Kreativ Blogger? Wow, thanks!

I want to say a big thanks to Montessori Mama, who has given me the Kreativ Blogger award!!

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You know, it feels kinda good.  I needed the boost — thanks again, MM.  Coming from one of the most creative of all bloggers I know, this award means a lot!

Now, on to the rules:
– List six things that inspire my creativity
– Pass the award on to 6 more kreativ bloggers
– Link back to the person who gave you the award
– Link to the people you are passing it on to and leave them a comment to let them know.

so…

SIX things that inspire my creativity:

  1. family night — We decided to rotate the responsibility to each family member each week  to choose an activity for Friday night that the whole family would enjoy.  Last time that it was my turn, I chose painting, and we had a marvelous time just hanging out and painting together. Never done such a  thing together ALL three of us at the same time.  Cool!
  2. Christmas — Something about that holiday brings out my creative side.  I relish the chance to make things beautiful, to use my hands to create something new out of something old (ornaments, table decorations, handmade cards….)
  3. teaching a text that students seem to find boring — Ah, I love that challenge! That’s when I revert to drawing crazy pictures on the board, jumping on top of furniture to act out a concept, bringing in wigs and hats for students to stage an impromptu dramatization of that boring 18th century poem, etc.
  4. dinner parties — I know you aren’t really “supposed” to make up new recipes when you have company coming, but I love to get creative in the kitchen for my friends.  Almost always there’s enough delicious food (if I do say so myself) in the meal to make up for anything borderline.  Even the flops are food for funny stories later on. 🙂
  5. scrapbooking — Okay, I admit it.  I actually like doing this activity.  I haven’t been able to work on anything for years, but I love how it is both a creative (making something new) and retro- and intro-spective activity.  I need to find a way to do this craft again, as it gives me much pleasure both in the doing and in the viewing later.
  6. Grandma’a life — I find my beloved grandma to be incredibly inspiring.  Writing her book is one of the most meaningful things I have undertaken in my life and one of the hardest.

Now, on to listing SIX more kreativ bloggers:

The Sruggling Writer is a wonderfully creative guy — I like how he just keeps on writing despite being busy with work and his young family. I’ve seen a noticable change in the quality of his writing, too, clearly proving that practice makes perfect. Paul, you’re awesome!

I read Kitty’s delightful blog  The Show Must Go On almost every day.  She is witty and hilarious and kind.  Check her out!  But bonus…she is also a gifted photographer and has another blog The Cuckoo’s Nest filled with interesting pixs.  This gal can do anything.  She even turned me on to cooking cabbage (yup, Kitty, I finally bit the bullet and cooked that thing in the bottom of my fridge — delicious!  Who knew?)

Ginny over at Praying to Darwin is a crack up.  Always makes me LOL when I read of her and her family’s escapades in the great white north of Canada.  I’ve actually snorted with laughter when reading her before.  Thanks, Ginny, for cheering my day!

I love handmade paper products (books, cards, etc.), and I really admire Diane Aldred’s work, often showcased on her blog Much of a Muchness.  She has a real knack for choosing just the right design.  She’s also a good writer, and despite my jealousy over her exciting travels, I’m nominating her as well.

I don’t recall exactly how I first found Katie Hoffman’s blog Paint Fumes, but I have enjoyed visiting it and viewing her paintings for a long time now.  I always find something worthwhile to contemplate there, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art wold from her interesting written posts, as well.

When I first began blogging a year and a half ago, I was searching the blogosphere using the keyword “grief”  and came across Linda’s mysteroriley, a “blog I never wanted to write.”  What strikes me so much about this blog is Linda’s courage and the strength of her creative energy in the face of the painful loss of her 20-year-old son.  Linda, I admire you both as a writer and as a human being.  You inspire me!

So, there you have it folks!  And I want to encourage everyone to visit Montessori Mama‘s site, too.  She is a gifted artist, teacher, and a great gal. Thanks!

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The Obamas’ National Day of Service

Recently, the Obamas called on Americans to participate in service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  So my son and I signed up to help at a local goods bank in our city.  A goods bank is like a food bank only with furniture, clothing, etc. for needy families.

About eight years ago, Donna Hunnewell, came up with the idea after sitting through a years worth of meetings of our local Hunger and Homelessness Commission and hearing case workers talk about how much time it took them to track down things like cribs and couches for their clients.  Donna decided that while she could never work directly with the clients herself (she told us, “I’d sit there crying all day if I did that”), she did know that she could gather used furniture and clothes for the caseworkers so they could concentrate on doing their real job, helping these families with job training, housing, health care, and education issues.

Here is Donna, speaking at our volunteer event yesterday:

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At first Donna began informally, using her porch and garage as a holding space for goods, which she delivered in her van.  Then she moved operations to a mini-storage unit, then several units and finally a warehouse.  This past year her Lowell Wish Project surpassed the one million dollars in goods mark and has now served over 27,000 clients, including 600 families that received an entire house full of furniture, right down to the shower curtains and pots and pans.  Remarkably, she and her volunteers can now pull together a whole house full of furniture, etc.,  in just 20 minutes!

So, my son and I arrived and were amazed to join over a hundred volunteers as we sorted donations — everything has a clearly marked place, so it’s very easy to find.  I had to crack up because we were assigned to mitten and hat duty, supremely ironic because my son and I had a rather unpleasant discussion the other day about keeping track of mittens….  SO here we were, sorting donated mittens, destined for families who could not afford to buy such things.  What luck!

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After we sorted and refilled the various bins from an extra bin in the back of the warehouse, we wandered around looking for the places where some odd items that we found really belonged (these items had somehow made their way into the girls’ hats bin by mistake).  As we walked, we saw everyone busy sorting and organizing.

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And we saw so much stuff that had been donated, almost all of which was clean and usable, if sometimes a bit, well, ur, ugly, to be honest.  As we walked by one woman with two teenagers, I heard the mom explaining, “Yeh, it’s not that attractive, I know, but if you had a bedroom window that looked right out to the street, you’d be glad to have this to cover it!”  I saw the teens nod.

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At the end of the day, Donna told us that our band of Obama-incited volunteers had in one morning accomplished what it normally takes volunteers about three months to do.  “You helped make wishes come true.  Thanks!”  She also said that her Project is responsible for reducing the local landfill input by 1%, not bad for a little organization started out of someone’s garage!  Every little bit helps.

We will be going back for sure.  This was an easy service activity for me and my son to do together, and they offer a lot of flexibility for volunteers to come lots of different times of the week, inlcuding evenings and weekends.  “Guilt-free charity” Donna calls it — come again if you want, or not.  They also sponsor 18 service projects throughout the year, including a back-to-school backpack drive.  I’m sure we will find many ways to get involved.

So, on this inauguration day, hats off to the man who inspired over a hundred people ot spend their Saturday morning in a warehouse sorting donations to help out local families in need.  It’s going to be an interesting four years.

Happy New Year!

Twenty minutes to the big count down.  I’m hanging out in the livingroom with our dog while my son and his friend — here for a New Year’s sleepover — are in the basement watching a movie. Said parents and little brother have gone home, leaving their sweet girl to hang out with my Bubby.  They are pals.  What a nice New Year’s Eve for us all.

I wish every year could be this simple for him….

For now, I’m just grateful for friendships, for a warm puppy in my lap, for an automatic dishwasher taking care of the dinner plates, for scented soy candles ablaze on a shelf, for sparkling LED Christmas lights on a still supple and green tree, for my health, for my job, for our nice little house, for the snow outside, for freezable leftover refried beans and Mexican rice from our feast, for the lazy day I expect to enjoy tomorrow, for completing my work thing that was buggin me and that needed to be done THIS year, and for my husband who is spending the last few minutes of his year trying to fix my other computer, Lord bless him!

I got the almond in my rice pudding in the Christmas feast this year.  So I get the luck.  Feels like that luck started long ago!  How much better can it get??

I bought seven lottery tickets today, one for each person at dinner.  Then I totally forgot to give them out.  I guess I’ll have to pass them out when we bring back Bubby’s friend tomorrow.  Oops!  Ah, well, tomorrow we shall see who else is lucky! 🙂

Lefse Making: Then and Now, Here and There

On Saturday my Grandma’s niece and her husband came to “Christmas Eve” dinner at our house.  They live in Vermont and had to drive down (and back) through a snow storm to share this time with us (what nice relatives!)  My son and I made the lefse right before they got there, so as to have the freshest and most tender lefse possible for our dinner.  If you don’t know what lefse is, well, it’s a Norwegian flatbread made of mashed poatoes that looks like a flour tortilla and is rolled up with butter and cinnaomn-sugar.  (See my Lefse tab above for more posts on lefse.)

Bubby knows that the cooks always get to eat the first lefse.  What he didn’t realize was why we have this tradition: basically because the first one never looks quite right and Grandma never wanted to serve it that way.  So we would always eat it and destroy the evidence.  Well, this time, the first piece of lefse REALLY wasn’t all that great.  Far too much flour and overcooked — came out stiff (always a bad sign!)  Bubby and I ate it, but we had to “try” the second one, too, cause after the first failure, we had to be sure that we would not be serving the family low-quality lefse!  🙂  I remarked that when I made lefse with Grandma, our fist one never looked THAT bad before — I must be losing my touch.  Or maybe it’s just this darned head cold I’ve got….

Our technique did improve, you’ll be happy to hear, and we served a nice stack during dinner.  In fact, I serve lefse with the Christmas Eve meal (even though technically it should go afterwards with the sweets). But we could never wait until after the main meal was over.  If it were up to me, we’d just have Swedish meatballs and lefse on our plates.  What’s the point of all the rest?  I noticed that Bubby ate his lefse first, and well, who cares.  I smiled cause he’s Momma’s kid, isn’t he?

After dinner, gift opening, rice pudding (I got the almond again this year, so good luck to ME!), and after our cousins left, our dog Maggie decided she was not to be left out any longer, and she pulled half of the remaining lefse off the plate and onto the floor.  BAD DOG!  BAD DOG!!!!!    Ah, but who can blame her?  They are so delicious!

When I was recently going through some of my Scandinavia trip pictures, I found these ones of the lefse exhibit at the Folk MUseum in Oslo, Norway.  The young woman is making potato-less lefse, which I learned last year from my on-line friends is, in fact, legitimate lefse.  Hardanger lefse with flour and milk — very lovely.  Not what I think of as lefse, but still yummy.  Anyway, here are the pictures.  Makes me glad that I have an electric griddle to cook mine on — a heck of a lot more convenient that a wood fire hearth (though not as picturesque)!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … Finals

Funny how the mind works.  I’ve had that darned Christmas song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” running through my head for the last few days.  It’s a constant refrain ever since it snowed.  Ugh.

Christmas is, I admit it, probably my favorite holiday in the whole year.  Too bad every year I also have a ton of work to do right before the holiday.  As an English teacher, I end up with mounds of final portfolios (each one including  final versions of all of the students’ papers from the whole semester plus their original drafts to show improvement and an extensive cover letter assessing their work).  Whew!  Makes me tired just summarizing it.  Here is a picture of my current semester’s stack, guarded by our faithful pooch, Maggie, until I can get around to that important work…

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So, yeh, why am I not grading those papers right now, then…? Just taking a breather, folks, having  finished grading on-line assignments for a different class, I haven’t yet gone on to the next task.  Busy, busy, busy!  Ah, but lucky, too.  I like seeing the improvement of the students’ work at the end (usually there IS growth).  Makes me feel like it was worth it or some such nonsense!  🙂

Holady Shopping… Typos Matter, Even at Christmas

I am NOT the grammar police, okay?  But, honestly, sometimes I can’t help but draw attention to signage errors.  I mean, I’d want to know!   I live by that Do Unto Others credo, so shoot me.

I was at the mall this weekend buying a few last Christmas gifts, when I was surprised to see a See’s Candy shop.  Where the heck did that come from, I wondered.  I am quite certain it wasn’t there last time I visited the mall.

I hustled over to the store, though, to pick up a couple of boxs of nuts and chews and assorted chocolates.  Sees is not only delicious candy, but it brings back lovely memories of my grandma.  The company began right there in Sacramento, California, near my grandma’s house, in fact.  I am delighted that the company has done so well that it now has a store in the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, New Hampshire.  Go figure!

But as I was reading the description of one of their items to see which candies the box included, my eyes bugged out at this typo.  Can you SEE it?

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How appetizing!  Just what I want to buy for my son’s stocking: a box with six soiled choco balls.  Mmm! Delicious!  Sample anyone? 🙂

I hesitated but then thought, goodness, this has to be fixed.  Or at least laughed at.  So I showed it to the two sales ladies, making it perfectly clear that this was, no doubt, NOT their fault.

Clerk One: “Yes.  Uh huh….  So you’re a teacher?”

Me: “Well, yeh. Er, I am. Ha ha.” 🙂

Clerk One: “And you teach…?”

Me: “English.  Sorry.  Typos just have this way of jumping right off the page at me, especially this time of year when I am grading so many student papers.  I can’t help it.”

Clerk Two: “Where do you teach your classes?”

Me: “At the University.”

Clerk Two: “I want to take an English class.  I need to learn English.”

Me: “Well, there’s community colleges.  They offer such classes.”

Clerk Two: “What I really want is a tutor, just someone to sit down with me and help me understand better.”

Me: “Our local library has such a thing — literacy tutoring run by volunteers.  You should see if your town has that.”

After the Clerk One lady rang up my purchase, she slipped three butterscoth lollipops into my bag and smiled. I guess she didn’t mind my pointing out the typo after all.  Still, someone should fix that sign.  Made me think I should carry around white out and a black marker.

Has anyone heard of that guy who goes around, on purpose to fix people’s typos? Now THAT’S annoying!

Happy Sankta Lucia Day

Yes, I know that all of you American and English readers are busy eating your Lucia buns and drinking the coffee that your eldest daughter brought to you at the crack of dawn and all that.  Sorry to bug you.  I just wanted to wish all a happy Sankta Lucia Day.

In case you don’t know (though I’m sure EVERYONE does), Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated in Sweden and Italy.  Yeh, that’s weird, huh?  Lucia was an Italian saint, a martyr who brought food to the Christians hiding from the Romans in the catacombs.  She is famous for wearing a crown of candles to light her way in the subterranean caverns (her hands were busy holding big baskets of food, get it?)  Of course, she was murdered, but not until after all the requisite miracles.  Etcetera.

So the Italians celebrate her feast day (Dec. 13), but why the Swedes?  Well, one thousand years ago King Canute was experiencing a bit of Seasonal Affect Disorder and feeling glum because, well, Sweden is relatively cold and dark this time of year.  Then he heard about Saint Lucy and said, “Ah, ha!  This is the saint for us!!” So he proclaimed that Sweden would observe her feast day, too.

The Swedes today celebrate with Lucia buns and coffee in the early morning.  Girls wear electric lighted crowns and bring their parents the food.  Boys wear funny pointed hats and are called “Star Boys.”  There’s lots more to it and all, but that’s the basics.  Oh, and there’s a song, of course, as well!

Anyway, happy Sankta Lucia Day to one and all!