To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Mystery of Rotational Symmetry and the Missing Tire Pump

The following is an email I received from my son in Taiwan. He's currently a teacher and some of the stories he relates are just hilarious! Let me say that I found his latest story especially funny considering a couple conversations I had with said son a few years back. On one occassion he had walked into the living room to find me lounging on the couch with a book. He asked what I was reading and I replied, "a long fatal love chase" to which he responded, "No, mom. What's the name of the book?" I turned the book to look at the cover, held it up to him and said with a grin, "A Long Fatal Love Chase." lol That was the name of the book. On another occasion I walked into the living room to find him watching TV. I asked what he was watching and his reply was, "all that" as he flipped his hand nonchalantly toward the TV. I asked again, "what are you watching?" to which he said with a smile, "All That". Aha! It was the name of the show. So, yes, I found the following simply hilarious.

I am almost certain that you, the reader, will not find nearly as much humor in this event since you are not familiar with the phonics books that I use everyday. I will do my best.

For each class I teach there is a phonics book that we work on. It is split up into lessons and we do one or two of the lessons each class. At the top of the page is the focus of the lesson and then there is an activity below.

In today's class, we did lessons that distinguished the short and long sounds of the five vowels. After going through each of the sounds "short 'A' - a a a. long 'A' - ay ay ay..." we moved on to the activity portion. There were 10 boxes each containing a word with some missing letters and a picture that matched up in some way with the word.

They were as follows:
1) _a_e with a picture of a gate.
2) _o_ with a picture of a box.
3) _i_e with a picture of a boy hiding.
4) _u_e with a picture of a tube.
5) _e_t with a picture of a compass rose.
6) _ee_ with a picture showing depths.
7) _o_e with a picture of a rope.
8) _a__ with a picture of sand.
9) _u__ with a picture of a boy blowing up a tire.
10) _i_ with a picture of a big six.

So I begin to go through these words with them using an exaggerated voice so they can easily guess the right letters. [Skip ahead]

Me: "Number eight. s-aNNNND."

[Everyone finishes]

Me: "Good, number ten. SSS-i-X. Six."
Class in unison: "NINE! NINE!"
Me: "It's a six you guys."
(I think, "Has my whole class gone insane?")
Me: "Have you all gone insane? It's a six. Look!"

I draw a two-foot tall six on the board and contrast it with a two-foot tall nine on the board. They are screaming "NINENINENINENINE!" and I am saying siiiiiiiiiiiiiiixxx and niiiiiiiiinnnnnneeee as I trace my gargantuan letters as slowly as I can.

"Teacher you no number nine!"

[I look down to see that, sure enough, I forgot pump.]

Hilarious. I think it's the funniest thing to happen to me at _______.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just for a moment

I spent the evening knitting, time moving slowly forward as I found the rhythm in yarn passing over my needles, one stitch followed by another, engrossed, learning. Hours passed before a strange light caused me to lift my head and gaze around at a room immersed in a magnificent orange glow. I ran for my camera, but was only able to capture this one poor image before the light was gone. You should have been there - it was very nearly breathtaking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Knitter's Heaven

I'm not a knitter by any stretch of the truth. I knit poorly at best. I know it's lack of experience and a matter of being self taught, but being unable to find the rhythm, I've been so ridiculously clumsy at it! But I want to be a knitter for the peace I'm sure it could add to my life. How could I not be peaceful when I'm creating something that takes over my soul?
I found out that Cat Bordhi was going to be at City Knitting last night for a talk and book signing and I thought, "why not?" and why would I miss a chance to learn something from one of the best? Look what I bought!

Cat is wonderful and she uses stories to help you understand the steps. Needless to say I bought more needles and Manos yarn and sat next to Cat for about 45 minutes while she talked me (and others) through casting on and making my first few rows. It was wonderful and I'm pretty sure I melded into her aura. It was so.....peaceful. I knew it, I just knew it would be. I went home and continued knitting while snuggled in bed all relaxed and cozy. (Except for the part where my cat thought I brought these items home as toys for him.) And just to be sure I really knew what I was doing I took it all apart and did it again.

I'm in knitter's heaven.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

They make me look bad....

but at least I'm taking away some good ideas for when I rip out my front yard. This trip to the Meijer Gardens was to see the Monet Gardens and the Degas Sculpture exhibit. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the Degas, but suffice to say it was brilliant. The complete 73 works in bronze, lucky me.
But this post is really about the gardens and how they made me aware of contrasts both in design and how I thought I felt about certain plants. I need to play in the dirt more.

Now here's a contrast of textures and colors that I wouldn't have mixed.

The composition of this picture is deliberate and I knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I did it! The light from behind simply glows.

I laughed out loud when I saw this and wondered about someone's sense of humor. It's in the children's garden, for heaven sake! And why is this red flower 'flipping me off'?

Did I really say I didn't want a waterfall in my garden? Perhaps because I've always thought you look at the waterfall, but now I would certainly have a waterfall if I could look through it.

I don't know what this is but I will have one. I will!

Now, I've also never been a fan of grasses, but I sure like this combination of browns and yellows.

I loved this for the color contrast and the softness of the bloom compared to how spikey it looks.

So cute, but he is my nemesis after paddling the Pigeon River this summer.

How do I make my kitchen reflect this color combination of blues, reds and greens? Tell me, I really want to know.....

I did not know that bamboo peeled like this.

Light and airy vs. coarse and prickley.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On turning 5

When you're the perfect grandmother (which I am, of course!) you have to listen to the babes to come up with the perfect gift. This is especially true when you prefer handmade over store bought toys.
My grandson currently wants to be a policeman when he grows up and what 5 y/o doesn't?
I found the material for the pillow in the clearance bin for $1/yard and you know I couldn't pass it up.

This was tough to make. I had to create the hat myself after scouring the internet and not being able to find a pattern. I 'borrowed' Sir S's toy emblem 2 weeks ago. The visor material was left over scraps from having made chaps for F.Y.S. when he was 12 and very into WWF. I used my new bias tape maker for the trim on the visor. I didn't even know this clever gadget existed until reading Amanda's blog and I've been sewing for 35 years. The hat wasn't easy, but it turned out great. He loves it!

Oh, and this is me being all smug over my creation.

I so copied this card from here. How could I not when it was so perfect? The inside says, "This is your first warning to 'police' have a great day." Corny, I know, but he's 5 and doesn't care.

This picture cracks me up. My grandson has his hat pulled down so far his ears stick out and yet his cousin, behind him, has his ears tucked inside his hat. hehe I guess they figure it out themselves. Happy birthday, Sir S. I love you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Withdrawals already

My son who lives in Taiwan is going through 'something' and informed me that he has deleted his blog, turned off AIM and deleted the only other site where I was able to glimpse his life. He said he would have to do a better job of emailing me or calling home instead. This is not going to be good. He is notorious for not emailing and phoning. I know he has to deal with his personal issues, but I don't think I like that it affects me as well. I don't like this at all. *sigh* It's like reaching out into the darkness and not finding anything there. This reminds me of missing my oldest son's phone call from boot camp and knowing there was no way to get back to him. I feel incredible sadness right now......
*update* Ok, I'm going to do the mom thing except that I can't cook him a meal. BUT! I can mail him food (because that will make me feel better). Look for a package honey.

Tissue Holder

So, what I love about being a relatively new blogger is that I get to read all of your fabulous older posts and I come across ideas that are completely new and unique for me. I'm sure many of you have seen this post and probably made one or two. But it's new to me and, dog gone it, I love how it turned out! I made this for a friend out of leftover scraps from a bag I made for her a couple weeks ago.

So simple, so easy, and she loved it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gardens are for pleasure

Let me just say that I love my gardens and as much as I love digging in the dirt in the spring I don't love spending my whole summer keeping the gardens in order. I used to put flats of annuals in every year and spend time each evening deadheading to keep the flowers looking their best. No more. A couple years ago I made a concerted effort to plant more perennials and last year I made the decision not to plant any annuals. Shoot, I didn't even make up the pots this year. What a difference that's made in my free time. I might be (mostly) done with annuals evermore. Now I've drawn up plans to replace my front yard with drought tolerant gardens to see if I can cut down on my next biggest chores of mowing and watering.
I've wanted a Clematis for years so how could I possibly say no to this......

It now graces a pretty trellis I found at the market this spring.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nature's Bounty

All the years I've been going to the U.P. I've never been there when the wild blueberries were ripe. Imagine my delight as we're walking through the woods to our newly discovered beach and I spy these growing literally everywhere. I picked and picked (and ate and ate) and then I picked more because we couldn't stop eating them

From this......

to this! Delicious!

Now this winter every savory bite of my jam is going to launch me into daydreams about this trip. That will be a great winter treat.
I'm wondering how wild Lake Superior blueberries compare to wild Maine blueberries.....oooh, road trip! Actually, I used the SureGel recipe so I'm willing to make a trade for a jar of Maine blueberry jam if anyone is interested. You know, just to find out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Quick Photo Tour

My sons and I spent many vacations in Grand Marais with my mother just playing on the beach, hiking the waterfalls, relaxing and exploring. The last time we were here was in 1996, before my mother got sick. She died a few years later.  For a while my sons wouldn't go back because, "it won't be the same without Grandma." *sigh* Many, many fond memories. Now I have grandchildren of my own and we were ready to show them the places behind our fabulous stories. We started planning last year and time passed excruciatingly slow the last month as we counted down the days before departure. This place was always holy ground for me - turns out it still is and I'm ever so thankful for that.

Sir K's first experience with Lake Superior - he was properly awed. He said it looked like the ocean. It does, without the salt.

We're here and ready to explore our second home. My little family has grown significantly. My mother would have loved this excursion.

I have a picture of F.Y.S. and F.M.S. in this same spot 12 years ago. F.Y.S. hiked Au Sable Falls with Jewels this time as F.M.S. now lives in Taiwan. We missed you, honey.

Here we have the result of being 2 years, 9 months old and having spent the last 3 days hiking up and down the dunes, swimming, exploring, staying up late, getting up early and being given white milk when you specifically asked for chocolate. Did I mention she hadn't taken any naps?

Oh my, we discovered the most amazing cove that we dubbed Guppy Beach and spent the day playing with play with complete abandon.

Swiss Family Robinson surely must have tried to paddle logs out into the sea as well.

Where else can you find a Star Wars Speeder Bike that crash landed on your private beach?

Lingering an extra two minutes to pick the berries before leaving Guppy Beach. Is it time to go home already?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Are you a Taker or a Leaver?

Eight fabulous days in my favorite place, Grand Marais. I feel absolutely refreshed!
While on vacation my 10 y/o grandson noticed an odd behavior of mine that I needed to explain. Whenever I'm hiking or at the beach I tend to leave my 'mark' in the form of stacked rocks or driftwood decorated with some of my beach finds as a small token of my gratitude and thanks for the beauty I find in the world. I explained to Sir K that you're either a Leaver, meaning you create clever things for people to find, or you're a Taker and you knock down or take what others have created. He liked the concept and spent the week creating fun 'Leaves' with me. It didn't take long for the entire family to join in the spirit of being Leavers. Since we went to the U.P. primarily to be Takers - we collect agates - we thought it fitting to create an incredible Leave as compensation. Having discovered a beautiful cove where we played for two days we decided this would be the ideal place for our Leave. Each member of the group (8) contributed something to the effort:

Our Take:

Our Leave:

Our very fitting family motto as we do love a good story!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Happy Eight, Eight, O'Eight

I'm posting this now so any readers can still have time to try this as well - if you wish. We're leaving tomorrow for Grand Marais so I won't be able to post pics of the day until I get back, but here's what we're doing:
It's a momentous occasion for everyone because we won't have this day again. Tonight, we're all meeting at A&P's to pack the vehicles. The date is 8/8/08 and there are 8 of us going on this trip (how fortuitous!) and we decided to eat at 8:08 tonight and we're serving 8 foods. Honestly? It was sort of hard to come up with 8 different foods without cheating and counting the pickles on the burgers as one of the 8. We didn't cheat and we did try to think of creative foods to make.

Seven plus ice cream is eight!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How To Do It Your Way

This is the proper way to eat a grape. You sit on Grandma's counter as comfortable as can be (really it's so the cat can't get you) and you nibble grapes off the at a time. And you manage to look very princess-like in the process.

I'm surprised at what a light touch she has when she's drawing. Is this a girl thing or a Miss M thing? I don't know since I didn't raise girls.

Ah, yes, Star Wars, a la the intergalactic material we found for $1 in the clearance bin. I love the sound effects that go with this play. By the way, all these figurines belonged to his Daddy when he was a boy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Such a Girly Girl!

Miss M? Miss Emmmmm... Miss M!


"What? I have to catch this bug......." says she.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Girl's Got Some Pipes!

If she can do this on her own AND buckle herself in do you think she may have outgrown the baby swing? It's amazing to watch. She straddles the safety guard, grabs the ropes and hauls herself up, spins around in the swing to clip the buckles....and she grins! I grin too.

"Grandma," she says, "push me to the sky....." Her favorite - going as high as you can push her until the ropes go slack. Talk about a good belly laugh!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Put your heart into it!

I was taking pictures (as usual) of Sir S playing in the sprinkler this weekend and I noticed something peculiar. When kids play they put their whole heart and body into it, like when Sir S jumps through the water. The arms are extended, his belly is sucked in and his face is filled with determination when he's going airborne. As a test I tried running and jumping with him and, ya'know, I was far more reserved than he was. It's like I forgot how to have unreserved play. I might have to practice his style more often 'cause it sure looks like fun!

Does he look like he's having fun?

Let me explain the umbrella hat. The whole family is going camping in Grand Marais soon and Sir S's Uncle Dude said, "we have to bring the umbrella hats!" He has fond memories of our many camping trips to the Manistee River as a child and wearing these goofy hats while playing in the woods during the rain. My kids, Uncle Dude is one of them, were not deterred by inclement weather. I'm surprised the hats are in such good condition after all these years and so much use. Ah, yes, another generation to carry on the crazy traditions and forge new memories.