Monday, May 26, 2008

3 More Books Read

I finished 3 books this week -- only one really grabbed my interest. I really enjoyed The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. It's historical fiction, set in England just before, during, and after WW1. Grace goes to work at Riverton as a housemaid at age 14, just before the start of WW1. She is fascinated by the family, and in particular, the Hartford sisters who come to Riverton first as visitors and then later as residents. The novel is told in retrospect. At the close of her life,Grace is dictating her memories to a beloved grandson. She examines her memories, and figures out some pieces of the past that had long troubled her. Kate Morton appears to have done extensive research into the time period and paints an intricate picture of the disintegration of a world, and the changes that overwhelmed many. I wasn't completely satisfied with the ending. I think there were a few loose ends that could have been tied up a bit more tightly. But I did enjoy it a lot!

4 More Weeks

We still have a month of school -- June 20th is our last day, and it seems so far off on the one hand, and not enough time to get everything done that needs to get done. I'm trying to finish a novel with my kids and complete a social studies research project, on top of all the end of year activities that pop up every week. And this week, will be interesting as I am going to a 2 day reading conference, so have to figure out how to structure activities for the sub. We also have a field trips scheduled for June 4th and 11th, and a field day to plan.

It's been a great weekend weatherwise, and I feel like I've accomplished quite a bit. I got my garden planted -- several tomato varieties, pickling cukes, bush beans, yellow squash, zucchini, and basil. I still have room for a few more things. The black flies are horrendous this year too -- I have the bites to prove it. I've got bites under my hairline, behind my ears, on my ankles, you name it. . . The bane of NH spring - with the beautiful weather come the black flies . . .

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wuz UP?

The ceiling. That's my usual response to my students when they come into my classroom and greet me like this!

I have been really busy lately with the "beginning of the end of the year" stuff, spring stuff, personal stuff, and some church stuff.

Friday night was a 6th dance - the first dance just for the sixth grade, and the first dance they were allowed to go to. In my middle school dances are just for the 7th and 8th graders, although usually there's a "Beach Dance" at the end of the year to which the 6th graders are invited. This year, as part of our Positive Behavior Support" program, we offered a dance just for the 6th graders so that we could "teach" them our behavior expectations for school dances. They will next be allowed to attend the traditional Beach Dance in June. About 2/3 of the kids showed up for an hour and half of loud, pulsing music (all pre-vetted by us for language appropriateness!) They really had a lot of fun "chicken-dancing," doing the macarena, and some line dances in addition to the usual jumping up and down that constitutes dancing today!

Last weekend I was away at a retreat, part of a series, called the "Small Church Vitality Project", offered by the NH Conference of the United Church of Christ. It was really interesting and worthwhile, but it was also exhausting! It was also DH's birthday and Mother's Day! Lots of stuff packed into a short amount of time.

I've been knitting too! I'm working on this:

I also went to the WEBS Tent sale and stocked up on some yarn: Berocco Pure Merino for the Nantucket Jacket from Interweave Knits, Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky for a cardigan jacket, and some Classic Elite Alpaca Sox for Spirogyra fingerless mitts from

And I've been reading:

1. Hold Tight by Harlen Coben - a thriller that held my attention well while I read it, but have already gotten mixed up in my head with others he's written.

2.Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich. Very inconsequential, but a very relaxing way to spend a sunny afternoon on a screen porch.

3. Black Ships by Jo Graham. This was really interesting historical fiction. The story follows Gull, a slave from Wilusa (Troy) who becomes Pythias, the guardian priestess of the goddess of Death. The book follows her as she becomes Aeneas' chief advisor as he sets out to find a new home after his life is destroyed. The book is a retelling of Virgil's Aeneid, from a female perspective. Since I've just finished teaching ancient Greece and we are now studying ancient Rome, the timing couldn't have been better. This was a totally serendiptious choice from the public library; it was featured as one of the new books.

4. Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the newest novel in the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency. I thoroughly enjoy this series. While this wasn't the strongest novel in the series as far as I'm concerned, I never regret spending time with Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their lives in Botswana. The gentleness of the storytelling, and Mma Ramotswe's view on life never fail to reassure me that life is good.

So it's been a busy May and will continue that way, if not more so. This week we have Parent Information Night for the parents of next year's 6th graders. They are always nervous as their children move into the middle school from our 2 elementary schools. We spend a lot of time reassuring them and making them feel like we're not a big bad scary place. So we provide lots of opportunities for them to come in and get to know us, and as a result, they realize we're a nice school too!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Book #30 Jamaica Inn

Of course, since I went to Cornwall, I had to re-read Daphne DuMaurier. I started with Jamaica Inn. I first read this over 40 years ago. It's still good! I didn't get to Bodmin and the real Jamaica Inn, but I enjoyed recognizing the villages and towns mentioned in the book that I passed through on the train, or went to -- Helston, Truro, Penzance, and of course St. Ives.

Rainy Weather

It's chilly and rainy today, not the bright spring weather we long for. The daffodils are trying hard to bloom, and my magnolia tree is trying to blossom, but the rain is knocking the blooms off the branches. I had to go out and run errands and I didn't appreciate the wetness. However, just over a week ago, I was experiencing very similar weather and I didn't mind it as much. I spent my April break in Cornwall, and for much of the week, we had drizzly, misty, rainy weather.
It didn't stop us however from having a terrific vacation.

We flew to London and took the train to St. Ives. I am still amazed how much open land there is in Great Britain. We stayed in a guest hotel called The Old Count House. We had a very comfortable room with a sea view, although it wasn't until the 4th morning that we could see the whole harbor and Godevry Light! There was too much "mist." Our hosts were very friendly and hospitable, and they served a wonderful breakfast every morning. They live in one part of the house which at one time was the home was the "counting house" for the owner of a tin mine.
Every morning we walked down the hill into town and explored the area.

The first day it was pouring so we took the train to The Eden Project, about an hour from St. Ives.

An exhausted clay pit has been reclaimed, several enormous geodesic domes have been built, and they have created several biomes inside. We spent the good part of the day exploring the rainforest and Mediterranean biomes. Another day we took the train to Penzance. From there we went to St. Michael's Mount. This is a small island off the coast that you can walk to at low water across a manmade causeway.
On the top of the island mount is a castle! We climbed the path to the top and although we didn't have the view that one would get on a clear day, we were quite impressed.
Another day we went to Land's End - the most westerly point in England. Incredible scenery!

I took a ton of pictures. I wish it were easier to upload to my blog. (I have dial up internet, so it can take forever to get a picture uploaded!) If you 're interested you can view my album at my Picasa web page here
A few random thoughts generated by our trip:

1. We were incredible impressed by how easy it was to travel around using public transportation. We did not rent a car. If we wanted to go somewhere we either walked or took the train or the bus or a combination! In my part of New England this is next to impossible. It's too far to walk to work or to the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter. Even if I lived in town, there is no public transportation available.

2. I was also incredibly impressed by the availability of bathrooms everywhere we went - at the train stations, at the bus stations, in the villages themselves. They all were open and CLEAN!

3. Kids are kids everywhere. One time we were in Penzance at the bus station awaiting our bus back to St. Ives. School let out and all the kids (middle school age) ran to the bus station. (They use public transportation too) There about 20 or so kids, boys and girls. They split into groups -- one group pulled out a hackey sack, another group started chasing each other around, the girls huddled together, some pulled out candy bars, etc. A couple of the boys were teasing each other, getting a little rough. My teacher-y voice almost broke through my vacation mode, but I caught it in time and enjoyed the fact that I wasn't supervising recess!!

4. I finally got the hang of the money on this trip. By the end of the week, I wasn't inspecting each coin to be sure it was the right amount. It really showed me how much we take for granted in our every day life. When was the last time you tried to make/change and carefully inspected each coin to be sure the quarter was quarter or the dime a dime?? If something cost 50p (like the shuttle bus to the top of the hill) I can now visualize the 50p coin, or 2 twenty p coins and 10 p coin.

5. I love hearing the differences in vocabulary and idioms. We were often asked if we were "on holiday", and we were frequently asked to "Mind the gap" or "Mind your step." People will "phone" you and offer you "sweets" or "puddings" instead of dessert. Appetizers are "starters" and entrees are "mains". Cars are put into "car parks" and the restrooms are usually called what they are " toilets." It makes me smile though that often they are labeled "female toilets" or "male toilets" or "gents". Tips are called "service charges" in restaurants, and are usually only 10-12%.

6. Cornwall is the poorest area in England, or so I'm told. Tourism is the number one industry, and there is a small fishing industry and some agriculture. Cornwall is doing a good job of "branding" itself in an effort to boost agriculture and fishing. In almost all of the pubs and restaurants we visited, the menus advertised that the produce and meat were from local sources. I certainly enjoyed the local products immensely --- especially the locally brewed ales (Cornish cream, Doombar, and Tribute, to name 3 I sampled), the ice cream (the best I've ever eaten in my life!) and Rhodda's clotted cream. None of these are exactly good additions to a WW plan, but they are delicious! We sampled some "made on the premises" apricot saffron almond ice cream that was absolutely heavenly. And there's nothing like a good pot of tea, flaky scones, homemade strawberry jam, and clotted cream. Clotted cream, in case you're not familiar with it, is hard to describe. It's not whipped cream, and it's not butter, but it's like both! We had a Cornish cream teas in the place of a meal on two occasions. I don't know if I can find clotted cream anywhere around here. It's probably best if I can't!!