Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Leftovers and Cloning Parents

A "Leftovers Casserole" is heating up in the oven made from you-guessed-it, leftovers from Sunday dinner - basmati rice, roast chicken, assorted steamed veggies all mixed together with cream of mushroom soup and a sprinkle of parmesan.   It's a good kind of meal for today.  We woke up to snow covering the bright green grass, daffodils, and forsythia.  At least we only got a sprinkle of snow.  Some folks not too far away got almost a foot of the stuff!  It's been showery, blustery, and even more flurries all day.  Seems much more like March than the end of April.  We got spoiled with a very early spring, and all of our blooms are 2-3 weeks early.

It also feels like a Left Overs year.  We have 37 days left of school, but the kids have definitely checked out. There's too much year left over to stop, but the kids have.

We are trying to do a final push with skills since our MAPS tests are coming up in a couple of weeks.  Even though these are not the tests that the state uses to assess AYP, they are scary for teacher tests.  We are being evaluated as to whether or not at least 60% of our students reach their target growth rates in reading and math.  If we don't have that percentage, we are put on a professional growth plan.  We're not sure what this means as this is the first year that the evaluation is occuring.  We were told in Sept what our percentages were for last year, and that no one achieved that.  I came close at 59%.  We were also told that it wouldn't count til this year.   All I know is that we all work very hard to ensure that not only are we teaching kids the skills they need, but that we are doing everything we know how to do to make sure that it's possible for them to reach their targets.  The only problem I see is that a lot of our students are not invested in doing their best. Instead, they just want to get the test over with.  Are any of you who are teachers seeing a  lack of motivation in your students?  My teaching partner and I are very frustrated with many of our kids' attitudes, and sometimes with their parents who agree that their child isn't motivated, but they expect us to solve the problem.  It was quite refreshing earlier this week to have a conference with a set of parents who said, "It's our job to send our son to school ready to learn.  You have enough to do with the actual teaching.  If our son is not achieving what he needs to achieve, because he's being lazy, then it's our job to push him."  I wanted to clone them right there and then!!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I love birthdays!!  And today it's mine!   I don't mind that I'm now officially closer to 60 than to 50, I don't mind that I had to go back to school after a lovely spring break, I don't mind that it was threatening rain most of the day, I don't mind that I had to cook dinner, and I even don't mind that I really didn't like the cake my husband purchased at the grocery store yesterday.  I had a lovely day. My husband went shopping at my favorite gift store in town, and purchased a lusted-after Vera Bradley bag for me all without any hinting on my part.  My sons ordered me my most-wanted item off my wish list (even if it's backordered).  A colleague brought me nearly to tears with her unexpected gifts of a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee and Vera Bradley lanyard but especially her sweet words.  My homeroom sang Happy Birthday to me.  I am grateful for my family and friends, for my often-complained about job, and especially for another birthday.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some More Sensational Socks

From Knitting Gallery

From Knitting Gallery

These are a pair of Slipped Rib socks from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks book.

I used Trekking XL from Webs and they knit up quickly.   They are fraternal socks, not identical!

What I Did on my Spring Vacation

I am sure that if I assigned this topic to my 6th graders I would get the same title on most of their essays.  I guess that's why I won't be asking them to write about their breaks!  (I'm actually thinking about - What did you wish you did, but didn't!)

We spent a couple of days away on a 900 mile round trip get away.  We left on Sunday morning and headed for Cape May, NJ.  I wanted beach, I wanted further south than here, and I wanted a bed and breakfast.  I got 2 out of 3.  We stayed here, at the Marquis de Lafayette:

We had a balcony view of the beach and ocean, and it was in walking distance of all the sights. Since it was off season, we got our room for a very reasonable price  -- about a quarter of what it goes for during the summer.   Cape May is full of restored Victorian homes.  We took a guided trolley tour and we walked up and down all the side streets as well as the beach.

We spent 2 nights here and then headed back north, stopping in my home town in CT to visit my aunt and some cousins.  Tuesday night we traveled to Mystic, CT where we spent the night, and then on Wednesday morning, I went in search of an old family cemetery in Stonington.  I've been working on our genealogy in between knitting, reading, school work, and church.  My mother's family is an early New England family and a lot of work has already been done on her side.  My father's side is more difficult; he was born in Cuba, and his family is from Asturias, Spain.  My husband's family came to the US in the late 1800's and early 1900's from places that have changed countries a few times:  Sadagora which is now in the Ukraine but was part of the Austria-Hungary empire back when his father was born, and small villages near Minsk.  His family is also difficult because so many records were lost.    But I did find the cemetery I was looking for.

I love the mausoleum!  There is no record however of who's inside!  Someday I will contact whoever is in charge of the cemetery to find out.
This ancestor fought in the American Revolution and is one of the ancestors through which my DAR membership is traced.  There are a number of other family members here, but I haven't been able to yet to trace exactly when the family arrived in Stonington.  Family lore says the first relative came over with Gov. Winthrop on the Arbella in 1630, but I haven't substantiated that yet.

We finished up our trip through the past with a visit to the University of Connecticut.  It's our mutual alma mater.  I have to admit, the campus has mushroomed since we were there in the late '60's and early 70's, and it's not nearly as pretty as it used to be.  It's a veritable city now! 

The rest of the week was very low-key. I got some knitting done, read a lot, and watched a lot of DVR'd TV shows that had piled up.  Now it's back to the grind  (on my birthday no less!) for another 40 days.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My February Lady in April

I FINALLY finished my Knitting Olympics project, the February Lady Sweater. I started it on the first day of the Winter Olympics 2010 and was just about finished with it at the end of the event. But when I tried on the sweater it was too small. So I ripped it out to the bodice and reknit the body on larger needles. I stumbled a number of times along the way. I'd knit 3-4 inches of the gull lace pattern without a hitch, then I'd mess up and knit a couple more inches before I'd realize it. I'd rip out the errors and do it again. I think I probably knit this sweater the equivalent of 3 times!! But I'm glad to report that not only have I finished the knitting, but that it fits really well. I still have to block it and I need to get buttons for the bodice. I am very happy with it!

I used Valley Yarns Colrain in garnet and I increased the bodice using the eyelet increase suggested on the pattern.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vacation Reading - So Far

First book in a new series by an author new to me:

The Crossing Places The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ruth Galloway is an archeology professor specializing in Iron and Bronze Age Britain.  She's middle-aged, overweight, and single and she lives with her cats in an isolated cottage on the edge of a protected marsh.  When some bones are discovered that may possibly be those of a missing child, the police call her in to investigate.  Her investigation leads her to a significant archeological find as well as to the solving of two missing persons mysteries.  Ruth also finds a mutual attraction to the lead detective who's married.  This was on the dark side of suspense novels, not at all a cozy read; the characters were interesting, and I look forward to reading more of Elly Griffiths' works.

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#2  An old author, but new to me:

Died in the Wool Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've never read any Ngaio Marsh before although I remember my mom reading this author.  I found this through an on-line book group on Ravelry and decided to give her books a try. 

It's just after World War II, and New Zealand woman, Florence Rubrick has been brutally murdered and her body hidden in a wool bale.  Inspector Alleyn has been sent out from England to help solve this cold case as there is a suspicion that her death is part of an on-going espionage investigation.  I found this novel to be slow-moving and even plodding at times.  I also used my dictionary a few times to find out what some of the New Zealand vocabulary meant - "fossiking" for example means prospecting or ferreting out.  I did figure out who the murderer was before the author told us, but didn't figure out how it was tied into the espionage problem.  I will probably try another of her books if I can find them.  My library has none so I have to use interlibrary loan. 

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#3  And an old friend!

Poseidon's Gold (Marcus Didius Falco, #5) Poseidon's Gold by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
These books just get better and better!  This time, Falco is charged with the murder of a legionary from his brother's regiment.  His brother Festus apparently left a huge debt behind as the result of an investment scheme gone wrong, and Falco's family is on the hook for it.  When one of the investors comes to get his money, he winds up dead, and Falco is blamed.  In this fast-paced installment, Falco works closely with his estranged father Geminius to clear his name, and he finally has the opportunity to ask Helena to formally marry him.   But as always, the famous Marcus Didius Falco luck prevails . . . . . I really enjoyed this one.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Top 100 Children's Books - What Have You Read???

 This list was compiled by School Library and I borrowed it from a friend's blog.  I've read all but 12 of them, mostly as a kid.  I just purchased (free) from Amazon for my Kindle, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I never read the Oz books as a kid quite frankly, because the illustrations in the editions that my library had, scared me.    I decided that it was time to catch up on that omission.  I have to admit that I have a hard time deciding which of these are the best  --- I think they're all terrific books.  Some of the newer ones that I would heartily recommend are The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, Frindle, Walk Two Moons,  and The Lightning Thief.   But they are all good!
#1 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
#3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
#4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
#6 Holes by Louis Sachar
#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry
#8 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
#10 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#11 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
#12 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
#13 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
#15 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
#16 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
#17 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
#18 Matilda by Roald Dahl
#19 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
#20 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
#21 Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riodan
#22 The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo
#23 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#24 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
#25 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
#26 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
#27 A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett
#28 Winnie-the Pooh by A.A. Milne
#29 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland /Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
#30 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
#31 Half Magic by Edward Eager
#32 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
#33 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#34 Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
#35 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JK Rowling
#36 Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
#37 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
#38 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
#39 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#41 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
#42 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#43 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
#44 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
#45 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
#46 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
#47 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
#48 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
#49 Frindle by Andrew Clements
#50 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
#51 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
#52 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
#53 Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
#54 The BFG by Roald Dahl
#55 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
#56 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
#57 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
#58 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
#59 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
#60 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
#61 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
#62 The Secret of the Old Clock (The Nancy Drew mysteries) by Caroline Keene
#63 Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
#64 A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
#65 Ballet Shoes by Noah Streatfeild
#66 Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
#67 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
#68 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
#69 The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
#70 Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
#71 A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
#72 My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
#73 My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
#74 The Borrowers by Mary Norton
#75 Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
#76 Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
#77 City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
#78 Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
#79 All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
#80 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
#81 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
#82 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
#83 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
#84 Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
#85 On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#86 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
#87 The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
#88 The High King by Lloyd Alexander
#89 Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary
#90 Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
#91 Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
#92 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
#93 Caddie Woodlawn by C. R. Brink
#94 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
#95 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
#96 The Witches by Roald Dahl
#97: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
#98 Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
#99 The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
#100 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Let me know which ones you've particularly enjoyed!  

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Vacation

We've actually left the homefront for a couple of days. We've headed south a bit, via car, to Cape May, NJ.  Despite having lived 7 years in NJ during some of my growing up days, I never made it to NJ's southern tip.  I suspect however, that back in the '60's, it didn't have quite the cachet it has today.  We took an architectural tour today, and many of the beautiful painted ladies were in disrepair 40 years ago.    When I get back, I will share a few of my favorite photos.  For now, we've done a lot of walking, and enjoying beautiful spring weather.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm Proud to be UCC

This is a new commercial for the denomination I belong to.  For almost my entire life, I've been a member of a church that belongs to the United Church of Christ.   From my birth church, originally established in 1639, but which became a UCC church in 1959 when I was 5, to my current church which is a Open and Affirming Just Peace member of the denomination, I've been a UCC member for all but a few years when we lived in NJ and there wasn't a UCC nearby.

Check us out!

The Language of God from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I treated myself to some yarn in the WEBS Anniversary Sale. I got the Honeydew Plymouth Encore and the Aquamarine Plymouth Encore for some upcoming baby gifts. I bought the Opal Memory for socks, just because it was pretty. And the Raspberry yarn is Plymouth Royal Llama Silk for a sweater for me. All the yarn was on sale. I saved $55 plus change on the Royal Lllama Silk which made the sweater I want to make affordable. On the outer edge of affordable, but affordable nonetheless. The Opal was about 1/2 price and the Encore was also a great deal.  the amazing thing is that I place the order online Saturday afternoon.  The package arrived this morning - Tuesday!!  I LOVE WEBS!
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Lacuna #27

The Lacuna The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a very compelling novel, although at first I was tempted to abandon it.  But I stuck with it, and it became a book I couldn't put down.  A lacuna is defined as a missing piece of text, a gap, an extended silence, and this novel is well-named.  Harrison Shepherd is half Mexican, half American, and the son of divorced parents.  His Mexican mother takes him to live in Mexico on a small island with her newest lover and while living there Shepherd discovers a lacuna, or gap in the sea cliff that leads to an underground well or cenote.  Shepherd grows up feeling very much as though he himself is a lacuna.  Caught between two diverse cultures, two indifferent parents, and ultimately very different world views, Shepherd never really feels whole.  His story is told through his personal journals and letters, through the letters he writes to Frida Kahlo, through the papers he types for Trotsky, and through the letters and articles others write about him.  Shepherd himself is a lacuna - much of his story is missing, and the people around him are left guessing his story, as is the reader at times!  Shepherd's first job is as a plaster-mixer for muralist Diego Rivera, but soon his life becomes intertwined with Rivera and Frida Kahlo when he joins their staff as cook/driver/secretary.  Through that relationship he becomes secretary to Trotsky until Trotsky is murdered.  All throughout, Shepherd keeps minute records of his life and thoughts in finely detailed journals which disappear after Trotsky's murder.  Shepherd returns to the US where he settles in Asheville, NC and discovers his voice as a best-selling novelist.  And then the ugly head of McCarthyism raises and Shepherd is denounced.  The original lacuna, the cave in the sea cliff, becomes important once more as the novel reaches its denouement.

This novel raises some tough questions about reality and perception, about how lies become truth.  It's a tough read, but very much worthwhile.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Light Reading - Just What I Needed!

This is not great literature, but it was a very relaxing read.

Death by Darjeeling (A Tea Shop Mystery, #1) Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is the first book in a series featuring Theodosia and her Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, SC.  The mystery is light, the writing is uneven, but it's a quick cozy read.  Charleston is definitely a main character as is tea.  I do drink tea, and I order teas from a tea wholesaler.  This book made me want to drink even more tea!

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Still a Knife in the Heart

It doesn't matter that I knew this was coming.  It doesn't matter that I've had 2 months to "reconcile" myself to it. When you finally get the official letter with the decision written in down in black and white, it still hurts.  It's still a knife in the heart. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book #26 The Hot Fudge Sundae Blues

Hot Fudge Sundae Blues: A Novel Hot Fudge Sundae Blues: A Novel by Bev Marshall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thirteen year old Layla Jay's mother Frieda is widowed and penniless, and the two of them live with with her grandparents.  Layla Jay's grandmother is strict and very religious while her grandfather cusses and never goes to church. Frieda doesn't get along with her mother, smokes, drinks, dresses provocatively, and has a string of boyfriends that both Layla Jay and her mother disapprove of.  Then the handsome revival preacher shows up and Frieda marries him much to everyone's dismay.  Layla Jay's life takes a definite turn for the worse.  Eventually Layla Jay has to make some life-changing decisions.   I really enjoyed this coming-of-age novel.  Layla Jay is quite believable as a conflicted teenager.  She loves her grandparents and her mother, and she desperately wants to make things right with her God.  Yet life constantly puts her in difficult places and forces her to make some choices she would rather not make.  Layla Jay somehow manages to stay true to her core self and to her family.

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Friday, April 2, 2010


We're still waiting for the formal notifications of changes in teaching assignments for next year.  It's getting really old fast.  As one of the folks who is going to be reassigned, it's been a tense couple of months.  Those of us who are affected have been told not to discuss it with anyone.  And yet EVERYONE knows something.  I can't tell you how many teachers have found their way into my room to ask me what I know.  The really sad part of all of this is that I have VERY mixed feelings about the pending reassignment.  I do not want to leave my grade level but I also do not want to continue teaching science.  I'm discouraged because I have seniority over others at my grade level who are teaching the subjects I'm qualified to teach and that I taught successfully for almost 15 years.  But I don't have the political connections that others have, and I've never figured out how to whine successfully.   We were promised that the announcements would be made last Monday, and then the date was Wednesday.  It's Friday, and no announcements yet.

Book #25 for 2010

I really enjoy these books. I love my local library; I just wish they had them "in stock" and  I didn't have to get them all from the interlibrary loan system!  I do appreciate the fact that I can get them that way however!

The Iron Hand of Mars (Marcus Didius Falco, #4) The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Falco has reluctantly accepted an imperial mission which takes him deep into the wilds of the Germania Libera.  Helena has disappeared, apparently in a fit of pique when Falco misses  her birthday.  At the same time, Vespasian's son Titus is romantically pursuing her.  Helena' s brother Camillus Justinius is introduced in this installment, teaming up to support Falco.  I really enjoyed this installment of Falco's adventures even though it was less of a puzzle than usual, and much more of an adventure.  There are the usual misunderstandings between Falco and Helena as well as the usual reconciliations!  I really appreciate the level of research that the author has done to produce such a detailed picture of the first century Roman world. 

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