Category Archives: Weekly Photo Challenges

rise and set – bookends

Watching the sunset is one of my favorite things to do at the end of the day. At home I don’t get the opportunity as the sunset is obscured by homes and trees. Though sometimes I can catch the sunset while I drive home after school, it’s rare especially in the springtime after the time changes and the sun sets after 7 in the evening.

the sunset at Seven Mile Bridge – east end Thursday 3/29/18

When we are up north at the lake, we usually have a clear view of the sunset. When we are here in the Keys we make time to see the sunset, timing our dinner for the time before the sunset or after the sunset or sometimes selecting a place to enjoy dinner where we can watch the sunset. We need to plan and choose the right spot, but we can usually find a place to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico that’s within fifteen minutes of where we are staying. After all, we are on an island or a series of islands.

Today is Friday, Good Friday, it’s the last full day of Spring Break and March. Tomorrow we pack and clean the condo and begin our journey home and back to school. So far, we’ve been able to see several sunsets and had one ‘epic fail’ trying to see the sun slide beneath the ocean’s horizon. Continue reading rise and set – bookends

my favorite place – a photo challenge

sunrise Sunday morning – first full day in the Keys

It’s spring break and we are in Florida. Specifically, the Keys. It’s a favorite place of ours for spring break. Summer, of course, is a different matter.

As a teacher I get Spring Break and fortunately, for me, our children’s spring break is the same as mine.

The past three spring breaks, we’ve come here – Key Colony Beach – in the middle Keys. We’ve been here several other times as well going back to our first visit in 2002. My wife’s memories date back to her childhood. It’s where my son earned his scuba certification before his summer Boy Scout high adventure trip to the Florida Sea Base a little further east from where we are currently staying.

We booked our trip well before school started and we’ve been looking forward to coming back since last year’s trip. We were worried that the adventure would be a little different this year due to Hurricane Irma’s visit in September ’17 – six and half months ago.

Where we staying appears to be back to normal. However, there are signs everywhere that there is a new normal. The landscaping where we are staying is all new and many of the properties around us are still being repaired. Several properties have not re-opened and we discovered yesterday Bahia Honda State Park, our favorite Florida State Park, is still being restored, or at least our favorite spot – the beach along the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading my favorite place – a photo challenge

weathered – a photo challenge

Sunday morning. It was cold out -11 if you use the metric system, or 12 if you use the English system. Whichever scale you use, it’s still cold. It was much warmer Wednesday and Thursday with rain and all the snow melted, but on Friday, January’s cold returned.

I shouldn’t be surprised, it is January and I do live in the Midwest where January temperatures are often below freezing. Often, well below freezing.

my favorite deck chair, weathered and exposed

Freezing temperatures create problems for us here, they harden the ground and create potholes in the roads making travel sometimes hazardous. The freeze and thaw season comes later in winter when the sun’s rises higher in the sky and temperatures rise above freezing during the day and plunge back below freezing at night. That’s when the real weathering begins – freeze and thaw – and it wreaks havoc on roads and anything manmade, or even natural. Rocks break down into smaller rocks, then pebbles, and even smaller. It’s a vicious cycle, yet it’s an essential part of our world. Nothing is really permanent, everything is in transit – from somewhere to someplace.

It’s Monday morning and it’s -7, 18F or so, it’s actually warmed up, so to speak. It began snowing Sunday evening and the ground which was bare this morning, is coated with a fresh layer of white snow. The world is a much brighter place this morning.

trees out back, the snow continues to fall

The days pass quickly and like the weather, a new day is fresh, clean, and ready to be weathered away by time and the elements. Continue reading weathered – a photo challenge

from turkey to soup – a transformation

It’s Thanksgiving break and I am thankful. I was thankful Thursday morning and I am especially thankful as the break winds to close. It’s Saturday morning, I’ve been on break since Wednesday, really Tuesday night. Three days have passed seemingly in the blink of an eye, or rather two eyes.

I’ve been taking advantage of the break to a couple of nights of good rest. Wednesday and Thursday morning, I was up before the sun rose. Friday morning, I slept late and the sun was up and Ivy was gone. This morning, I was awakening as the sun was rising and Ivy was still nestled up against my leg.

On Thanksgiving Day, the turkey is my job. It’s a pretty simple job, though I have leared that some people make a mess of it. I follow a simple plan.

  • I remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to rest in the sink for an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Unwrap the turkey, rinse, and pat dry.
  • Place the turkey in the roasting pan
  • Pour 1 quart of cold water in the roasting pan
  • Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.
  • Insert the oven probe in the thigh, making sure not to hit the bone
  • Place the turkey in the oven
  • Set the oven temperature down to 325F and the probe temperature to 175F.
step 1 – roasting the turkey

That’s what I do. I use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey when the oven probe reaches 175 – just as a backup. This year, I added another 5F to finish the turkey and removed the turkey from the oven and covered it with foil until we were ready to eat.

When we were ready with all the fixings – mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with coconut topping, Brussels sprouts, dressing, and gravy, I carved the turkey and re-heated to make sure it was hot. Then we sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was delicious, but it tasted better because the family was together.

After Thanksgiving dinner, W cleaned up. An hour or so later, I finished the job and got down to the business of transforming the turkey into turkey vegetable soup.

I removed all of the meat from the turkey and broke the carcass into smaller bits that fit in the stock pot.  I cover the bones with cold water and placed the pot on the stove over medium-low heat. The stock then slowly simmers uncovered and it takes several hours to render the turkey stock. Before I went to bed Thursday night, I turned off the heat and covered the stock pot.

step 2, making the turkey stock

Continue reading from turkey to soup – a transformation

thinking putty: an experiment in focus

I slept late this morning, but I went to bed late last night. I was working on school work and in the throes of thinking, planning, and writing the time slipped away. By the time I was finished, it was well past my regular bed time. When I crawled into bed, I had to move Ivy who had gone to bed without me and was taking up more of the bed than she should. She was nestled up against my leg when I fell asleep and she was still there when I got up. She beat me downstairs waiting patiently at the door to go outside while I started my coffee.

Gold Rush thinking putty at rest

She and I have a morning routine. When she came back inside, she sat beside the couch looking at me with her ears pulled forward as if to ask, ‘can I?’ I looked back at her and nodded, she jumped onto the couch and I went downstairs to the basement and my office.

November is a busy month. When school is in session all the months are full, but November and February always seem especially full. Thanksgiving is this week and I have two days of school and then we are on break until the following Monday. O is out for break the entire week and she is heading to Disney World with the marching band. She is excited. It will be odd not having her for Thanksgiving, sort of an experiment for what it will be like someday in the future.

I’ve been experimenting lately. I’ve been writing a monthly classroom newsletter for two subject I teach – science and history. I published my latest science newsletter Saturday evening.

I’ve been watching my students and my daughter, O, play with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty . I was wondering if there was something to it and I grabbed a couple of tins for myself, sort of a birthday gift from me to me. It actually is pretty soothing and relaxing to knead the putty stretching, pulling, and squeezing it in both hands. I have two tins Gold Rush and Northern Lights. Continue reading thinking putty: an experiment in focus

temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

It’s Sunday morning and I am slowly getting a start to the new week. I am on my second cup of coffee and Ivy has been outside on patrol and she’s back inside. She’s curled up at my feet beneath the desk where I do much of my thinking and writing.

Ivy loves resting in the leaf pile, I think she feels camouflaged….

Friday was my birthday. It was also the coldest day of school year so far. I checked the temperature and it was 16°F. I smiled and thought back to when I was 16 years old. I’ve grown up, but in many ways, I am still that kid who at the age of 16 was looking ahead at the future and wondering and dreaming. It’s been 40 years since that birthday. You can do the math, but I don’t feel like a 56 year-old, however a 56 year old should feel.

Age is a number and it’s temporary. I am constantly learning and growing, or I should be.

Yesterday, I slept late. It was nice to sleep past my normal weekday wake up time of 4:30 AM.

It’s Fall and the cold weather has zapped the trees and the fallen leaves have covered the lawn like a thick blanket with leaves sticking in the beds along the foundation and fences, wherever there might be a stopping point from the wind.

the yard before work began in earnest

The leaves are temporary. They sprout in the Spring and last until the Fall. The cycle is lasts a little less than 200 days from mid-April to early November, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on the year. We have a couple of trees that are now leafless and several trees which are relentlessly holding on to their leaves. By the end of the month, the trees will release their grip and the leaves will fall to the ground. Continue reading temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

peek – a photo challenge

It’s Saturday night, it’s late. It’s the night before we fall back and return to standard time.

It’s been a full day. I’ve set the all the clocks back an hour in anticipation of the time change. I am looking forward to driving to school in the morning light, it’s been slowly getting darker each morning over the last couple of weeks. But, conversely, I am not looking forward to driving home in the dark either. There is hope, though the days are getting shorter, they will begin getting longer again soon. It’s the cycle and I don’t need to peek ahead, I know the days will get longer soon.

I ran errands this afternoon and took a side trip to the Morton Arboretum. It’s nestled along a highway, though you’d never know it. It’s bounded by housing developments and a river runs through it. It’s a peaceful place to visit and walk. This afternoon I enjoyed the view from the top of the hill facing west into the rainy Saturday afternoon. I’ve watched the sun set from the same spot before and even though I tried, I could not see the sun peeking through the clouds today.

the sun is nowhere to be found…

While I was there, I stood beneath a pine tree and marveled at the pine cones and the water dripping off the needles and branches. It was peaceful and calming. Rainy fall days tend to bring a sense of calm and serenity. The pine cone seemed to be just peeking through the needles at me.

Continue reading peek – a photo challenge

don’t forget kindness

I am back in school and my windows are limited to the classroom, the car windshield, and the kitchen window I look out in the morning. Of course, there are other windows in my world – our bedroom window which we can finally crack now that cooler fall weather has arrived. This morning, I awoke to a nip in the air as the temperatures had dropped into the upper 40s (10C) overnight.

 

My classroom has two windows – one facing the sidewalk and the other facing the outdoor classroom and the entrance onto the parking lot from the street. Occasionally, there is a class in the outdoor classroom and the students are more interested in what is happening outside. Mostly, the views are uninspiring, but my students do peer out and get lost in the outside world, oblivious to the learning within the four walls. I understand. There are days when I feel constrained, too.

I was reading a blog post by Margaret, From Pyrenees to Pennines, this morning and I was inspired. Thank you, Margaret. It is during the summer, or a long weekend trip, when I can gaze through the windows at the lake. I can get lost, like my students, looking out at the lake.

This past summer I took a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a business trip, of sorts. I had a great time and I learned some new ways to design social studies curriculum. I was indoors during the days – all three days, but in the evening, I was able to explore. Continue reading don’t forget kindness

people are like onions

This morning when I opened the Five Minute Journal, I was met with the week’s weekly challenge.

Yes, I am challenged to smile at myself in the mirror for ten seconds. I smiled when I read the challenge and took a screen shot. Not a difficult challenge at all, nothing like the weekly challenge from a few week’s back when the Five Minute Journal challenged me to start a conversation with a stranger.

It made me think of a time when I did have to smile in the mirror.

It also made me think of this week’s photo challenge – layers. It made me think of the following conversation from the movie Shrek.

Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[Shrek walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

Shrek is right – ogres AND people are like onions, we have layers. Continue reading people are like onions

wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!

I am easily distracted, so much so I need to be away from distractions. When I first read Andrea Badgley’s weekly photo challenge, I identified.

Wrigley Field, and me…

I am in the basement, outside it’s rainy, or was raining, and it’s wet. Whether it’s raining or not, sitting on the deck and writing would be a bad idea this morning. The basement is dry, thankfully. The family is sleeping, reaching for that last bit of sleeping in late.

Lately, I’ve been distracted by just about everything. Sunday afternoon, I was writing a letter to my mom – more on that later – and I could not keep my mind on what I was writing and my pen, a fountain pen, would dry and I’d need to constantly re-wet it. I finally finished the letter Tuesday and put it in the mail with four thank you notes. I have another letter I need to write – this one to a former student and I’ve been dragging my feet, or rather allowing myself to get distracted.

It’s the ‘shiny’ stuff that gets me off topic and wandering and wondering.

Last week, I took in two baseball games one by myself, and the other with my favorite daughter, O. I root for the Astros. She roots for the Reds, and the Cubs, but the Reds are first. She’s been wanting to go to a Reds game and this week they’ve been in Chicago. She mentioned it last week and reminded me yesterday.

O is off to high school next week and freshman orientation was Tuesday afternoon with a parent orientation Tuesday evening. Continue reading wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!