Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Excellent News!

I have to share a bit of good news. In August, I filled out a huge application with donorschoose.org, a group that invites teachers to ask for whatever they need and donors to help fund those needs. I asked for about $600 worth of leveled readers so my kids can take books home each night (books that they can read at their own levels). Tonight, I got the email saying that my project was fully funded by three groups (one corporation, one private individual, and one group of Inland Empire moms). Sometime in October, I will get over 100 new leveled readers for my kids to use...paid for by generous donors.

What an amazing way to end a great day! Thanks for letting me share my news with you!

Special Surprise

I barely had time to say "happy 20th anniversary" to Walt before we left for school at 7:00 this morning. Upon arrival at school, I found a gigantic yellow mum outside of my classroom door. Here is the funny part: I took a quick snapshot on my cell phone and sent it to Walt's phone, saying "look what someone put outside my door." Then, I went in, walked to my desk, and suddenly discovered yellow mums EVERYWHERE in my room. (For those of you who don't know - Notre Dame lines both sides of their football field with yellow mums on opening day...which means that yellow mums have become my favorite flower). On my desk was a beautiful note, that only Walt could write, and a gift card to Michaels (because we are both enjoying nurturing our creative side). I did what any smitten woman would do...cried my eyes out with complete and utter joy. Walt and I have had a standing "rule" that we wouldn't buy flowers - it is usually a waste of money that we'd rather spend on books or on ourselves. Also, since Walt always helps with housework, I decided the help was more valuable than any flowers. So, for 20 years there have been no anniversary flowers, making today's gift even more thoughtful and special.

So, enjoy the photos. We are ready to wake up tomorrow morning and begin our next 20 years! Love is a BEAUTIFUL thing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just 20 Short Years Later!

Well, Walt and I were married 20 years ago - September 29, 1989. I remember thinking that people were OLD when they had been married that long. I was right. We are old. I thought I would bore you with some fun and weird facts about us:

1. We were married on a Friday night at 7:00 at Trinity Baptist Church in Redlands. About 225 people attended. We had our reception in the basement. Our music was provided by bagpiper Kevin Blanford, who has since died from cancer. Our get-away car was a pink Morris Minor, which has since been sold (and if anyone finds it, we want to buy it back!).

2.Everything that was associated with our wedding is now gone: the business where we met, the restaurant where we had our first date, the Officer's Club at Norton AFB where we had our rehearsal dinner, the cabin where Walt proposed the year before, the church itself has changed names, etc. However, WE ARE STILL HERE!!!

3.My dad was nervous about walking me down the aisle because he had severe knee problems and thought he would fall.

4.Our church did not have a central aisle...weird, huh!?

5.Two hours before the wedding, my dress was not finished and several bridesmaids were still working on theirs, too. Walt's Dad was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, and he made the bow on the back of my dress (which we called the "Butt Bow").

6.In the last 20 years, Walt has decorated our house with his favorite things, such as gorilla skulls and rocket engines. We call our house the Walt and Sheila Museum.

7.In the past 20 years, I have decorated our house with things from our travels to Europe, especially our 12 trips to London. My dishes are a combination of blue and white pottery from T.G. Green and pottery from Emma Bridgewater - almost all of my serving pieces had words on them...I love words!

8.We have always owned animals, including dogs, cats, rats, pythons, guinea pigs, lizards, chameleons, various bugs (some on purpose and some not), an Australian parrot who camped in our backyard, a bird that died one year to the day after we bought it (the warranty must have run out), etc. Right now we own 4 indoor cats and one newbie that lives outdoors.

9.We are HUGE fans of anime, and have a very angry bunny in our living room.

10.We have not made our bed in 20 years. That makes my mother crazy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Creative Every Day

I am writing this for my friend, Kathy. She has had some major stress lately...busy job, sick mom, her own physical pain. When I read this quote, I thought instantly of her. It comes from a unique website - www.creativeeveryday.com. You should visit. I found it in a unique magazine - Artful Blogging. You should read it even if you don't care about blogging, because the stories and photos are inspiring.

So, now the quote: "Explore the possibilities for creativity in [your] everyday life - whether that be through painting, cooking, putting an outfit together, singing, gardening, doodling, or playing with the kids...everyone is creative and we enjoy life more when we allow ourselves to play with creativity in everything we do."

Think about how much creativity you have. Do you sing in the shower? That's it! Do you play word games in the car with your child? Creative!! Do you use your imagination while driving or running or doing the laundry? See! I told you - creativity is in all of us and we need to recognize it so we never feel a day is wasted or that we are falling short.

Tell me what creative thing you did today. I wore shoes that matched my clothes!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bowling. Yes, I said BOWLING

So, Walt is collecting discarded bowling balls. It is really not as strange as it sounds - his 8th grade science team is creating a lab for their Force and Motion unit, and need to have one bowling bowl for each kid in class. Here's the part I really want you to think about:

The Cabazon bowling alley is super nice. It was built in the old casino building, so they have 24 state-of-the-art lanes. The price is $2.50 per game before 4:00 p.m., and $4 per game after...plus shoe and ball rental fees I'm sure. As Walt says, that is a pretty cheap date! My next though is "I'm a really good bowler - on the Wii Bowling Game, so I wonder how I would be in a real lane?" The answer - probably pathetic, but I sure would like to give it a try.

So, we are desperately seeking bowling buddies. Wanna go with us some time...just for fun? Even if we all roll gutter balls it would probably be a hoot and wouldn't cost a lot. Let us know if you are interested.

Meanwhile, I'll keep practicing on the Wii and hope I don't pull any more back muscles (Heidi, stop laughing!).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Summoning The Gods Of Autumn

I never felt that my family had as many traditions as other families. However, this is a tradition that I have honored for about 25 years now. When Autumn arrives, and it is still terribly hot in California, I make these cookies hoping to appease the gods of autumn so they will bring cooler temps. Do I believe they are listening? No...but I definitely enjoy making and eating these cookies with dreams of foggy mornings, a bit of rain, and the yummy spicy flavors associated with Autumn.

These cookies are crispier on the first day, but get soft and cake-like overnight. If you want to leave out the nuts and/or chocolate chips, they will still taste fine (although I don't know why anyone would pass up a chance to eat chocolate).

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin (just the puree, not the pie mix)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla. Don't worry if it looks a bit separated. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. The dough will be sticky. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart (I cover my baking sheets with baking parchment, or you can spray them with non-stick spray). Bake for 13 minutes - cookies will be set and golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely (eat one while warm, though!!). Store leftovers in an airtight container...they may stick together a bit, but they still taste great.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If only this were the real world...

Just listen to this phone message which is supposedly from an Australian school.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We Need To Pay Attention, For Their Sake

In the last week, I have heard several horrible stories about people letting animals suffer. One person watched a chihuahua die because it was in a small, backyard area with no shade and no water. Another person has started feeding the 3 cats who were abandoned by people who moved due to foreclosure. Walt and I are doing the same...we now have "Scruffy" (pictured in this blog), who comes around nightly with a beautiful, lyrical meow and has trained us quickly to come running with dinner. Scruffy even has a shaded mat and water bowl, but won't let us pet him yet. One final story with a better ending, a teacher friend of mine saw an old dog whimpering in an animal shelter, and a day away from euthanasia. She adopted the dog on the spot, took it home for pets and walks and comfort, and the dog lived four more happy, loved months.

Here is my soapbox speech - we need to be on alert and watch out for the animals in our neighborhood or the ones we see each day on our drive to work. And, if we see something suspicious, or signs of neglect, we need to call. Hey, you wouldn't let children get treated that way, so why let animals. The tough economy means that people might not be able to care for their pets, but they shouldn't have to suffer. Join me in a "neighborhood watch" for animals. If you can help even more by spaying or neutering, that is even better.

Sounds a bit crazy, but I truly believe animals are people too!! Feel free to email photos of your beautiful animals. Thanks for taking care of them, and thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dino Tour with Dr. Peter Doyle

In February of 2002, we were treated to a personal tour of the Waterhouse Hawkins dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park in south London. While it was closed to the public, we donned hard hats and safety vests and met up with Dr. Peter Doyle who took us through the mud to see the reconstruction efforts (which opened to the public about a year after our visit, but could only be viewed from a distance even though we got up close and personal!). Waterhouse Hawkins designed and created life-sized models of dinosaurs, which were supposed to be accurate but have been proven incorrect since he created them in the 1850s. In case you don't know, Walt is a science teacher and dinosaur fanatic, and has used the tour yearly in his lesson plans to show how our understanding of concepts change as new information becomes available.

Why am I telling you this? On the weekend we tuned into the History Channel, and there was Dr. Doyle supervising and archaeological dig of the WWI trenches in France and Belgium. While dinosaurs are his specialty, which he teaches at Greenwich University (and he recently discovered a large, fossilized Mosasaur puke pile), the battlefields of World War I are his hobby. It was cool to see him on TV. If you have the chance to watch the show, I highly recommend it...I think the title is something like "Digging Up Trenches".

These are photos from our 2002 private tour of the dinosaurs. Our thanks continues to go out to Dr. Doyle for taking the time to meet with us - a meeting which has added to the science education of hundreds of middle school students!