Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Sketchbook Project Hits the Road

Back in January, I shared that my sketchbook for this year's Sketchbook Project was finished and sent off to the Brooklyn Art Library.  Once summer comes, the year's worth of sketchbooks take to the road, making stops at cities across the US.  A couple of years ago, I attended their event at a gallery in Silver Lake.  It was fun to view my sketchbook as well as others in the project.  It doesn't seem like the summer stops are in a bricks-and-mortar store front anymore.  They now have a trailer full of the books that they pull across country, setting up shop for a weekend at each of their stops.
This weekend they were in Los Angeles.  From Friday until today, they made camp at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).   The LACMA is a huge complex on Wilshire Blvd.  It's one of many museums along the Miracle Mile.  In addition to the museum buildings, the courtyard is sprawling with numerous events and activities happening simultaneously.  The Sketchbook Project settled in the middle of the courtyard.
This go round, they had it all linked to mobile devices rather than relying solely on the two iPads they were using.  Since I already had an account with them, signing onto the mobile site was easy.  I searched the books, requested the ones I wanted to look at, and within a couple of minutes they were retrieved and lent to us for some browsing.  The last time I went to see the books, the lines were very long and so was the wait time.
Even though it's my book and I have pictures of the pages, it was still fun to check mine out and look at it with my friends.  It was also inspiring to check out books others have done.  Some were cute, some well done, and others were simply AMAZING.
Haven't made the decision whether I will do it again this year or not.  To finish a book is really quite satisfying, but I've also found it a bit stressful.  The pressure of creating something with a theme causes me to overthink quite bit.  Also, I had read somewhere earlier this year that this would be the final tour for the Project.  I have not been able to find that information again, though.  The whole concept is really quite simple, but I enjoy their visits.  I do hope it continues.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Another Eventful Day

Over the last two weeks of break, I've put in almost 90 hours of curriculum work.  Most of that time has been spent at school or at the district office.  However today I was able to work from home.  I must say, working from home is nice.  I woke up without an alarm clock about 9:00, made my way down to the kitchen table, and worked in lounging around clothes.  On a side note, I need to figure out how to work from home when school is in session!
A couple of hours later, still sitting at the kitchen table, I heard a crash and then a whooshing of water.  The first thought in my head was, "Noooo, I don't have time for this!"  I am so burnt out at this point and still had a couple of big projects to finish.  I ran through the kitchen towards the sound, and what I saw put me in a state of shock.  A rather large (maybe 6 inches) piece of porcelain had cracked off the bottom of the toilet tank, fallen to the floor, and water was POURING out of the bottom of it.  And when I say POURING I mean POURING, like a raging river.  It sounded like someone was filling up a bathtub.
Now the only way I can think to describe my initial reaction is by saying I was like a defective wind up toy.  I spastically turned around in circles, looking around at what had happened, trying to figure out what the heck I should do.  Frantically, I pulled the bathroom trashcan underneath the hole, hoping to at least limit the amount of water that fell on the ground as I waited for the tank to empty.  The problem was, the tank didn't empty.  It kept running and running and running.  Within seconds the trashcan was overflowing onto the floor again.  I ran out to the garage and found some buckets before the wherewithal to locate the turnoff valve hit me.  I got a bucket underneath the hole and then tried my darnedest to turn off the water valve underneath the toilet.  The water kept coming as I swam around on the floor trying to turn it off with no luck.  It was just too hard for me.
It took me another moment of flooding water to decide what to do next.  Remember, I was still in my lounging around clothes but figured at this point it didn't matter. I ran out the door to find a neighbor to help.  Of course not one of the neighbors that I know was home.  So I ran around the block just to see if someone was outside who could come and help.  There was a lady I wave to when I walk the dog working outside in her garage.  I frantically told her my story and she told me her neighbor just drove in and he would be able to help.  I've never met that neighbor before so it took every ounce of my being to knock on the door.  While I waited for the door to answer I noticed blood running down my hand.  Oh for heavens sake!  I had gashed my knuckle on a sharp edge of the porcelain.  I grabbed a hold of my hand to cover it before the door opened and frantically told the man who answered what my story of woe.  As it happens, he wasn't the neighbor.  He was just visiting.  But he agreed to help, and we ran back around the block to my house.
When we got there, the water was still running fiercely.  All I kept thinking was, "WE ARE IN A DROUGHT!"  The neighbor's visitor fought with the valve a bit, but once he got it turned off the instant quiet was the sweetest sound in the world.
I thanked the neighbor's visitor profusely and told him I could handle calling the plumber and getting the water soaked up.  But he was kind and stayed for a bit helping me get the rugs dragged outside and swept a lot of the water into the garage so it could run out to the street.  While I felt very much like I was imposing, I was thankful for the help.
After getting the flood waters contained, the neighbor's visitor left, and I again stood in the middle of the kitchen trying to figure out what to do next.  Luckily, in this case, it was a hot dry day so things sopped up into towels quite well and the rugs were safe outside to dry.  I called a plumber that was highly recommended and will be getting a new downstairs toilet tomorrow afternoon.  Within the hour I was back at the kitchen table working on curriculum again.  Although this time with a heart beating a bit faster.
I am SO thankful that I happened to be home today, and it didn't run for hours while I was gone.  And that it was the downstairs toilet so the water just sat on the tile floor and was easily swept out to the garage.  If it had been upstairs there probably would have been so much damage - carpet, ceiling, walls.  Ugh, I can't even imagine.  Replacing a toilet stinks (no pun intended), but flood damage would have been so very costly.  And I'm also relieved that none of my nearest neighbors were home to watch all the water pouring out of my garage into the driveway. I know someone would have reported me to the water agency for wasting water!  But on the downside, about half of those hours I've put in over the last two weeks are now going towards fixing this plumbing problem.  On the upside, at least those hours are there.
Ha! I'm still in some shock over the whole incident!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Summer Meal

Happy first day of summer!  There are A LOT of things about summer time that I enjoy - summer break, stone fruit, lazy days are just a few.  The sweltering heat is not one of those things.  The temperatures for the next 5 months make one of my favorite things to do - cooking - not so fun.  It's just too darn hot to be in that kitchen with the oven or the burners on.  While I have the time right not for some fun in the kitchen, the kitchen is the last place I want to be this time of year.  So it's outside I must go for some cooking on the grill.  With all the good and fresh summer vegetables and fruit the meals are almost as fun.  This is one of my favorites...
A few years back I found this recipe for garlic lemon chicken kabobs on Annie's Eats.  I've shared it with several friends, and they've all raved about it.  It's a hit and SOOOOOO easy - chicken, olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, and salt/pepper marinated for 2-3 hours and then grilled.  That's it.

 The lemon flavor with the parsley is so light and fresh in the hot weather.  The chicken is great as is or in a salad.  I even like it cold, from the fridge the next day.  Sometimes I don't "kabob" it, instead cutting the chicken into small pieces that cook quickly.  My favorite way to use it though is in a flatbread sandwich.
We have a Greek restaurant in town that makes the most amazing flat bread.  Anytime I'd buy it at the grocery store, or even a specialty store, it always tasted like cardboard.  A year or so ago, I scoured the internet trying to find a recipe that I could make at home that was similar to what I like at the restaurant.  And I found it!  This recipe on Mel's Kitchen Cafe makes to-die-for flat bread.   The best part is it also freezes really well for later use, and even tastes the same after a quick warm up in the cast iron skillet.  I don't have a lot of experience with yeast breads so it's taken me a couple of tries to get the dough "right", but now I've pretty much got it.  Rolling it out into a perfect circle is another story, but you can't really tell once there's stuff inside them.
  I hadn't made any in awhile, but wanted to some for this meal without heating up the skillet on the burner.  So instead, after cooking the garlic lemon chicken kabobs, I stuck the cast iron skillet on the grill, lowered the lid, and waited for it to heat.  The dough balls were rolled out into flat "circles" and stacked with parchment paper.  By then the pan was hot.  After a minute plus on each side, I had soft chewy flat bread.
Yum!  It's such a good meal and every single part keeps well for a leftover sandwich or two in the upcoming days.  I noticed this picture was taken before the tomatoes and cucumbers were added - that makes the sandwich even better!  And the best was all done outside and my house remained cool despite the hot day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

An Eventful Book Club

Last night, my book group got together with the intent of discussing this month's book, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  I looked forward to our gathering not only for the company which is always fun, but I also really liked the book and couldn't wait to talk about it.  Each book club host chooses the book and prepares the meal.  Our usual M.O. is to catch up a bit while the host puts finishing touches on the meal and while eating.  We then move into our book discussion about halfway through dinner and continue for a bit until someone takes us off topic.  Then it's dessert and time for goodbyes.  There was no reason to think it would go any different last night.  However our bookclub got a bit derailed by a snake in the grass.
No, literally a snake in the grass!
Our host for the evening moved into his new home about a year ago.  It butts up against the side of a mountain and is known to have wildlife venture into his yard fairly regularly.  Once dinner was served we made our way out to the patio to enjoy some al fresco dining.  As hot as it has been this week, it was a beautiful evening.  During our catching up time the subject of his local wildlife was brought up.  We've heard stories of snakes in the backyard and were told that certain precautions - snake deterrent fencing being the most recent - have been implemented since our last visit.  And in the middle of a story about the last snake sighting, another book club member pointed towards the brick wall across the yard (which boasts the snake deterrent fence by the way).  "What's that?" she asked.  "Is it a snake?"
I'm not a fan of snakes, so that's all I needed to hear.  I jumped up from the table and made a beeline to the screen door and went inside. I stood at the door and watched what unfolded.  Sure enough, a black and white snake slithered it's way up the leveled block, on the inside of the snake deterrent fence.  There were only 5 of us tonight.  Two moved in for a closer look, two stayed seated at the table, and I stayed in the house safely behind the screen door.
This snake was not some little garden snake nor was it a rattle snake, thank goodness.  But it WAS about 5 freaking feet long, almost as long as I am tall!  They watched it climb the length of the fence for awhile, hoping it would make it's way back to the mountain.  But it stayed put.  Which is when the fire department was called.  While we waited everyone else went back to eating and I continued to stand behind the screen door, hoping the fire fighters would hurry up and arrive.
While we waited, the snake started to slither back the way it came and thenthe person who spotted it in the first place said it looked like it went back through the snake deterrent fence as it seemed to have disappeared.  The fire department was called, but we were told they'd still come just to be sure.
About 5 minutes later they arrived.  I let them in and showed them back through the house, still watching from inside.  They got all the details and determined that it must have been a king snake which are harmless to people and pets, but quite helpful in keeping rattlesnakes away.  They spent some time looking along the wall, in the trees, and a couple of them even climbed over the wall and looked along the base of the mountain.  Once they confirmed it was no longer on the property, they kept looking as one of the firefighters wanted to catch it and take it home to his kids (Can you even imagine!?!?).  After about 10 minutes of looking they got another call, climbed back over the wall and bid us farewell.
The whole ordeal taking about 45 minutes, I finally ventured back outside to finish my dinner.  After that though, the book club talk was 10 minutes at best.  The snake ruined our book club discussion but shook up our somewhat predictable schedule.
Funnily enough this is not my first firefighters-come-save-us-from-the snake at a social gathering.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A New Subject?

During an "End of Year" classroom writing activity, my students brainstormed a list of school subjects.  "Math", "Reading", "Writing", "PE", "Art" were all listed.  There were a few more answers I was expecting when I called on another student.  A fairly bright girl responded, "Testing".
Isn't it a sad state of affairs when a 7 year old thinks that testing is a subject in school.  And I didn't correct her because the reality is we've spent more time testing this year than we have on a lot of other subjects.
Hump day is just about over.
Spending the last 1.5 days of the school year just surviving.  So that's all I've got tonight. :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Field Trips

School field trips are probably the best part of each school year for kids.  In my district, we get one field trip paid for a year.  We also, from time-to-time, find additional field trips that are free and in walking distance.  There have been four of those this year - 3 plays at the local high school and nearby community theater and a rock hunt to a local park.  They were all great fun, but not quite as exciting as the "boarding a school bus and going somewhere far away"field trip.  That one was today.
"Boarding the school bus and going somewhere far away" field trips might be tied with standardized testing as the least favorite part of school for teachers.  I'm not a fan of such trips.  The walking trips aren't so bad - they are nearby, not too long, and we don't have to get on a school bus.  The school bus trips are the exact opposite of that.  And they are exhausting.  There's something about taking 24 kids out of the school boundaries that STRESSES ME OUT.  I'm very responsible and take very good care of my students, but I am petrified that I'm going to lose one or forget one when we are of campus.  Plus during field trips we are "on" the entire time.  There's no down time - no recess, no lunch, no bathroom breaks.  With the excitement of the trip itself, even the most well-behaved student loses his or her mind and all the school rules and procedures are forgotten.
Today's trip was to Oxnard to visit the Channel Islands visitor center where we learned about the local animals, the Chumash Indians, and got to visit the beach.  It's about a 40 minute drive north in the car and about an hour and a half by school bus - noisy, hot then cold then hot then cold, uncomfortable school buses.
 On our way!
Visiting the sea life at their little aquarium.  

 A visit to the observation tower to look out over the ocean and the harbor.
 Up close and personal with the sea life.
 Lunch and exploring on the beach. 
Even though it was a beautiful day, and after all was said and done a fun field trip, this is how I felt after it was all over.  Sadly, when you're the teacher you can't pass out in a bench seat on the school bus!
Field trips are exhausting for everyone.  The kids enjoy them so much though, so I continue to agree with going on them as the hands on experiences are invaluable.  But I'm a sleepy girl tonight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Garbage Eater

I often ask myself how someone so cute can be so rotten all at the same time!  Rigby is no longer a puppy, but she sure acts like one every-so-often.
When it comes to the trash cans, she won't stay out of them.  Pretty much anything will peak her interest - tissues, dental floss, cotton balls, napkins, bags, cans, Chapstick name it and Rigby has probably pulled it out of the trash.  Her need to do so has lessened as she gets older, but it does still happen on occasion.
Over the last few weeks, Rigby has been obsessed with the art room/office's trash.  I've been painting again recently.  When using the acrylic, I use paper towels to wipe down bottles or clean/dry the brushes after swishing them in water, etc.  The towels are used until they need to be tossed.  There is something about these paint covered paper towels that Rigby just can't pass up.  If that office door is open, she makes a beeline to the trash, pulls out ALL the towels and tears them up.  Usually when she has something she's not supposed to have, I can tell her to "Leave it," and she'll drop it and walk away - usually pouting.  With these paper towels though, telling her "no" makes her shred them even faster...right in front of me!  It worries me a bit that she is pulling them out to eat the paint, but I'm "hoping" that it's the act of shredding them and making a GIANT MESS for me to clean up that is the motivation.  Regardless, she's driving me nuts!