Monday, June 30, 2014

Alexandria

The Kennedy Center Arts Integration Conference ended each day around 4:00, so we had the evenings to ourself to explore the DC area.  On the first evening, we headed into Old Town Alexandria.  Alexandria became a city in the 1700s and sits along the Potomac River.  
It was a warm, but beautiful early evening.  Alexandria is quite charming and colorful, so I was very glad to have brought the new camera with me.  My colleagues were very accommodating as I wanted to stop every few steps to take a shot of something pretty.
Being a very old city (old for the US anyway), it has many historic sites and landmarks including Christ Church and George Washington's town home.  It is said that Washington was a frequent visitor to Alexandria.
Inside Christ Church, there were plaques noting that both Washington and Robert E. Lee were parish members.
We spent most of our visit walking along King Street from the Metro station, ending at the Potomac where we had dinner overlooking the river.
There was more comfort using the new camera this go around.  I was pleased with the photos from this trip.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Even though the school year ended two weeks ago today, these last two weeks have been far from a break.  Last week was spent working on writing curriculum, and then I headed to Washington DC for an arts integration conference put on by the Kennedy Center.  My school is in the beginning stages of becoming and arts integrated school so my principal, the district's art specialist, an upper grade teacher, and I were sent to the conference to enhance our understanding of this type of school.  My colleagues and I have spent the last three years participating in the Kennedy Center partner program through our local performing arts center and have already started integrating the arts into our general education programs for math, language arts, social studies, and science.  The purpose being that with all the general curriculum we have to teach in order to pass all those tests, there just isn't time to teach the arts (fine art, dance, drama, music, etc) in addition to what is required.  Integrating the arts, or using the arts to teach/assess core curriculum allows us to fit the art within our day.  Plus, using the strategies make that basic curriculum enjoyable, so the kids are really engaged.

After the first week of break writing curriculum was over, the last thing I wanted to do was get on a plane and go work some more.  I knew it would be a great trip, but I was tired.  I had one day to get my act together and do laundry and pack before heading to DC first thing Sunday morning.  And I'm sure glad I did.  The conference was really well done.  It was a combination of theory and practical application.  The theory sessions simply solidified what we already know about integrating the arts, and the application sessions gave me some additional strategies to add to my teaching tool box.


My favorite of the integration units is teaching geometry with Kandinsky.  The trainer walked us step by step through the lessons, using us as the students.  I enjoyed the lessons thoroughly.  I also participated in a session about teaching basic social skills using dance and using tableau as formative assessment.

I returned from DC on Thursday afternoon and am SO glad to be on break for real now.  I look very much forward to being lazy in the month of July.  But I have to admit, I'm really excited to return in August armed with more arts integration ideas.  Teaching to the test isn't all that fun.  Using the arts is right up my alley and inspires me just as much as the kids.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Silk Pillowcases

I've recently been reading about how sleeping on silk pillowcases is supposed to be better for your hair and your skin.  I wake up in the morning with hair that looks like I wrestled with a bear in my sleep, so when I heard that cotton pillowcases were to blame, I bought a pair of silk ones to try.  I changed the bedding last night and put the new pillowcases on the bed, along with the rest of the pillows.
The pillowcases are ivory so I put them to the back of the decorative pillows with the plan of sleeping on them at night.  But Rigby had other plans...

Rigby is allowed to sleep on the bed, but she has a blanket that she sleeps on as to not cover the bed in dog hair.  While I was getting ready for bed last night, she decided to climb into bed before her blanket was down.  She made a b-line to the silk pillow.  She had climbed onto the new pillow, knocking the pillows around.
Even though I let her onto the bed, I had an irritated thought, "Can I have just one freaking night without the thing covered in dog hair?!?!"  So I called her off the pillow.  Instead of getting off the bed, she burrowed deeper.  She wouldn't budge.

I literally had to pull her off the pillow.  She was like a kid having a temper tantrum who's body just went limp.  Once I got her off the bed, I turned to find her blanket to throw it over the pillows.  Before I knew it she was back on the bed on top of that darn silk pillowcase again!
Again, I called her off but she didn't mind.  She even looked at me like I was putting her out by asking her to move.  I had to drag her off the pillow again like a sack of potatoes.  From there she jumped off the bed.  I quickly got the blanket over the duvet and pillows and finished getting ready for bed.
A little bit later, I called Rigby to jump back onto the bed and she refused.  She walked around it a few times when I called her, but then she left the room like there wasn't a chance she was going to sleep on anything that wasn't silk.  
I woke up this morning curled around one of the silk pillows and Rigby was sleeping next to me with her head on that very same pillow.  While I'm not a big fan of the texture of silk (I'm doing it for the hair), Rigby seems to be obsessed with it.  She's such a brat!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Summer Movie Recommendation

It's been quite a while since I went to the movies and saw something I really enjoyed.  This past weekend however was the exception.  "Chef", starring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlet Johansson, Sofia Vagara, and Robert Downey Jr., was released in late May.  Not being a big blockbuster film, it didn't open in all theaters, and I figured I'd have to go downtown in order to see it.  Instead, a couple of weeks later it began showing in one of our nearby theaters.  Some friends and I made plans to see it Sunday afternoon.  What a nice movie!

The gist....Jon Favreau plays a famous Los Angeles chef who finds himself in a cooking rut.  After receiving a bad review from a restaurant blogger the chef engages in a social media war with the reviewer.  This ultimately causes the chef to loose his job but sends him on a journey back to his cooking roots in Miami and finally reinvents himself as a chef while driving cross country in a food truck back to Los Angeles.  He forges a relationship with his son while on the journey as well.

"Chef" is, for the most part, your typical feel-good movie, but its culturally current subject matter modernizes the genre.  The "rockstar" chef, food as art, social networking, and food trucks are all very trendy these days and have been brought to the forefront of this movie.  Of course, trendy isn't going to work on its own.  The script is charming and witty without being pretentious.   In addition, there is a great soundtrack and amazing cinematography (the food presentation is mouthwatering).

The Sunday matinee crowd was an equal mix of men and women spanning the adult age range.  There were no little kids squirming in their seats (which is a rarity these days as some parents seem to think it's appropriate to bring their kids to non-kid-friendly movies), but then again it's not a movie for kids.  At the end of the film, the almost packed house gave it a round of applause.  I've found clapping at the end of a movie usually happens after the hero has saved the day in an action movie.  In this case, the crowd simply enjoyed the film.  I'm not really a movie clapper, but I too liked "Chef" very much and joined in on the clapping.

This review does come with a warning... DON'T GO HUNGRY!  The food shots are very appealing so your snack of popcorn, candy, or brought-from-home carrots will simply not satisfy compared to the food in the movie.  My friends and I had plans to eat at one of our favorite down and dirty Mexican restaurants when it was over.  After the movie however, nothing we ate was really quite as satisfying as the food in the movie seemed to be.  Other than that...two thumbs up!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

An Irish Fair

I ventured out with my new camera for a few hours yesterday.  The Irish Fair takes place every year over Father's Day weekend, and this year it was held at El Dorado Park in Long Beach.  These are some of the highlights...

 The Young Dubliners are a local band who often play at the fair.

 And so are the Fenians


 There were several Irish Wolfhounds roaming the grounds.  They are the size of small horses.  This is a 4 month old puppy!
 Dancers from the local dance schools competed as well.



I'm still just learning all the things this camera can do.  It was the first outing with it.  I can't say I was pleased, but I'm trying to be patient. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

And This Day Keeps Getting Better

Just 9 hours after the school year ended, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup Finals 3-2 in double sudden death (nail biting) overtime.  The second time the Cup has come to LA in three years.  THE SECOND TIME!!!

It was an East vs. West Coast finals this year.  The Kings were up 3-0 in the series and lost to the New York Rangers in game 4.  That sent the series back to LA for tonight's game 5.
Alex Martinez capitalized on a beautiful 3 on 2 rebound shot (@8 seconds in the video) to win the game.

As a long time Kings' fan, it's been fun for them to win the Cup after all those years of watching them almost win it (or not even make it to the playoffs).

Friday the 13th

Today is the last day of the 2013-14 school year - one of the most (if not THE MOST) difficult class of students ever.  Funnily enough, it's also Friday the 13th!  Coincidence?  I think not.

In 5 hours and 15 minutes it will be summer break!  Woot! Woot!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Depressing Way to Start the Morning

I was up and out of the house to walk the dog at 5:05 this morning.  On a side note, as much as I hate getting up and out of bed that early, I'm LOVING my new schedule.  It's amazing how invigorated I feel when I'm done and not having to go when I get home, well I feel like I've gained all this time in the afternoon now.
Anyhow, when I walked up the street about 10 houses from mine, a woman who I may see a couple of times a week leaving for work, had opened up her garage door and was packing up her car. I don't know her, other than to say, "Hello" when I walk by.  But this morning she stopped me.  I took off my headphones, and she asked me if I had seen a yellow lab.  It was still pretty dark out, and I hadn't seen anything except for the bunnies who scamper in and out of yards.  She started to tear up when she told me that she and her husband left for work very early yesterday morning and when they returned about 9:00 last night their dog was gone.  The gate wasn't open, and they were pretty sure he wasn't able to jump over the 6+ foot gate/wall.  But he wasn't there.  She called animal control and the pound, but it was after hours and no one answered.  Then this morning, they had to leave first thing for work again.  I told her I'd keep an eye out and tried to reassure her that maybe one of the neighbors had taken him in or that, because he was microchipped, they'd track him down.  She thanked me as she tried to keep it together.

I walked on, and the further I got the more I thought about how hard it must have been for her to get in the car and go to work.  Most employers would not accept "my dog is lost" as an excuse for not getting to work on time, but sheesh, what a crappy day she must have had.  It's made me quite sad for her.  I know it would have been a rough day for me.  Heck, it WAS a rough day just knowing about a lost dog.

On tomorrow's walk, I hope to hear they have found him and all is well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

This and That

The newest model of my car has a new feature...Park Assist.

I don't know how I feel about this.  I guess if parallel parking is something you're not very good at but have to do often, it makes some sense.  Parallel parking isn't a problem for me so I think I'd have a hard time surrendering that control.  Watching that steering wheel spin on its own reminds me of "Christine" from the Steven King novel of the same name.  And imagine the cost of fixing Park Assist when it stops working.

I'm feeling awfully proud of myself this week.  My car stereo system has not been working correctly the last month or so. I'm a skipper over songs I don't feel like hearing, and the button used for skipping was broken, or more like stuck.  It was making everything fast forward all the time.  I have no business getting a new car stereo, but I also don't think I can drive without music playing.  Plus with the stuck button, it's making the other controls not work so I haven't been able to turn the volume down in about 2 weeks.  Anyhow, yesterday I spent some time looking it over.  I'm mechanically challenged, my fix-its would horrify someone who knew what they were doing.  BUT I took the front panel off the stereo, unscrewed the backing, and put the stuck button back into place.  I had no idea if I'd be able to figure out how to put it back together, but I did, got it attached to the base, turned it on, and tah-dah!  It worked.  I'll have to use the remote control that came with it for the skipping or the button will stick again I'm afraid, but at least I'm not stuck listening to songs on fast forward with a volume I can't turn down.
The last few books I have read, or at least started, have left much to be desired.  Even a couple of my goto authors have let me down in the grabbing-my-attention-for-any-length-of-time department.  I'm kind of in a reading funk right now.  After some research, I've made a summer list of books I want to read while I'm off.  
I Am Having So Much Fun Without You by Courtney Mum
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters
When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde 
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain 
And I just started The Fault In Our Stars by John Green as my next book club book.  It's a YA book, but the reviews have been outstanding.  It's a fast and easy read as it's written for junior/senior high schoolers,  but so far I'm enjoying it.  Have you read anything good?

My new camera is here!  I've spent a few days here and there gazing at it, admiring its beauty and newness.  There is going to be some learning curve as I figure out where everything is and how to use it.  I'm going to have to find some place interesting to go out and practice with it.  My neighborhood isn't inspiring me right now with the brown hills and drying grass, so my practice has been limited thus far.  Once this school year gets over I'll have a bit more energy to get out of dodge and take some pictures!  

FOUR MORE DAYS until summer break...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's a bad sign when, with only 7 days left until the end of the school year, you wake up on a Thursday thinking that it's Friday.  I've been up all of an hour and forty minutes, and at least ten times a thought that it's Friday has crossed my mind.  The first being when I smacked the alarm off this morning the motivating factor for getting out of bed was, "Yay!  It's Friday."  I even whispered it to myself.  That was the worst one of all.
Time flies. It's already June for goodness sake!  Why is it then that the last two weeks of a school year crawl by?!?!  I'm almost certain these last few days will feel longer than my entire summer break.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nuremberg

After spending two days of my Christmas trip in Nuremberg, I'd have to say that it was by far one of the most interesting places I have ever been.  Nuremberg is the second largest city in the region of Bavaria in Germany.  The old town part of the city is walled.  Although a large portion of it was destroyed in World Ward II, much of its medieval structures were rebuilt.



For several years Nuremberg had strong ties to Nazi history - Nuremberg Rules, Nuremberg Nazi Rallies, and the Nuremberg Trials.  For many years after World War II, much of the city tried to ignore their history and move past it.  However, over the last few years they've realized that most of their young people didn't have an understanding of what happened there, so there has been a recent push for teaching local history.  We took an incredible WWII tour with "Geschichte Fur Alle" (History for All)  - an awful period of time but a fascinating tour.
Due to Nuremberg's central location and its history with the Holy Roman Empire, it was chosen to be the "ideal" location for all things Nazi.  Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, was charged with creating Nuremberg into the "City of the Reich Party Congress".  Congress Hall (above) was designed after the Colosseum in Rome, but was never finished.
Zeppelin Field was built as the Nazi Rally Grounds.

 The grandstand structure is still there and now used for sporting events and concerts.  

 I must say it was quite surreal to be on these grounds shown in the pictures.  Even more so was that the area is now used as a park of sorts.  We walked by roller bladers and kids playing soccer (fußball) and families with little kids riding bikes.  I would imagine being a resident there, you couldn't spend your time dwelling on this past, remembering yes, but not dwelling.  As a visitor, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this awful place being used for their everyday life.
After a gut wrenching start of the tour we ended at the Palace of Justice and more specifically Court Room 600, the site of the Nuremberg Trials.  


 Still a working courtroom, we were able to sit in the stands since we visited on the weekend.  After learning more about the part Nuremberg played in the Nazi history, this courtroom was such a symbolic place to have the trials.

The small museum inside the courthouse was riveting.  The place was like a three-ringed circus during the trials, and the museum did a good job presenting that.  

Even though Christmas had come and gone by the time we arrived in Nuremberg, the Old Town was still lit up beautifully.  My iPhone took some nice nighttime photos...

The SchΓΆner Brunnen (The Beautiful Fountain)-1396 and Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)-1361 




 Lebkuchen (like gingerbread) is a specialty of Nuremberg.  
Lorenzkirche (St. Lorenz Cathedral) built between 1243-1477, but sustained damage in WWII.  Reconstructed in 1952.

Nuremberg is a charming city with loads of history.  I was glad to have visited.