Saturday, June 26, 2010

O (We're Going to) Canada!

Follow along with a daily photo on

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reaction to Donovan's Soccer Goal

Danziger, on his blog The Year in Pictures (on my blog list on the right), explains:
"Watching Landon Donovan’s game winning goal on Wednesday Purdue University senior Robby Denoho and decided it merited an instant tribute which he posted to YouTube. Within hours, the video had gone viral, and as the American players headed to bed on Friday night ahead of their round-of-16 match against Ghana in Rustenburg, more than 350,000 viewers had tuned in.

"It also didn’t take long for the video to get to Donovan himself. For all of the plaudits the American soccer star received after his moment of glory, it was seeing the reaction his goal provoked that touched him the most. "Not sure if you guys saw this but it brings tears to my eyes every time,” Donovan wrote on his Facebook account."

Christine and Doug: Sail Away!

On the occasion of my sister's marriage to her sweetheart, a quote, from Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Congratulations to both of you on this very happy day!
(and I hope you have a grand old time in Paris)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Reads

I remember that day pretty clearly. The brilliant and dazzling lesson plan fell on its face. The students were more bored than I was. The silence that met a non-starter discussion question was overwhelming. I was a failure in the classroom. Me, whose father graduated from Harvard and had taught in Higher Ed for his entire lifetime. Me, whose grandmother taught in elementary school all her life. Me, whose two sisters were in education. My husband is a professor. I wanted to be one too. A good one.

At the end of that class period, I threw all my books in my bag, came home and after dinner Googled the phrase “bad teacher.” I read and read and read and happened on a website where teachers moaned about their “snowflakes,” the new class of students who never prepared for class and expected to be entertained. Even though the tone was snarky, the comments eye-popping, I learned a lot that night. I learned that bad days happen. That students will never be as prepared as you are. That I had to keep going, but have a laugh once in a while in order to keep some perspective.

So often in teaching we think it is all about pedagogy–about the way we teach our material to our students. I think this “how” is critical because it forces us to become prepared and fluent in what we want to teach. Knowing our “how” teaches us to teach, in the best scenario. But I also think that there is more than simply knowing our material and delivering it, more than simply being momma birds to baby birds in a nest.

As I continue to define for myself what being a good teacher might mean, I was intrigued with the advice given to new teachers by Mike Rose, in his column “Graduating into the classroom,” for the Los Angeles Times. At the end he notes that a good teacher, “regardless of grade level, subject or styles, has the equivalent of what musicians call ‘big ears’; they are curious, open, on the lookout for anything they can use in the service of some larger goal.”

That’s what going to conferences is all about, as well as reading and gathering and trying out new things in the classroom is all about. But I also think that’s why summer break is crucial as well: it gives us places outside the classroom to fill up our senses, to move beyond our teaching scripts to restore our energy, make unusual connections, explore new experiences. We can take time to take some time to watch the flight of a bird on the shore, listen to the pines in a forest, make a quilt or a chair or linger on the playground. Perhaps it’s also a time to read a book completely out of our usual sphere of influence and interest (see my list of things to the right of this post) in order to keep tabs on that world for which we are preparing our students to one day enter, step by step.

Have a good summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Bathroom Floor

New home improvement project: floor in the upstairs bathroom.
Actually Not New home improvement project: floor in the upstairs bathroom.

We ripped up the old linoleum five years ago this coming fall (two layers!) and put down tile from a shop which appeared to have all its faculties intact, but indeed, the shop left out the backer board and the tile and grout began to crack almost immediately. Yes, yes, I said. I'll get it replaced. I called the shop and they sent someone out. More cracking. They sent someone out. This someone got into a fight with the drunken boss one night and then the shop said it was his fault, and the someone said it was the shop's fault, and so we lived with the cracking lo these many years.

Figuring out the boards.

Mostly done. I would show you a done post, but I know don't like the blue rug in front of the sink and I haven't had the time/inclination to go out and get a new one and besides maybe I don't even like the color of the bathroom anymore and some new color towels might improve the view. . . Domino effect. Always.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where Americans Are Moving

First spotted on the SwissMiss blog, this map from Forbes gives an interesting analysis of where Americans are moving. Click on it to be taken to Forbes website, and the map.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Objective Reality of Humanity

I put up the recipe for from-scratch Angel Food Cake over on I started thinking about this after I visited Matthew's home for his birthday back in April. Kim and I were discussing angel food cakes, you know--the usual: store-bought vs. home-made. So I thought I'd make a cake showing all the steps in case anyone wants to try making it for themselves, and deciding which they liked better.

I've been reading the book Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew B. Crawford and so far it's been an interesting read. I gave it to my brother as well, as he also likes to work with his hands. Crawford quotes from the philosopher Alexandre Kojeve:
The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself.
Does this idea extrapolate to angel food cakes? Perhaps. I just know that I like items made from my own hand quite well, and perhaps that is the reason that I have one blog dedicated to quilting and sewing and one dedicated to recipes.

Old Provence Quilt

I have had some spectacular failures. On this, Crawford notes that "creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice." Yes folks, it's not like it is on TV. Sometimes cakes fall, dresses turn out to be horrid, a quilt may hang in the closet until I get the energy to pull it out, unpick it and re-invent it, revealing the "objective reality of my own humanity" in my handiwork.

New Provence Quilt

And unlike a trip to Target, where I knowingly buy cheap stuff that I know will be tossed away in the future, and unlike a furied session of housecleaning that I know will come undone and need to be redone in the future, the things I make have staying power, if only in memory (as in the case of the French Berry Tart, which we are still talking about this week).

I've made quilts for all the grandchildren, although some are kept put away for the future. After reading in this book, I want to say--Take them out!! Let the children play with them, use them for picnics, wrap up toys and dolls and treasures in them, for they reveal me, these things that are "transformed by my work,"and perhaps that is really all I have to give to these children of my children.

While the emphasis of Crawford's book is examining "manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world," in discussing the idea that things will outlive us, I'm reminded of one of my father's favorite poems by James Russell Lowell: The Vision of Sir Launfal. In this poem a knight who travels the world over looking for The Holy Grail returns home, defeated in his quest. At his door he encounters a beggar, and the knight shares his last bit of bread with him. The beggar reveals himself to be the Lord, the very Christ which Sir Launfall has been searching for in one way or another. The final stanza reminds us that:
Not what we give, but what we share,--
For the gift without the giver is bare;
I hope that these small grandchildren will remember their grandmother from the quilts I've made them, among other things, much as I remember my Grandmother Sessions by her stories told on her swinging glider on the back porch, and my Grandmother Bickmore by her bent hands teaching me how to knead homemade bread.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baked Bean Smash-Up

A website I haunt has the greatest time-wasters ever. Here's one to try: smashing baked beans--a game from Simon Panrucker.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Wild Night and New Road

Lucille C. was one of those elegant women with long, thin necks, slim hips and the perfectly coiffed hair. Her jewelry was understated, but stylish, and she wore a lot of straight knee-length skirts with broad-shouldered jackets. I remember her bracelets. As she got older, her eyes were a bit more sunken back into her finely sculpted face, and yes, she gained a few more wrinkles, but from the time I knew her to the time she left to go up to Gunnison, Utah and live next door to her son, she didn't seem to age, not even on the day she buried her husband.

Lucy--as many called her--left just as my life got busy and so I only heard certain details of how she was doing. That's she'd moved into a smaller home near her son, that she felt they ignored her and weren't helpful, that one day they took her to the rest home and while she was there, signed the papers to sell her own home and keep her there. I heard that she missed fresh lemons off of the tree. I heard that the daughter-in-law who lived next door "borrowed" her Christmas china and kept it. I heard that Lucy was losing weight--a scary thing on a woman who never had an extra ounce to begin with. I heard she was losing her hearing and was occasionally muddled. I heard that she fell and broke her ribs. Then I heard that she contracted pneumonia. This past week, I heard of her death. I'll miss her.

Because she's so far away there's no obituary, but if she were to have one, I'd want her daughter-in-law that lives here to write it, for when she broke the news to me, she said that Lucy had "gone to her glory." Of all the ways I've heard the process described, of all the many words that we use to convey the information, I like that one. The others that are seen in the obituaries I read faithfully every morning contain versions of : passing, crossing the bar, gone to her eternal rest after a noble fight. That last one always prompts me to wonder if my fight would be noble, or if in fact, there'd be no fight at all, but only relief. (I'll let you know later.) These other euphemisms seem not to have the verve and plainness of Emily Dickinson's language, when she wrote that "Dying is a wild night and a new road," and in fact, I've banned the insipid phrases from my obituary (like I'll have anything to say about it).

Of course, I can be cavalier with my plans for those who are left behind when I go to my glory: while I assume I'll miss them--I'll be gone. However, I'll probably feel differently when my time comes to stand on this side of the casket, gazing in on a familiar face. I may use euphemisms, too. Please sit me down and have a little talk with me for then--as the bereavement counselors say--there's a good likelihood that I'm apparently not processing the full range of emotions that attend the death of someone that is loved. Apparently that is critical--to do it at the time. Okay. Add that one to the list.

We seem to have so many interim deaths before the last one arrives that we have a whole range of phrases ingrained in our language; we describe fatigue with the phrase "I'm just dead." We joke around and say "You kill me." Or my favorite, which came from the new widow of several days, after she spent the afternoon looking at coffins for her deceased husband: "If Richie knew how much these things cost, he would just die."

How to talk about death then? Maybe you like the soft shoe, the dead body shuffled off in heavenly choruses and swaddled in euphemisms. I have a feeling when if that moment finally arrives in my life to stand beside the casket and say good-bye, that I'll employ a whole host of wicked and frightful mechanisms in order to cope. Dickinson's description of death may prove to be the better template for struggle, as those left behind will face more than one wild night, more than one new road.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Finally Did It

I finally did it.

No, I didn't write the Great American Novel.

No, didn't clean out the garage, either.

And no, I also didn't paint the house (but that's on the list).

But what I did do, is set up a place where I can write about my quilting, separately from this blog, my Regular Life. I find I'm only doing that kind of posting--about quilting things--in summer, when the grading and lesson plans of school are in the deep freeze and I have some time to get to all those projects I dream about in between correcting dangling participles and run on sentences.

Transferring the posts was a nice journey back in time; I read through all the posts on this blog and saw my life and your lives reviewed. You readers (mostly family) are an amazing bunch of people with lots of interests and events.

The new blog is almost the same address as this one, and you only need to head there if you're interested in reading about quilting/sewing and that kind of stuff. I also needed a web address to post on the blogs I visit, and I really just wanted a sewy-type blog if these random readers ever decided to visit there.

Now open for business: Click on the daisy logo in the sidebar to head on over there.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Classic French Berry Tart

Click on the above photo to head over to the newest entry at Elizabeth Cooks: a class French Berry Tart. You can also read about how we screwed up the first time, when making it for the church pie-baking contest.

And Happy Birthday to my sister Susan! This piece is for you.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Housecleaning using a Baby

For all of you who clean your house on Saturdays, may I present. . . Baby Mop.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blooming Quilt

Still working on the Take Two of the Provence fabrics quilt. Still.

I cut out a bunch of golden yellow squares, and had to piece one of them back together from the previous quilt. Red squares distributed--thanks to my friend Tracy, I had just the right kind and color.

I'd found another similar quilt online, and freaked out that mine might be considered a derivative of that one, so I reworked the borders to make it really mine. I probably shouldn't freak out, as I long ago realized that ofttimes there is a certain zeitgeist in the universe and creative and intellectual projects often overlap. Here's that quilt; it does look like we stared up at the ceiling in Lyon's Carolingan church and came away with the similar ideas.

My friend Tracy told me about an experience her sister had about someone apparently trying to claim a Dresden Plate idea as her own. It's about as silly as Pioneer Woman claiming Texas Sheet Cake for her own (in a post on my cooking blog). So what is new? What qualifies as something truly different and profoundly unique? Once I heard that if an idea was 10% new it was pretty "out there," and may not even be accepted by the public. Perhaps that's why retro designs appeal to us--they are new without being new.

Sewing is a slow process, as there is a lot of figuring out of which red square/black square goes where, and the drawing of the line, sewing, cutting, pressing, up-and-down, up-and-down. Another challenge for this quilt was that I was bound by my desire to only use the French fabrics, and there was just no running out to the little shop in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France to pick up something that would work better. (That's why Tracy's gift was so opportune.)

But the fun thing is "opening up" the reds around the yellow square.

I think the quilt looks like it's blooming, like a huge sunflower.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Quilt Update

After ignoring the quilt for a day or two, I reluctantly headed into my study to try and make sense of the mess I've made. First? Browse through quilt books. This is Balkan Puzzle from one such book, mocked up in my quilt program.


Then I thought I should look at photos from some of my trips to France, specifically southern France. This idea of a block surrounded by a grid seemed to be common:

Both of these photos are from a Carolingian church in Lyon.

So I monkey around with ideas from the photos, ideas from the blogosphere and come up with this one, which is basically the first photo's design turned on its side. If I focus in on the yellow blocks surrounded by the red "petals," then it also reminds me of the fields of sunflowers we saw as we traveled in the south of France.

On a completely different, yet related not, I went to UCR's materiel (yes, that's spelled correctly) sale this morning and bought another file cabinet. I did this in order to torture my children with more stuff to clean out before I die. KIDDING! I did this to get some of the old school stuff and books out of my hair--stuff that is crammed into closets. I'm going to invite Dave to play Clean Out as well.

How is this related to the above search for a new quilt block? I've been cleaning out files and files of newspaper clippings, torn out pages from magazines, mimeographed craft patterns and other sundry items. In the old days, BE (Before Internet) that was our idea source--the places we went to to get ideas for quilts, for crafts, for sewing. I realized that I rarely turn to old saved print clippings for ideas, instead I head to the Internet. My friend says she is trying to divest herself of more and more files as she continues teaching, trying to rid herself of file drawers of lesson plans and saved teaching ideas.

I was struck this morning by this difference in process, as I continued to try and solve my Provence Quilt problem. Just one more way my world--our world--is changing.