Friday, August 30, 2013

A long weekend

We finished our second full week of school. It was a great week, tiring but good. I love their excitement when they learn something new. Sometimes one of them will pump their little fists go in the air and they shout "I did it!"

I wish we as adults could keep our excitement alive like that when we learn something new. We always need to celebrate victories. Too often we dwell on failures.

I passed a small first grade boy in the hall. I looked down and noticed he had buttons atop his shirt, and looking closer, noticed that the buttons were holding on a cape, which was flapping behind him. I said, "You are wearing a cape!" He said, "Yes. I'm Superman."

I remember what it was like to be a kid and really believe a thing. My grandmother had a piano in her parlor and I used to play it. I'd bang my hands over the keys, up and down, hard or slow, and I am sure it was a cacophonous, ear-splitting mess. I distinctly remember that what I heard was a symphony of beautiful music. It sounded like the Vienna Philharmonic. For real. As long as he is wearing that cape, he really IS Superman. For him, the world has no boundaries and anything is possible.

Another little boy who I passed coming out of the bathroom, I asked, "Did you wash your hands?" Waving his palms around, he said "Sure! Look, nice and shiny!"

What a unique way to think of ourselves when we're clean. "Shiny." I wonder what we adults look like to him.

There are certain stock phrases I could tape record and press a button to play and replay all day. "Did you wash your hands?" is one. Another is, "Do you need a tissue?" ,"Are you going to throw up?" and "What happened right before he kicked you?" are several that would wear out the play button if I went through my day that way. And then there is the king of all kindergarten phrases, "Good job!"

My plans for this weekend are simple: tonight I got a Subway mini pizza and ate that while adding new songs to my 70's Youtube playlist. I grew up on Jim Croce, Paul Simon, Ambrosia, Pousette Dart Band, Marshall Tucker, James Taylor. They are going into my 70s playlist. The songs bring back powerful memories, some good, some bad, some just misty through sepia time, after all, it is now almost four decades ago as a high school kid rockin' out to the latest songs on Casey Kasem's top 40.

Saturday I'll go get my Bountiful Basket of produce and  process it, and depending on what I receive, cook. Sunday will be church, and Monday I'll watch To Sir With Love and a little known sequel, To Sir With Love II. And sleep. I'm kind of tired!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


In looking through my photos, I noticed that I seem to gravitate to strong colors when snapping pictures of non-natural things. IE, man-made. And of those, I seem to take photos of red most often. Here are some pics of strong colors.

Swinging chairs at the County Fair

Fire truck axes from the parade

John Deere tractor from Farm Day

Books at the Library

An old Corvette stored in my friend's backyard

Madison County Red Raiders sign (football)

Red font at a nearby store

A whimsical grain bin

Decorative pots at Toccoa

I began with two chairs and I'll end with two chairs. The sign says "Not responsible for accidents."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday night exhaustion

I'm up! I'm refreshed! Thank goodness for a good night's sleep. We completed our first full week of school with children. I work with kindergarten kids, aged five. It is literally like herding cats. I was beat when I got home last night.

Source flickr jolene

When I got home I felt like someone had tied me under a white water raft and brought me through "The Washing Machine", dragged me under "The Agitator" and bumped me over "The Seven Sisters" rocks. But now it is a gorgeous morning, roosters are crowing, dew is glistening, and my body is (mostly) recovered.

When the little kids come to school it is one of the most traumatic events they will likely have experienced in their life, if they are having a normal life (absent a death or divorce). They are separated from their parents for more than a third of the day. They are put into an environment where everything and everyone is bigger than them, they meet hundreds of unknown people, and there is noise and cacophony unparalleled in their life (cafeteria). We ask them to do things they are barely capable of doing, (stay quiet, write their name, raise their hand to speak...) and they have to do it all day, every time.

Poor kids! It is necessary though, and they adapt quickly.

Luckily I work in a school where compassion reigns and the staff is gentle. I truly enjoy helping the kids that first week or two in the morning when they wander in to find their breakfast card and get in a long line of kids who tower over them. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they're scared. Sometimes they exhibit a bravado they don't possess. Some of them just cling to a brother or sister's hand, looking wide-eyed at the crowd. I like to stoop to look in their eyes and quietly ask them their name and take a moment to say 'welcome to school', or 'I'm glad you're here' or something personal. If I can make them smile that is all the better.

I like it because it establishes a relationship with them that lasts all year. Even if I don't work directly with that child again, but only bump into them on the playground or the hall or the rest room lobby, they remember that first connection. Last year in April, out of the blue a boy I don't work with directly said,

"Remember that day you helped me?"
You mean at breakfast in the cafeteria?
That first week of school?
"Yeah. Thanks."


But it is very tiring. When I got home last night, I put my car in the garage because I do not intend to use it until Monday when I go back to work. I'll walk to church on Sunday and that is all the 'going out' I plan to do for the next 55 hours.

LOL, I remember when I was in my 20s and Friday night came and all I could think of was where was I going to go and what was I going to do that weekend. On Friday nights a gang of us used to haunt a new sports bar that had opened up. A brother of one of the teachers was the owner so we all piled in there to help him out. It was a nice place, too. Even though I never did like to drink alcohol, (just ginger ale) it was fun because they had what was then a newfangled thing called computerized trivia. We would play for hours.

Delivery of Norwich City Council's first computer, 1957. @HistoricalPics
Now, I don't know how I stood it, the bar noise and the sports on tvs stationed all over the bar and the beeps and squeals of the clumsy trivia games...ugh.

All I want to do on Friday nowadays is come home and be quiet.

I guess that is the difference between 23 years old and 53! Thirty years later all I can manage on Friday night after the first week of school is stopping at the Dollar Store for a bag of chips and lay down on the couch, munch, and watch Jeopardy.

But I can literally say that my life is all that and a bag of chips.

[groan] ha ha ha

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A nice Sunday

Today was very relaxing. I hope it was for you as well. Sundays should be like that. I awoke early this morning and I sure do enjoy when I awaken refreshed and able to rise early. It is so quiet here on Sunday mornings. The birds were lively at 5:30, and after 6:20 am when the neighbor left for work, I had the property to myself.

I studied my Sunday School lesson one last time, and read Genesis 16 and Genesis 21. I love the Hagar scenes. I had a small breakfast of a fried egg sandwich, and coffee. Ahhh.

After church I made a quinoa and green bean salad, and processed some of my fruit for fruit salad. The Bountiful Baskets is such a God-send. I love the cantaloupe and the grapes and the nectarines and the bananas and the mangoes and all the rest. There was a recipe on Facebook for a quick cake: add a box of angel food cake to a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, and bake. It came out great and I top it with fruit.

Afternoon was taken with nap and then movie. Today it was "Queen to Play" a French movie about a woman who discovers chess, and then discovers that she is good at it. Kevin Kline, the Kevin Kline of A Fish Called Wanda and Sophie's Choice was in it, and his role was entirely in French. He speaks so well and has a lovely French accent. The movie was set on the isle of Corsica, and the scenery was breathtaking.

Corsica reminded me of Elba, another island in the Mediterranean not far from Corsica. Many European and French sailors make a day trip to Elba in season either from the mainland or from Corsica. I remember eating at a small family run restaurant on Elba when the sunburned and lively yachtsmen who'd sailed over from Corsica started streaming in. We asked the waitress and she explained why the influx. It is truly beautiful area of the world, and it was nice to see it again via film.

Tomorrow sees our first full week of school with the kids. I am looking forward to it, but I also know I'll be tired. My idyllic mini-vacation AKA the weekend will end with a resumption of the struggle with the car ... but that is OK. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chicken party, veggie delight, cool weather

The chickens came back. This time, they were here for the figs that have fallen on the ground. The rooster was gorgeous. His coloration was striking, containing burnt umber,  sunset red, iridescent blue, and crow black tailfeathers.

I'm enjoying the cool rainy day. It's 64 degrees and I have had the opportunity to use the oven and not smoke myself out of house and home! I made two dishes of roasted veggies, and one of roasted chilies. The veggies were a mix of green pepper, onion, carrots, and leeks. The roasted chilies I don't know what to do with but I wanted to cook them and I'll likely use them somehow with black beans and an onion. Maybe black bean pate.

My Bountiful Basket today contained two huge heads of romaine lettuce, mangoes, avocados, tomatoes, onions, English cuke, grapes, spinach, plums and bananas. YUM. I had been given 2 lb of green beans, and this morning I steamed them. Tomorrow I think I'll make a Hungarian green bean soup, but I'll have to make a roux to thicken it. I know roux is easy, I just don't like dealing with flour. But I love thick soup, so...roux it is.

Being cool today, I was motivated to get some chores done early- vacuum, laundry and clean the plastic shower curtain. I hate taking that down and putting it up but I sure do love how clean it is after I throw it in the washer. I can tell I've started school, after I wrestled the shower curtain back onto the dozen shower curtain rings, I stepped down and said aloud to myself, "Good job!" I can't help it. LOL, it's what teachers do.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More cat pictures

The best kitties in the world!

Bert likes to lay along the top of the couch when I lay down on it. But he doesn't like to pose for pictures

Luke curls up on the ottoman. He doesn't mind posing- he is curious about everything.

First day of school

The first day of school 2013-2014 is here and I had a fantastic day! The kids were adorable as usual. Everything went smoothly. For the first time in years, it wasn't hot. The temps today were only about 72 degrees for a high, which is thirty degrees lower than last year's start of the year on the first day. Last year was monstrously hot. The buses don't have air conditioning and after sitting in the lot all day they were so hot you could grow jungle orchids in there. We passed out water to the kids getting on and were advising them to sip slowly during the ride. Man, it was hot.

Anyway, today for the first time it wasn't only cool, but it rained. The veteran teachers local to the area said that they can't remember the last time it rained on the first day. I didn't mind it, though I was sad the kids could not go out and play, but usually it is too hot for that anyway on the first day. The cool air and rainy, dark landscape made for a relaxing, quiet time.

It was sweet to see the first graders in the lunch room. I work in kindergarten all day but I have a midday duty that monitors 1st graders. Anyway when they sat down at the tables with their class and then looked up and around, they spotted their former classmates scattered around the cafeteria eating with their new classmates. They raised their hand and asked to go hug that one, or speak to this one, and their little reunions were totally charming. One guy who was popular last year in kindergarten but moved away, has come back. When his former classmates saw him, the news spread like wildfire around all the tables. "He's back, look!" they all said, and many hugs were exchanged. They might have short attention spans and can't remember a lot, but they do make heart-felt friends who mean a great deal to them. Even if it is short term, they love deeply.

My ole car performed like a champ all summer. On the day before the first day and on the first day with kids, of course it broke down. I hate that. I really, really hate that. There is only one place I have to be in my whole life, and it is school. I can walk or bike to church, to the PO and to the grocery store. They are all within half a mile. The school is a must-get-to destination, and of course that is the place it decides to strand me. I hate that. I can't tell you how much.

So Saturday is another Bountiful Baskets pick up. I am so thrilled with the produce. For a vegetarian like me, that basket is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Quality produce at affordable prices, it is heaven! I can't wait to see what is in my basket. I still have half a cantaloupe left over and half a cabbage.It does take me a good two weeks to eat it all.

A friend had given me a bag of green beans, and I'm going to make green bean pate with some and green bean casserole with the rest. And then I'll wait to see what is in my basket for this week to plan the rest.

I was looking at my Italy photos over the weekend. The last time I went was 1998, fifteen years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago. My sister and family is in France now. My France trip was even longer ago than Italy. Back then, I was consumed with where the next place I was going to go, so as to experience the bigness of life. Now I'm consumed with the minutiae of life- groceries, work, vehicle, church, writing, and my cats. Back then I saw God's plan in the vastness of His creation. From the towering Alps, to the Amazon valleys, to the blue Mediterranean to the hills of Scotland, from the icebergs at Labrador to the crystal Bahamian sea, it was vast in scope but empty of importance.

Now I see God in the details of my life instead of the vastness. My life is about minutiae but it's not minute. It's small but not trifling. It's where He planted me to do kingdom work, so therefore it is important. Though it is a quiet life, it is a big life- because of the work He gave me to do. And the work is to love, rejoice, and be glad in this day, because He has made it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

School tomorrow

Tomorrow I go back to school. We have four days of meetings, pre-planning and setting up rooms and then Friday the kids come back. The yellow school buses will roll out once again, and again and again, for the next 180 days. Or so.

Every year it's different- my daily tasks as a special education para-professional are to meet the needs of the children in the program who have been identified as needing such and such for so many minutes per day. Which kids I support, in which classrooms I support them, and how that support is meted out depends on the needs of each child who comes in. So year to year it changes. I'll know more when I go to school this week and all the regular education and special education kindergarten teachers hash out the schedule and then they will hand it to me and I'm good to go.

Seeing as how I am going to rise with the sun for the first time since May are a few photos to remind me of what the world looks like at that time.

Dawn over the horse farm

Sunrise over the Cumberland River, Georgia

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach SC

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach SC 

 Dawn at Madison County GA

Dawn over Paoli, GA
Till next time...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Venetian glass

A ceiling in the Grand Royal Hotel, Orvieto, Tuscany, Italy. The light is Venetian glass circa 1750. The ceiling is hand painted. The hotel used to be a palazzo built in 1200, and refurbished and renovated in 1800. In 1994, it cost $32.00 to stay there.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Braise that celery

As the summer leaks away like air from a balloon, I value every second ever more. I am looking forward to school, but the first month is always such a high cliff to climb. By this point I'm looking forward to school. However it is always such a big cliff to climb. During the summer, if I do three things in one day I'm exhausted and take the next week to recover. During the school year I do 2.340 million things a day and take 7 hours to recover.

But just thinking about the kids on the first day puts a smile on my face. The little kindergarteners are soooo tiny at the beginning of school. They are all dressed up, and look cute. Some cry, some cling to mom or dad, some are extremely shy and just stand there, frozen. Some get lost inside the school and wander down the hall while others and wander around in circles. It really is like herding cats and rounding up horses.

I enjoy the first day because I can help a kid feel better immediately. When they get lost in the cafeteria looking for their breakfast cards, I can calm them down and gently guide them. I can hold their hand walking down the hall. I can smile. I can tell them the look good, are doing well, will make it.

Usually around 10:00 in the morning they start asking when it is time to go home. It is a monstrously long day for them, from 7:30 to 3:00, if they come for breakfast. It's pretty tiring for us, too. Thankfully they always structure it so that the first day is a Friday and then we all go home and collapse.

For breakfast this morning, one of my last leisurely of the summer, I made a fresh scrambled egg with tomato, whole grain toast, and fruit salad with grapes and nectarines. So yummy!

With the basket of veggies I'd gotten last Saturday, I received two bunches of celery. Celery always perplexes me, and having it in the fridge in bulk ... I'm stumped. So I threw it toward the back and left it there. Well yesterday I googled a recipe for braised celery from Alton Brown. Alton Brown! Alton Brown!

It looks great so that is what I'll do after getting back from the Post Office and the Dollar Store (ah, the never-ending need for kitty litter...). So lunch will be broccoli-cheese quiche I'd made yesterday, the upcoming braised celery and another fruit salad (bananas, grapes, mango).

Dinner will be very light and then this evening a new episode of Project Runway. And there you have it, one of the last days of summer!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

This week's Bountiful Basket

I mentioned a week ago that I started participating in the food co-op called Bountiful Baskets. You sign up & pay online and every two weeks a truck comes with a huge basket of fresh and good produce. You can't pick what you receive, you just accept what is in the basket. Half is fruit and half is vegetable. This time I bought an "add-on" which was a bag of assorted fresh loaves of bread (no preservatives). Here is what I got. No photo this week because the parking lot was 9000 degrees and the car was 10,000 degrees and after I quickly stopped at the grocery store I was 12,000 degrees. I came home and stuffed it all in the fridge very fast.

Five vine ripe tomatoes
Bag carrots
2 heads celery
head butter lettuce
2 green peppers
2 onions
3 cukes
whole honeydew melon
6 nectarines
2 bunches bananas
2 lb grapes

still leftover from last time:

1 kiwi
2 mangoes
half cantaloupe

BB Add-on: five loaves fresh assorted bread (no preservatives) $10.00/ $2.00 each. Two loaves were 9-grain, one baguette, and two were English muffin bread.

I estimate that the savings this week was slightly less than last week but the overall cost savings was still around $3.00 or more than if I comparison purchased at the grocery store.

Donation: a friend who keeps chickens gave me a dozen fresh eggs. Thank you!
Donation: a friend who works in the bulk restaurant food industry gave me 18 spinach-feta calzones

All I needed to get at the grocery store this week was

1/2 gal milk
yogurt (for the fruit as topping & smoothies)
sour cream (for Mexican salad)
cheese (for broccoli cheese quiche)
broccoli (froz) for Broccoli cheese quiche
potatoes were on sale
2 avocadoes (for Mexican Salad)
1 small can tomato sauce (for the calzones)

Ripe on the tree in the yard: figs

I didn't list what I bought at the Dollar Store this week, but I cannot escape buying some hard goods, ever. Like kitty litter, TP, and the like. Sigh- those will always have to be figured into my budget.

Lunch & dinners for the week:

Broccoli-cheese quiche;
Mexican salad with black beans, lettuce, Spanish rice, and taco sauce topped with avocado and sour cream;
Quinoa salad with celery, craisins, and figs;
Fruit salad and smoothies.
Not to mention tomato sandwiches!

I'll have to adjust my budget tracking to monthly instead of weekly. The BB only comes around every other week so it represents two weeks' worth of food. And with the introduction of the eggs and calzones I have to spread out the cost over the month from paycheck to paycheck to determine what I've spent in order to compare. I need to make sure that the BB is less than what I was getting at the store. Even if it is more, up to a certain amount more, it will still be a benefit for two reasons:

1. It broadens my produce intake. At the store I always get the same things. I suspect my body will be happier with a mildly forced variety. For example, I like kale and I know kale is very good for me but I never buy it. There were two heads of kale in the basket last time and I enjoyed making kale chips out of them, very much.

2. It is better food than at the grocery store. As long as the quality stays this high with BB then I'll stick with it even if it goes a bit higher in cost than the grocery store.

The BB is growing every fast here in the county. The participation has quickly doubled, and the amount of people in the parking lot this time was noticeable enough to passers-by that several people stopped to see what was happening, and then got further information upon making inquiries. About 45 people participated this time and that is half the amount allowed. BB in Danielsville has a limit of 94 baskets.

On the down side, I hate grocery shopping on Saturday, even though the store is small and my list is small, I still run into too many people. Now that school is starting back up and the store where I shop is so close to school, I will make a quick jaunt on Mondays instead of combining it with the Saturday BB pick-up. Yes, I structure my life so that I interact with as few people as possible. Not that they aren't nice, they are. I just hate small talk.