Monday, August 29, 2016

HEY! New school year!---- you're on deck

Holy smokes I am exhausted right now...  It isn't so much the fact that I hauled myself out of bed indeed before 5 am (because I am crazy, that is why) but the fact that I ended up with 2 kayak sessions yesterday for a grand total of 9.3 miles or something to that effect....

Clouds began to breakup and the sun did indeed come out!
While I am certainly capable of going 9 plus miles in a kayak, I had also done a nice little weight lifting session on Saturday and concentrated on my shoulders, abs and arms. So, yeah, I feel MY triceps this morning.  And when I do fairly heavy workouts like that, I do not sleep well.  Because I wake up all the time and rearrange myself and fall fitfully back to sleep and then rinse and repeat.  I believe I got up at 1:30 and took ibu- evidence left on the kitchen counter points to that conclusion.  Lol.

This blue heron proved to be a little sneaky, but Lisa spotted him in a tree
It was a GORGEOUS day for kayaking though.  Both times!  I went on Butternut Lake with the Mad-Lisa friend in the morning.  We didn't see the eagle, as per usual, in the tree of choice- but we did scare up a blue heron and then followed the thing over to the other side of the lake.  And we founded him!!  YAY!  While there were a lot of fishing boats on the lake, it was pretty peaceful and nice.  Perfect temps, only light breezes- water therapy at its best.

The clouds were quite amazing- I was wishing for my wide-angle lens
Last night, the MA sprung it on me that he wanted to kayak with me--- so I am INCAPABLE of saying no to that, so off we went to Smith Lake.  I found some ducks and a loon and some fishermen- but only one boat full.  It was super nice last night and the river was like glass.  And then we got back in time to FaceTime with the Mad-Oldest son and his lovely family.  With those two girls, that can be quite the entertaining event.  Ava is starting to crawl around and Ella gets increasingly silly as she gets more tired....  It is quite enjoyable.  hehehe

Young mergansers
Anyway, I do realize the post title says something about school- so yeah, we have full-fledged, sitting-all-day, summer-ending meetings..... today and tomorrow.  And then there is Open House on Wednesday with school beginning on Sept.1.  I've just resigned myself to the meetings, as they must be morally obligated to "improving our teaching" or some such thing.  There is a session this morning that seems will be pertinent and sometime in the next 2 days I get to collaborate on curriculum with my compadre from the Glidden school- so there is that!!  I just hope that I have enough breathing room to keep working on my lesson plans.  I used to be able to have a semester worth of plans ready- but that was when I only taught elementary school.  So I retain that panic of not having more than the first 3 weeks pencilled in.  Though I know that is ridiculous and no one has a whole semester ready, unless they do the same thing all the time.  Which I am incapable of doing.  Which reminds me, I have a brand new first day of art for the elementary school in the works (I always love finding new stuff like this) and I have a HUGE amount of paper cutting that needs to be done- any volunteers???  Lol, just asking'!

This guy showed up unexpectedly right in front of me!  The light last night was lovely
Hey, when did it occur that it is so dark at 5am??  I know that there are clouds and an impending Thunderstorm, but wth is with that??  I think I am in seasonal denial.

A pair of fishermen were spotted- I have other photos- I just found this one interesting how the people pop out and the rest is sort of hazy-- and I see its a touch crooked.  oops.

Anyway, I have to finish this up and go do a few things- at least I do not have to dress up today.  That will be coming soon enough!

So, make this day a joyful one.  I, for one, will be avoiding the joy-stealers that lurk about the area.... I am going to make the best of the day if I possibly can.  Happy Monday!

Friday, August 26, 2016

The best things from Italy...

I have been working on this post for a while, and decided to finish it because I have been thinking about Italy a lot what with that earthquake.  Seeing those beautiful buildings in rubble is just heart breaking....  So sad.  It is such a gorgeous country and those old stone building are just so wonderful.

I made a list as I was writing my first Italy posts about the best things that I encountered on my trip....  these things aren't necessarily Italian, just things that I have found to be pretty damn awesome.  There are mostly Italian things on this list, but there are some other random items as well.  Because you know, I am random much of the time.

1. These hair ties:  My dearest Seester-Rose gave me these interesting hair ties, which I had never encountered before.  This coiled band was with me literally all the time, either in my hair or on my wrist.  That was the joyful thing about this- it held my usually out of control hair tight, didn't leave weird marks and was really comfortable on my wrist for more than an hour.....  the one I had was clear, so it was really invisible everywhere.  They do come in colors- I have a few more now!  Haha- btw, I do not get ANYTHING for these links- I just freaking love them

2. This camera lens cleaner  So a while back when I got my camera outfit, I also soon after got more lens cleaning tissues, fluid, cloths and the like, especially after that little kerfuffle on the Wisconsin Photographers Facebook page.  So I sort of accidentally came across this one and it has turned out to be the most handy thing in the world.  When I take photos I use my left eye, and I consistently end up with smudges all over the right lens of my glasses.....  no idea how that works, but it does.  So between little touch ups on the lens (I use tissue most of the time- gently- on the lenses, or the rocket blast air cleaner thingie) and extensive use on my glasses- it is really a great product.  And it hangs off my camera, and is always there and can either be smushed up into the little pocket or pulled out for use. Awesome!

3. This olive oil-You GUYS- the olive oil, especially when you got to the amazing little eating places off the beaten path (away from the main piazzas) was incredibly good.  Incredible!!  I got a little oil for myself in two different cities in Italy and dragged it all over the place wrapped in socks(unworn, mind you) in my suitcase. Anyway, the bottle I got in Florence at the central market was SO good and I was getting panicky thinking about how I was going to subsist with out it. The things they sell here are just NOT the same.  So I - on a whim- typed in the name of the olive oil into the search bar of Amazon and ta-DAAAAAAAA  there it was.  I have not opened the one from Amazon yet, as do not want to expose it to air.  And I have the Italian bottle to finish yet.  It is definitely a drizzling type olive oil, my usual breakfast these days?  Either a sourdough or other hearty bread/bagel with italian style cheese flavored with rosemary, drizzled with oil.  Or I have caprese salad for lunch- fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, oil, and Molton flaked salt.
These bottles are a lot smaller than they appear in the photo!

4. Balsamic vinegar - well olive oil's best friend in Italy is the balsamic and I got two kinds in teensy little bottles.... cuz that stuff is 'spensive. (says the girl who paid a ridiculous amount for olive oil)  Another thing cradled in unnecessary items of clothing and carried all over the country.  I couldn't find an exact match for it on Amazon.

5.  Lemon granita- I waxed poetic over the lemon granita on the Island of Capri already, but it is worth mentioning again, since it really really was one of the most flavorful, sensual things ever.  Smelled so good, tasted strong and acetic and flavorful, and with a smooth ice that was so perfect- no lumps or chunks of ice, just an amazing slush that coated your tongue....  Oh that was good.  And we were sitting down, in the shade and watching people, so the ambience was helpful.

6. Gelato- I had chocolate, chocolate chip-mint, vanilla, raspberry, dark chocolate, lemon, and I think mango or something like that, and it never got old.  NEVER!!

Lol- oops, put the wrong pic on here- oh well.
7.  Wine- we sort of drank our way across the country, sampling wine almost daily at supper- and once at lunch with a chaser of limoncello.  Italy's wine was first rate!  We got local bottles and it was a good choice.  Though I am a white wine drinker, the best one we had was a red with a light amount of sparkle to it. S.Osvaldo  Rabaso Veneto Vino Frizzante .  The rest were great as well- it was the company and the atmosphere too!

8. Columns- oh you all know how I feel about these.  It was so amazing to see all of them and touch ALL the marble columns that I could get my hands on, and an occasional stealthy finger if touching was frowned upon. Sue me. Rumor has it that at one point I may have given one a full body hug, but that would be a bit much, right??  ;)

9.  water from the fountains and fontanelles The thought of drinking from fountains was a little weird (it was the equivalent of dipping water to drink in the clear clean lakes of far northern Minnesota in the Boundary Waters) but we soon learned that in Rome you can fill your water bottles from the fountains (not the basins, but where the water was coming out from the underground) and the little fontanelles- free drinking water which was so nice! It was one of those little- well that is cool!- experiences.

10.  This girl here- that would be my sister!! She was the best travel partner ever- she listened to me say- Isn't this AWESOME? a million times at least, plus the - You don't mind if I get gelato? part too.  I don't think she did!  :)

11. And this group leader here- which would be Powla! I can't say enough about Paula and the amazing job that she did leading us through the ups and downs, and mostly ups of the trip!

12.  And the ART!!  So here is a smattering-

The joys the these things brought me are immeasurable and it is pretty cool to be able to incorporate a few of them in my daily life!  These are some of the best things from the trip of a life time.  Well, at least so far!  Thank you to all the people who willingly, and perhaps unwillingly, have listened to me share and relive it.  There are a few of you who have truly shared my joy in it, and I appreciate it beyond words.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

And summer comes screeching to an end....

I feel very torn today, and if you aren't a teacher, you won't really get it - on a cellular level.  It is the struggle between your summer self, your relaxed happy, unchallenged, adventure seeking self and the self that is fulfilled by the profession- seeing very excited children, hearing about their great and not so great summer lives....  and starting a new year of challenges and rewards.

Each year there is a new crop of scared- frightened kindergarteners starting school and leaving the safety of their moms, dads or daycare....  Frightened 4th graders coming to our Park Falls Elementary campus.... Frightened freshmen who are worried about what is coming during this week/year and truly frightened (though they don't admit it) seniors who are wondering how the heck this is all coming to an end, and what will I do when the year is done and who will protect me then?  They don't all know they are feeling this, or they won't admit it, but I've seen it!  They are all deer in the headlights.

We, as a high school staff, are finally stable.  No new staff members that I can think of right now.  A few room shifts, but overall, we are FINALLY able to be consistent.  It has been hard on all of us to have the turnover that we have had.

We, as an elementary staff, are facing changes again.  A few new teachers, many new staffing assignments, a new principal.... this will be challenging, as things are when they are in flux.  But good things should result, change almost always has unexpected silver linings and I am going with that, in my usual positive way.

The kids need us and most of us teachers thrive in this environment- the kids  are really the only thing that count.  All the rest of it is sort of gets in the way of us getting these kids to the next step in their life.  Many think how we do it is so important, but really, giving our days and our hearts and our time to them is the most important thing. I don't teach children art, I use art to teach the kids.  BIG difference.

Anyway, I had planned to garden and blog and relax and somehow I ended up cleaning out under my sink and painting it?????  WHAT??? WHO AM I????  Well, at least I am doing a quick blogpost to get at least one thing done.  And you will notice I am not at school, I spent plenty of time there the last week or so, so I will stay here and snivel and mope.

BUT I have plans for next summer already, so this is so exciting.  And you can bet it is involving an airplane flight, because I LOVE airplane rides!!  More on that as time goes on.

Those thoughts of joyful summers ahead, bracketed by my joys in teaching drive me from one part of my year to the next.  Hold onto your hats, everyone, the school year is about to begin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

All the things Missouri

I realize that I totally under reported my lovely time in the gorgeous state of Missouri! And that seems to be totally unfair to my amazing Mad-Missouri friend, Cheri.  She has been wanting to see my pictures and when I got back I was swept into thinking about school, and kayaking, and biking again, and catching up with several of my people who I hadn't seen/talked to for a while.  The last thing I wanted to do was sit at the computer when I was so used to going at break neck speed, or alternatively- snuggling with those grandchildren of mine.

The Silver Tree on Art Hill in St. Louis
SO- as a surprise for her, here is an in-depth review!! I am writing this while waiting to get hungry, so I can eat and then go into school- since I got my weight lifting and a bike ride in already.  And I am not hungry when I get done working out--- especially bike riding.  You know,  I really suck at bike riding.  Lol.  Hills kill me.  KILL ME.  The words that escape my mouth.....  but its easier than a couple months ago.  ha.

First of all, I have to say that as much as I love my Wisconsin (GO PACK GO) and Lake Superior and all, I do very much enjoy being in different parts of the country and I really have to get into more southern states.  The weather up here has turned to it's glorious late summer pattern of highs in the 70's, lows in the 50's- the humidity has diminished (and yes it DOES get humid up here) and the sunsets are stunning.  In fact I am sure the my biker buddies from the south could undoubtedly bike 80 or 90 miles up here with no problem, since it is more like winter temperatures for them.  hehe.  ANY WHO, as much as I am reveling in this, Missouri is SUCH a gorgeous place to visit.  I will say that their rivers are a little sketchy looking, so I will stick to kayaking up here in flowing waters, but wow the scenery. And while it was freaking hot down there, I just didn't care because it was so much fun.  By the time I finished in Janesville, I will say that I was so sick of sweating through a set of clothes and then freezing in the air conditioning 4 or 5 times a day....  I am a northern girl for sure....

Pickle Springs
I don't mind the drive to Cheri's place, but Illinois gets to be a bit much sometimes.  I am always wishing for another windmill thing to show up.  I don't mind corn fields, heaven knows that is quite familiar to me, since I grew up in the middle of one.  But it is pretty cool to get across the Mississippi into the St. Louis area.  The land is different (i.e.: not flat) and I sort of like driving on the big freeways too.  Of course this is all timed to NOT be during rush hours, so I can enjoy the drive.

I arrived at Cheri's the day after the culmination of a very VERY busy month or so, and I know she was glad that I was there to provide distraction and my usual comic relief.  We went and picked up her grandson Charlie almost immediately after I arrived and we got to sit and catch up while he played in the swimming pool at a local establishment.... and we had a little light supper and refreshments and had a wonderful time chit chatting our afternoon away.

Pickle Springs stream
The next day (as were all the days) was an action-packed one, where we of course began our journey of eating out every single meal-  because we are just that awesome!!  HAHA!!  We began with coffee always at her house, because we are amazing and addicted humans and proceeded to have a lovely breakfast at a coffee shop in nearby Farmington.  After tossing around idea for what to do next, we settled on hiking at Pickle Springs.  Pickle springs is a lovely natural area with an almost 2 mile trail that you follow up and down and around...  it was pretty dry when we were there, but apparently is quite lovely after a rain.  It was lovely this day too. But it is indeed a HIKE, not a walk!  :)

Love this mini waterfall, that was probably 8 - 12 inches tall  lol

We ate a late lunch at a really cool restaurant in Farmington called 12 West.  The air-conditioning and nourishment were very much appreciated, and it was very good.  It was easy to find vegetarian options everywhere we went! We had to pick up Mr. Charlie from daycare again that afternoon, which gave us a chance to hang out at her place and just relax.  Our plan was to go to a covered bridge when Amanda got home, but she got stuck in traffic.  We later  got part of the way there when I remembered that the park that it is in closed at sunset..... so we cut our losses and had supper at Lix- an ice cream shop.  Because everyone should have ice cream for supper sometimes. AND we stopped for a few moments at the very cute train depot in Farmington as well.  Night pictures anyone?

Train Depot in Farmington

Friday was a city day for us.  I had very few requests for my trip, but I did want to get to the city at least once and see the art museum.  It was spectacular as I indicated in my previous post.  And I had a friend who was interested in me and my droning on about all things art history.  She's the best.  I just love that place.  They also had a folk art special exhibit which was really fun to see as well.   When we finished there, I had a special request to have vegetarian sushi for lunch, and my dear friend was happy to oblige.  We ate at a place called Mizu, and again I was not disappointed.  I had avocado roll and one that was tempura style that I can't remember the name of.  They subbed the fish in it with sweet potato, and it had some cream cheese as well as veggies and I also split an order of deep fried tofu.  I was in HEAVEN!!!  Following, we walked through the very beautiful Missouri Botanical Gardens and rumor has it we had CHEESECAKE for supper- because that is just how we roll.

Oh look- columns!  :)


Crazy big lily pads at the Botanical gardens

Saturday was a little different day, as Cheri was involved in a crossfit event.  We squeezed breakfast in between events and when that was all done, we went a bit of a drive north to the Katy trail.  The Katy trail is an old railroad right of way that has a really nice packed gravel surface for biking.  It also has places to stop along the way, including a really yummy brewery that gave us some nice rehydration!  YES we drank a dark beer and it was fabulous.  We biked 18 miles when we ran out of daylight and energy-  A late night stop at "Crackle Barrel" was our food for the night (I think we only ate twice that day??) and it was a pretty yummy blueberry french toast.

Biking and beer- perfect companions and perfect company
Part of the Katy Trail 

Getting darker- on the  Katy Trail 
Sunday, my last day with her and her family, we stayed in our jammies until at least 10, which is something I never do, and it was the nicest morning.  We decided to go up to St. Louis so we could eventually have Italian food on the Hill, but first we walked through the zoo, and around the beautiful lake/pond on Art Hill called the Basin.  Wow it was so beautiful.  There was exactly 2 Italian restaurants open that Sunday night and we were appropriately dressed for only one of them, and it was just fine with us.  It was really nice to sit down and have something sort of similar to my Italy experience, including raspberry gelato, but there is something about being IN actual Italy you just can't beat.  THIS was good though- very good.

Fancy bird at the zoo!

This enclosure was really cool! Ibis, egrets, ducks, etc.

The tiger was hot!

Part of the basin (many of these pix are taken with the phone)- you can see the museum in the background

Dining with a really good wine

A very dark photo of the covered bridge
I had just the best time running all over the area with my sweet friend, we could have stayed in her house all day and had just as good of a time.  I am so lucky to be able to visit her though---
part of the Chihuli installation


Giraffe and friend 

The corpse flower almost ready to bloom- apparently a smelly thing.
Summer has been good to me again, but this one seemed to go faster.  I am not at all ready to give in to it, but there isn't much I can do to stop it....  I am however ready to see what the next journey, adventure or encounter might be- no matter what it will have some joy.

** Btw, as usual I always underestimate the amount of time it takes me to write, post pictures, rearrange, review and rewrite....  lunch has long since been eaten, boxes unpacked at school, groceries bought, and a few people have been talked to....  So here we are at almost 10 pm and I will be publishing- I should know by now, don't you think?