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Win The Cabinet Showdown

For now, anyway.

In my classroom in my new school, I don't have any closets or cabinets.  I have one bookcase that doesn't have any kind of doors. And the shelves are rickety.  And I had to get a hammer to bang the nails into the plywood on the back.

It's the strangest thing.  There is nowhere to put anything out of the sight of kids.

The former teacher didn't take them with her; she didn't have them either.  And she put up with it, as many in the building did.

I will put up with no such crap and I've been telling anyone who will look at me what a sorry state of affairs I'm in.  Seriously, anyone who even turns their head my way gets an earful.

I'm not one of those teachers who locks everything up and has to wear my keys on myself at all times to unlock cabinets, closets and the like.  I do lock my classroom because it's the rule but even that really bothers me.

And it's not that I have top secret things that need to be kept out of the sight of young eyes.  But I do have things like French games and DVDs and things that wandering children might feel the need to take or get into when I am not looking.  Or , GASP, get into when there's a sub in my room.

I want a closet or two.  With doors that close and shelves that hold things.  I don't even care if they lock.  But they have to be of substance.

I've asked my principal and she says I can have one and she's working on it.  I've talked to maintenance and they are working on it.  I've asked the office and they are working on it.  I've asked other teachers and they are working on it.

I'm working on my last nerve.

So, when my uncle's Rubbermaid closet became available for free, I grabbed it.

I took it apart and gave it a good scrubbing, but then k-ster and I disagreed on the shelving.  There is apparently some Rubbermaid shelving you can buy that is custom made, but I don't think I should have to spend money on what the school says they will provide.  I wanted k-ster to make a really basic wooden bookshelf from scrap wood but we don't seem to have the scrap wood I wanted to use.

Buying a bookshelf to go in it really seemed like it would defeat the purpose.  And without shelving, this cabinet would really be a big mess and basically useless.

As luck would have it, I found myself the perfect size shelving unit to go inside.  I didn't really want to spend money but I thought it was a great deal for the quality.  I like this kind of metal shelving and I have had one for a long time with excellent results.

And, when they finally give me a real cabinet, I could give this one away and keep the nice wire shelving unit.

I was so thrilled that this one actually fit inside.  I might put something underneath to raise it up because there is a lot of space between that top shelf and the top of the cabinet.  If I just start stacking things, it will be a big mess.

Clearly, I am not a fan of mess, because I've mentioned it about 5 times.  I seem to have clutter everywhere I go, but because this is a new space to me and basically empty, I have to start off on a non cluttered foot or it will just go downhill from there!

School starts in a couple of weeks and I'm trying to sort things out.  With nowhere to put the stuff that was shipped (in 37 boxes which I don't even dare count because if even one is missing, someone is going to get a big spanking) I feel like I'm going in circles.  I have taken the boxes that they stacked and put them all around the room so I can at least open them and see what's inside.  But then there's nowhere to put the stuff!

I am slowly making my way and this cabinet plus a larger shelving unit that I bought will make a big difference.  When I have it all together, I'll post some pictures.  I painted a few things the other day (but not my walls because that's forbidden!!) and started to feel like maybe I will survive this move.

But then I looked at my non existent closets and had to go home.

It's going to be a weird back to school season!

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Look At Susie's Pictures!

I am about as white as a caucasian can get.  I'm Irish, Scottish and English.  You know what that means.

Freckles and wrinkles up the wazoo.  Oh, I hope the wazoo doesn't wrinkle too....

And constant worry about skin cancer and sunburns.

Add to that the fact that I live 99.57% of my summer outside, though I do seek as much shade as possible, and it's like I'm walking melanoma time bomb.

I wear sunscreen but as I slather it on and smell all those chemicals, I think about the irony that the lotion is what will kill  me, in trying to prevent what the sun will do.  It's one of those vicious circles I spend my summer swirling around in.

I like my dermatologist a lot because though she is quick, quick, quick, she has diagnosed bad stuff in people I know and had it removed and they are fine.  So really, I do think she knows her stuff.

I go in every year with  my list of wild ideas about which moles are poison and she reminds me that I say this every year and they are fine.  I'd like to get them all removed.  She tells me that each will leave a big scar and would I rather explain a scar than let people see a mole?

Umm, yes, please.

So, I went for my yearly exam yesterday and she did her usual chitty chat chatter thing, asking all kinds of questions and actually making conversation, while examining me from head to toe.  Sometimes, I worry that she either isn't really looking at me because she is so busy talking, or she isn't listening to a word I say because she is so busy focusing on my skin.

She has an assistant, I'll call her Susie, who writes down whatever she says.  I think she actually writes down what I say too, and then they both study up before they walk in the next year.  The doctor always walks in saying something like "oh still teaching French, are you?" or "how's the campground this time of year".

I hear her whisper to Susie just as she is about to walk in the door.  I imagine she is saying "this is the crazy teacher who thinks every brown spot is cancer, remember?  Where does she teach again?  Oh yeah, that's right"

So, after we had a nice chat about my new school and they said that everything I said I'm concerned about right now is what every teacher who walks in the door is saying this year- I think she sees just about every one of my colleagues, based on what she was saying- she asked me if I had any questions.

And I pointed to everything I point to every year and she again said they are fine and poked and prodded and said, no really, they are fine.  And then I asked about a couple of things and she was like "it's called aging.  Anything else?"

This is the doctor whose answer to me about wrinkles was "well, you could gain 5 pounds a year and then you wouldn't have facial wrinkles".  Touche.

Perhaps I am painting her in a bad light, making her sound sassy and fresh.  She is just quick and I believe, thorough and knowledgeable (based on my friends who actually have had bad spots removed).  But her manner could probably rattle some of the older patients that I see whenever I go in there.

At the end of the visit, she said this direct quote (except for the name):  "Ok, Susie's going to show you some pictures of skin cancer.  You're good (thumbs up) see you next year."  All chipper and energetic.

I felt like I was in some sort of trouble-  look what you did, you went and got a mole!

Or like it was punishment- that's it!  Now Susie's gonna show you CANCER.  I hope you're happy!

Or a police line up- ma'am can you spot the mole that might kill you?

Or some kind of dirty porn- Susie's gonna show you pictures....

So I laughed and said "you're going to show me pictures of skin cancer?"  I guess it's a new requirement or law or whatever.

So basically, she took out the brochure that used to just be sitting on the counter and she went over each type with  me.  Reading what the brochure said.  While I kept mmm hmmming her and saying "mine looks like that, yep, like that one too" and she shook her head.

This isn't the exact brochure but it's like this and I would hope that everyone, whether from school or a doctor has seen this brochure at least once.  Because skin cancer isn't a joke and it's not funny.  Hopefully this post is funny, but melanoma is nothing to ignore!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taking The Lazy Days of Summer A Little Too Far

I get the whole idea that summer is the time to slow down, both because of the heat and because it's so pretty and wonderful to see everything.  We must take time to stop, smell the roses and enjoy the very brief season that we wait for all winter in New Englad.

But really, this sunflower takes the whole lazy thing a little too far, don't you think?

Leaning on a fencepost like that.  It's bad enough that they are only big and beautiful for a few days before they nod their heads down and start dying off.  Now they're leaning on things before they even hit their prime?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Let the Summer Begin

I mentioned a while ago something about k-ster pressure washing the patio and then I never got back to you.  That's because it's taken THAT LONG to get this thing finished.

When k-ster did the patio several years ago, he mentioned wanting to put down something like RoundUp under the bricks to prevent weeds from growing through it.  I went bananas, as you would expect and said no way, absolutely not, I will pull out every single weed if I have to. We are not going to put down RoundUp.

And we didn't.

And over time, the seeds came and the weeds grew.  I went through phases of being really good about removing them.  Then the moss came and that wasn't so easy.  Plus, I kind of like the idea of the moss cementing everything together.

But then the weeds kept growing and the grasses started coming and it was really messy.  I wasn't getting them pulled out fast enough and it was just ugly out there.  You'd sit at the table and feel the grass tickle you which really defeats the whole purpose of a patio.

So, k-ster told me about this polymeric sand that he's been using in patios to keep the weeds out.  Supposedly this magic sand will deter weeds and will slow down the possibility that moss will take root.  It has something in it (polymers, I would assume, though what that means is really a mystery to this non-chemist) that makes the sand sort of crusty.

In order to put down this sand, we had to clear the patio and then remove all of the weeds and as much of the current sand as possible.  K-ster borrowed a pressure washer and got to work blowing it all out a few times.  Then I went to work with an awl and dug out all those mosses and weeds.

And then time stood still and we didn't do anything.  All of the furniture stayed off the patio and it looked like this.

Kind of depressing.  And every few days, I'd ask when we were going to finish.  It's a little time consuming, putting down the new polymeric sand, so it had to be when there was time to put it down, use a blower to blow it into the cracks and then wet it a few times to make it work.

In the meantime, more weeds kept coming and I was out there pulling them out and feeling like it was an endless battle.

Yesterday, k-ster put it down and I'm in love with it at the moment.

It looks like regular sand, so the polymers must be invisibile.  But, when I touch it, it's hard like cement.  I guess that over time, it will lose its cement-like properties and we'll probably have to do it again, but over time, regular sand goes away too, so I don't think it's a big deal.

The plants are finally back in their rightful places and already looking a little happy, though they've suffered this summer.  They aren't as luscious as they would normally be right now because I didn't treat them as nicely as I should have.  I kept thinking we'd be putting everything back together really soon, so I didn't pay much attention to how much sun and water they were getting.  We just sort of pushed everything onto the grass and scattered the plants all over the yard.

We had an umbrella that met its demise just before we moved everything off the patio, so now I have to see if I can get an end of summer deal on one before they put them away for the winter.  It really is an essential part of the patio because it would be impossible to sit out there in the middle of the day without it.

I've felt very weird all summer without the normal patioscape in front of me!  Now that it's August 12th, I suppose summer can begin.  Just as the plants really start blossoming, it will be time to bring them inside for the winter.

Can someone tell me who stole my summer from me when I wasn't looking????

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ipad, Do You?

 I am fortunate enough to teach in a district that has embraced ipad technology and I have been given one for the upcoming year.  In June, each teacher got one and was told "make it your own" and play with it over the summer to figure everything out.  They probably didn't mean that I was supposed to take pictures of my fabulous abs, but whatever.    I'm busy "making it my own".

A while back, I hijacked my mother's ipad for a trip to my sister's and I found that the ipad and I were not bosom buddies and I couldn't wait to give it back to her.   Over the summer, I have learned to like my ipad and I got over the fact that I can't use it to write post on my blog.  I can do pretty much everything else I want to do with it, I just have to steer clear of blogging.

We were offered a one week graduate course in effectively using ipads in the classroom, so I took the class last week and learned a lot.  That's why I had such stellar blog posts last week.  I was on a device from 8am-3pm every day, so I promised myself that I would remain device free each afternoon so I could regain control of my brain.  And my eyeballs.  Looking at that screen makes me a little nutty by 3pm.

Most everything we did was very classroom oriented, so the normal person owning an ipad probably wouldn't use most of what I am about to show you.  There are tons of apps that really make presentations amazing and there are lots that allow students to do work right on the ipad and send it paperlessly.

All week, I would see something new and then remember that I'm not in middle school this year, so a lot of it is not really pertinent to me.  That made me a little sad because there is some stuff that would have made my middle school teaching MUCH easier.

4th and 5th grade students will each have an ipad but it won't go home.  It will remain in the classroom and each day, the students will take their numbered ipad and use it in school but then return it to a cart before they leave.   In middle school, they will get to take them home, so all of the things that would allow for discussion and contributions outside of school would happen.   In my case, they probably won't use them outside of my room unless they have indoor recess or something, so I won't be able to say "now, before I see you next week, please comment on xyz."

It's all a "we'll see" kind of thing.  I will use it a lot, I think, but how much I will have them use it remains to be seen.

Anyway, on to some of the cool stuff I did.  I didn't have a lot in my photostream that was related to teaching French, so some of what I used was from my collection of pictures I've taken this summer.  At one point, I did go to a computer to get some pictures from the cloud and send them to myself so that I would have a couple of French things made for when school really starts.

The first day, we used an app called Sketch Guru.  It's a photo editing app that lets you do fun stuff like this.  I took both of these pictures which were color pictures, and made the first one a pencil sketch and the Eiffel Tower is another type of pencil sketch.  I thought they looked pretty cool.

What's nice about this is that both pictures were kind of dull and hard to see.  In the picture of my niece, we had flipped the camera to the front side and it was grainy and dark.  The detail that came out in the sketch is awesome.

In the Eiffel Tower one, there is a giant cloud behind the tower and it was just about dusk, so the picture isn't amazing.  Again, the sketch picked up some neat details.

This pretty one was also done with Sketch Guru.  I used this material during my nightgown  making  phase.  I made such a big sewing booboo that I refuse to show my work.  I wear it and love the colors but it looks silly. It's a gauze but not see through and if I could master the technique of making a nightgown like I wish I could, I'd make 40 of these and wear them all day, every day.  In this color only.

This was the fabric which I love so much, I'd like to paper all of my walls with it.  The fabric was wrinkled when I took the picture.  I selected the gouache technique when I was in Sketch Guru and this is what came up.  Almost watercolor like but not quite.  In fact, the watercolor options were pretty ugly.

I could lick it, I love it sooooo much.  I made it the wallpaper of my ipad since k-ster would probably frown on this as wallpaper in my house.

I think this was using Instacollage, another app we used the first day. It's possible it was PhotoEditor but I am leaning toward Instacollage.   I took a quilt and made a mirror image of it and blended them together.  Cool, but not something I would probably see using in the classroom.  I don't know that anyone needs to make mirror images of the Eiffel Tower for a grade.  It wouldn't impress me.

I'm such a hardass.

This was another thing I did in Instacollage.  This is absolutely something I'd use in the classroom, especially because it would be a quick way for students to show a little something about culture. This could easily be done in a class period and we could print them if we wanted to and make an awesome bulletin board.

We used an app called Pages which lets you make fliers and posters with ease.  This was a template that I found and I just put in my own stuff very quickly to see how it worked.  This is something I would totally use for personal reasons, like invitations or fliers to events and stuff.  It's sooooo easy to manipulate the pictures and text just the way you want it.

The best part of the ipad is how easy it is to use and how portable it is.  I quickly got used to touching, tapping and swiping and while I first kept reaching for a mouse or my touchpad, I got over it.

Now, I keep reaching to touch my laptop screen like it's the ipad!  I'm not alone.  The teacher was projecting her ipad on the smartboard and she kept forgetting that the smartboard isn't what was controlling the presentation and she would tap it and then realize that she needed to tap her ipad.

If you don't know what a smartboard is, it's an interactive board that is connected to a computer and a projector.  The board becomes "live" and you can touch it as though it were a touch screen and you can write on it with special things that don't actually write with ink but look like it.  It's the modern day chalkboard and has lots of plusses and a few minuses.  I will not bore you with more talk of this, but I suppose many people who are not in education have NO IDEA what a smartboard is all about.

And speaking of smartboard, we learned that there is an awesome application that you buy and download to the computer that controls the smartboard.  Then, as long as you have a wireless network for the ipads, everyone in the room has the ability to select a toggle on their ipad that allows their ipad to be projected onto the screen.  You can put several of them up at once so you could compare like 4 students' work at the same time.  It's a way that they can present something they made on their ipad from their seat, without a cable.  It allows the teacher to be wandering around the room with her ipad while projecting it on the screen so she can control it from anywhere.

Sometimes, I wonder about this modern world in which we live!  We're speaking a whole language that my grandmother, for example, would never have understood.  She barely understood email and, not having a computer, never had the experience of receiving or sending an email.  I can't imagine what she would think of ipads.

I often wonder, when we introduce each other to something new we have found for the computer/ipad, if the introduction of the telephone or the battery operated calculator was anything like this.  Did they have to do training for the masses to help the understand how to make a phone call?  Did people sit in wonder that this little calculator in their hand could do computation far faster than any slide rule and a pencil could ever do?

Do you every wonder stuff like that when you're holding 4 pieces of technology at once and not one of them will do what you want right that minute?  Earlier this year, I was literally walking around the school with a flip camera, a digital camera and an ipad in my hands.  I needed to get video off of each and was having a mental block and I was like "look at this, I have 3 pieces of equipment in  my hands and I need each of them to work with the other and I can't make it happen" 

Sorry, that was a little side trip, but technology does make me wonder, sometimes.

K-ster was surprised we were meeting in an actual classroom.  Like he said, we could have met in  a lounge with couches and spent the week being comfortable while using these magic devices!  It seems so weird to sit at a desk with a tablet when we could recline in a hammock, or sit in front of the TV or stand up while using it.

The district is trying to move us to using less paper.  While I love the environmental aspect of that, I am not ready to say that I am done with paper.  We found that some things really do still need to be printed.  I don't really love reading a screen, so there are things that I still want written or typed on actual paper.  Many of the things we tried will be awesome instead of boring writing and drawing on paper and I'm excited to see where this ipad thing will go.

Do you have an ipad or tablet?  Do you use it for fun or for work?  What do you do with it?  I'm always curious what people are doing with their devices!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Onions, Onions, Onions!

This year, I grew onions for the first time.  Someone at school offered me "some" onions and I said sure.

About 80 bulbs later, I had quite a crop on my hands!  They were in little pre-started bundles and I thought there were maybe a dozen in there.  What a surprise!  There were yellow, white and red onions in the bunches and they were all labeled.  I was really good about knowing what I planted where (alphabetical order again!) but when it came to picking them, I didn't care what they were called.  The only kind I new for sure were the reds and they actually were the smallest of all that I grew.

I planted them in both gardens to see if there would be much difference.  Garden #2 gets much more light, has looser soil and is really my favorite garden theses days.  It's a big square, it has symmetry and it's more accessible.  (don't tell garden #1)

Overall, the onions in garden #2 did better, although the only difference was in size.  I don't think any in either garden actually died.  Some are veeerrrrrry tiny and some were about the size of a plum.  None got super huge.

One thing I learned in this endeavor is that onions, and also garlic, "lay down" when they are ready to be picked.

I was so glad to read that because one day, just about every onion top was flat and I thought they all had a disease.  The picture on the website that I was reading was exactly like this so I breathed a sigh of relief!

They suggested that you pick them all, lay them out and rinse them and leave them to dry in the sun.  Then braid their tops together in bundles and hang them to dry, if possible.

I don't really have anywhere dry and not hot to let them hang, and some of mine didn't have tops anymore.

The other suggestion was to just lay them out somewhere cool and dry.  I thought about this for a while and the best solution seemed to be under the tables in the greenhouse.  They will still get daylight, but not direct sunlight.  And it's about as cool there as anywhere else I could come up with.  We have a dirt cellar that is cooler but very moist and I didn't think moist would be good.

I laid them out in the little trays that I had, and for those that were small enough that they might fall through the holes, I put newspaper.  Then I slide them under the tables to see what will happen.

So far so good, but it hasn't been a whole week yet.  The website said they could be left in the ground but I was worried about bugs getting into them and that if the tops dried up, I might not find them.

I will probably end up using these pretty soon since they are small and I use a few at a time.

I will definitely grow onions again and probably this same amount because they didn't grow too large before they were ready to be picked.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

I Can't Believe I Made A Chevron Quilt!

The most popular thing in home decorating these days seems to be chevron.  I firmly dislike the pattern and most especially dislike it when it's aqua or fluorescent pink or dreaded yellow.  I have no idea why I feel so strongly about it, I just do.

I have always said I'd never do anything in chevron.

And then I saw a quilt that someone did in a chevron but for some reason, it really caught my eye.  It was just two colors and one was a print and it didn't scream LOOK AT ME, I.AM.CHEVRON like all of the other things I had seen have always done.

I needed a pattern for a baby quilt that was different from what I usually do.  I decided I didn't want to do anything with applique.  A plain old log cabin just wasn't going to do it.

And then I thought perhaps I could do that lime green/print combo I had seen on the one chevron I enjoyed.  I didn't really want to do lime green but I thought pink and brown would be divine.

And then I realized I had no idea how to go about doing a chevron.  I thought it might be based on a log cabin idea but I couldn't really wrap my head around it.

So I googled free chevron quilt pattern and found Riley Blake Designs.  I had to laugh when I realized what site I was on  because recently, my sister received some fabric from Riley Blake, and it was a total coincidence that I was on that site!

I started wandering around the site, looking at the free patterns and nothing was doing it for me.  I was getting pretty far down and almost gave up when I saw this.  It's called Road Map and  I thought it would be perfect.

Where I was originally going to just use a pink and a brown, I somehow ended up with 3 browns and 2 pinks and 2 whites.

What got this whole thing started was this pink and brown print.  I was going to just use a pink to offset it and make it with just those two colors.

The pattern gave great yardage requirements but because I was using all scraps, I could not do the math.  At. All.  So I started looking around for what I had.  The way the pattern goes, you don't use the same exact fabric through the whole chevron.  So, for example, where you see the long pink chevron, there would be one pink and then going the next way would be another pink and so on in a somewhat random fashion.  I like the idea, but couldn't really do it.

So, I did each chevron as its own scheme.

I also though that the white would be a good way to break things up and I am REALLY glad I did it.  It's for a baby and I think just pink and brown would be a little too over the top.

Normally, I do all rainbow colors for baby quilts.  Lots of primary colors screaming their loudness.  I realize that I am about 3 years behind the suave baby trend of using these colors (or mint and brown or blue and brown) and that's about when I bought the pink and brown print that was my original fabric.  But, she's a baby.  She probably won't care.

Putting this quilt together was such a breeze.  The pattern literally says sew your strips together, cut  and refer to the picture for placement!  It was the easiest thing I've done.

And I decided to tie it.  I'm fed up with the way I do quilt as you go.  It keeps ending up bulkier than I want.  Tieing is what I always did, so I'm back to that for a while.

I wanted to put something slightly juvenile on the back, so I went with a butterfly print.  I was hoping I would not have to actually buy anything to make this as I have plenty of fabric stashed and I had already bought a lot of batting.  I had about 1 foot too little of the fabric I wanted to use.  For a minute, I thought I might just use two fabrics on the back, but I wanted to wrap the edges up from the back and I don't like it when there are two fabrics involved.

I had the most bizarre discussion at Joann Fabrics with an employee who wanted to help me as I was picking out this fabric.  She has been there forever and will help if I ask, but no one in the store is overly ready to help.  She ran up to me and was cooing and oooing and I was like WTF?  She wanted to see the quilt and then was trying to help me find a backing.  I already had my idea but she wanted to make suggestions.  She thought a chevron print on the back would be great.  I had actually just had that thought and then didn't like it but she made me look at her suggestion anyway. I really don't like service like this, unless I ask.   I decided to go with the butterflies despite her efforts.  I seriously think she thought I was someone else when she came running up that way.  But, it was 9:01am, so maybe she was still in a good mood.

Are your Joann Fabrics employees as frazzled as mine?  That place is always so unpleasant but I don't have other options unless I want to pay tons and tons of money for fabrics at a quilt shop.   I know the fabric is usually a higher quality at quilt shops, but I just want to throw up at their prices.

Once I decided how I wanted to tie it, it went pretty fast.  I tied the "top" points on each of the zigzags.  Otherwise, there were too many open spots.  Then I wrapped up the edges and sewed them to the top of the quilt.

I will absolutely make this pattern again.  I actually want to do a navy, white and turquoise.  I have no idea where that's coming from but it's calling to me.  The nice thing about this is that you can keep going or stop whenever you're ready.  I made mine about 3 rows shorter than the pattern but I like it.  It's mostly square this way.

I suppose that there is a way to do the math so you know exactly how much you would need if you want to alter the size and actually buy fabric.  I usually don't bother with trying to do math and just go with what I have and hope it works for the best because a math problem will surely take the joy out of sewing!

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