Archive | March, 2015

Out of the Frying Pan….#SOL15

31 Mar


The end of the Slice of Life Challenge means that NaPoWriMo is about to begin.


NaPoWriMo,National Poetry Writing Month,  is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. My Literacy differentiation group actually started today, since we only meet on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Th kids groaned when I told them about NaPoWriMo. We talked about what poetry is and how you get to bend the rules sometimes. I showed them my previous NaPoWriMo journals, but refused to read anything out of it yet. I gave them their NaPoWriMo journal (just a cover page on a bunch of folded pages) and their first prompt: write a poem with a lie.

They knew they had to take some time to quietly think, then write. It took them a bit to get settled, but I could tell when it happened, when the grumblers had turned into poets.

When they seemed to be getting restless again I announced it was time to share. They knew that sharing would be optional but that I would share my writing. I just wouldn’t share it before they started. I read my poem from today:

I didn’t take your toy.

OK, I touched your toy, but I didn’t take it.

Maybe I took your toy, but I didn’t play with it.

So, I played with it a little, but I didn’t have fun.

It was sort of fun, but I wasn’t rough.

I guess I might have been a bit rough, but I certainly didn’t break your toy.


The kids laughed and a few volunteered. I read my poem form last year, and then almost everyone volunteered.

By the end, I think I had them all convinced it wouldn’t be too bad a month.

Tundra Reading Club: The Highest Number in the World Reviews

30 Mar

Hey, Look, I’m quoted!!!!

Tundra Book Group

Hi everyone!

It’s time to share the Reading Club reviews for The Highest Number in the World!

TundraReadingClubThe Highest Number in the World

The Highest Number in the World
Written by Roy MacGregor | Illustrated by Geneviève Després
Hardcover | 32 Pages | Ages 6-9
ISBN: 978-1-77049-5753

“MacGregor’s writing packs an emotional punch without relying on sentimentality…Expressive pencil drawings, brightened with color washes, perfectly capture the characters’ feelings…A memorable, intergenerational picture book perfect for sharing.”– Starred Review, Booklist

  • Adrienne at BooksandBassets likes that it’s about “girl power and historical context.”
  • Lee-Ann at Goodreads thinks the book does “a wonderful job at showing how if you look at disappointment a different way it is possible to see it as an opportunity to discover something else and just as thrilling.”
  • Mary-Esther at Sister’s Library calls it a “sweet story that warms the heart.”
  • Stephanie at The Nomadic Reader felt the story “resonated with [her] as a Canadian and of course…

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Connections #SOL15

30 Mar


Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting via Google Hangouts with 9 people across the US. About 10 minutes after the meeting ended, I Skyped with my sister who lives in Canada.  All month I have been writing, sharing and reading slices with people all over the world.  It is amazing when you think about it.

In 1982, when I was 17, I left home to spend a year in Denmark as an exchange student. It took about a week to 10 days weeks for a letter to arrive. I only called by parents on Christmas because calls were so expensive. My parents saved all the letters I wrote and  still have them.


In 1991, when I was 26, I moved to Colombia, where I spent 3 years teaching at an American school. Letters took 2 weeks. Since the phone was my responsibility, I called occasionally, but not often. It was still expensive.

When I moved back to North America in 1994, I got my first job that had this thing called e-mail and a connection to the internet.

Now, everyone is on the phone everywhere. I can talk to anyone anywhere, or send them an e-mail.

But I sort of miss letters. The anticipation. The reading and re-reading. The thought that something that touched my hand will soon be touching yours.

We have all the connections.

Some thoughts while listening to Lucia di Lammermoor

29 Mar


Yesterday I stayed home and listened to the Met broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor, the opera by Donizetti. It is a ridiculous story, loosely based on Sir Walter Scott’s  The Bride of Lammermoor, but it i was just the right thing for my last free day of Spring Break.

It was just the right thing to do. It gave me an excuse to stay home and begin working on the sweater I will knit for the Oregon Basset Hound Games this summer. I had this idea of putting a basset front view on the front of the sweater and a rear view on the back of the sweater. I discovered a tool that will convert pictures to knitting (and cross stitch) graphics called the KnitPro Chart generator. I played around with that for a bit, while Lucia and Edgardo pledged their undying love for each other.

While Lucia’s brother, Enrico plotted to wed her to Arturo, I got out the yarn and cast on. As I knit, I wondered, what Sir Walter Scott would have thought of this adaptation. That got me thinking about my all time favorite book: Les Miserables. I have never seen the play or the movie. I don’t plan on doing so either. I love the book too much to see it turned into something I might not like. Everyone thinks Les Miserables  is about the love story, but it isn’t. It is about forgiveness and repentance. Maybe that is in the play and movie, but I doubt it so I’m steering clear. I wondered what Victor Hugo would think about the play and movies. How knows, maybe he’d have loved them and I am just being a stick in the mud.

By the time of Lucia’s mad scene, I was madly knitting the ribbing. I may even have shed a few tears as the opera came to its terrible sad ending. But I was ready to begin the color portion of the sweater and the initial rows require a bit more concentration, to get things centered and set up.

I knit into the afternoon and have left things at a place where I can manage it once I go back to school and have less time to knit and read. Good thing the sweater doesn’t have to be finished until July!

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #7

29 Mar

It was a light week for the Hub reading Challenge, mostly because I finished 4 books for the Morris award. But I can’t tell you about those.

The only book I actually finished was The Young Elites  by Marie Lu. The first in a fantasy series.


I have to be honest, if I weren’t reading it for the Challenge, I probably would have abandoned it. Lu has certainly created a rich fantasy world, and yet, it smacks a lot of the dystopian world she created in The Legend  series, which I liked more, though I didn’t love it.


Both series have a disease. Both are narrated in alternating voices. Both have a characters on both sides of power and one of these characters goes over to the other side.

As much as I love things foreign and exotic, the names in this book drove me crazy. It is as though Lu sat down and asked her self, “What are the most pretentious sounding names I can think of for the characters in my new book?”

I’m reading All the Light We Cannot See now, a much better book. But more n that next Sunday.

Cooking with bassets #SOL15

28 Mar


 “It is a truth universally acknowledged,

that a single cook in possession of a good recipe,

must be in want of a basset hound.”

In an effort to pursue my goal of having healthy lunches on hand, I went to the kitchen to make soup. The cook in The Tale of Despereaux  says “And when times are terrible soup is the answer.” She also goes on the say, ” There ain’t no point in making soup unless others eat it. Soup needs another mouth to taste it another heart to be warmed by it.” Kate DiCamillo, you are a poet.

And so, I found myself in the kitchen yesterday morning with a helper. Notice the active stance I had to take. There was no moving Fiona, who was hoping for some droppage. Here’s what she wanted.


Yes, carrots and parsnips. As a kid, parsnips horrified me. As an adult, I find them delectable. I like them roasted and they make fabulous soup. Today’s soup was carrot parsnip. I started with a pot full of vegetable stock.


Added the chopped carrots and parsnips, along with some salt and pepper.


Brought it all to a boil, then let it simmer for about half an hour. At they point i took it off the heat and let it cool a bit before using the immersion blender. And voilà!


Several lunches for the freezer. I did take a little taste and it is quite delicious. Take that high cholesterol and blood sugar!

Sleeping in on Spring Break #SOL15

27 Mar


I am, by nature, a morning person. I am aware that this can be annoying to night people, so I try not to be too cheery too early around them. In school days, I generally get up around 5 to drink coffee and mess around on the computer, reading or writing, until it is time to get walk the dogs, get ready and go to work.

I had hoped to sleep a little later during Spring Break. Maybe get up around 6:30 or 7. Alas, Fiona did not realize it was Spring Break. Lucy don’t get up until she has to, or until she hears foods sounds emanating from the kitchen. Fiona is like a Swiss train, even during Spring Break.

So, I’ve been getting up a bit after 5 every morning this week. It will mean an easy transition back to work on Monday. And that’s a good thing, right?

Our secret language #SOL15

26 Mar


Living alone with dogs, I go off the deep once in a while, becoming a crazy basset lady. Over the years, I have developed a secret language that I only use with the dogs. There are words, expressions and phrases. Most are spoken, some are sung. All are ridiculous.

make a deposit in the poop bank verb  to drop poop back in a receptacle

Example: Oh look honey, the neighbors left their trashcan out so we can make a deposit in the poop bank.

the train is leaving the station verb from the lightrailese, often an order to hurry

synonyms: get a move on, get cracking, hop to it, hustle, step on it

Example: OMG, Fiona, you are so slow! Let’s move it. The train is leaving the station.

nanner noun  banana

Example: Girls, would you like to share my nanner?

nanner-time noun time to eat a banana, often sung, as Thank Heaven for Nanner Time in a French accent (a la Maurice Chevalier) to the tune of  Thank Heaven for Little Girls 

belly mohawk noun  the ridge of flesh dangling from the underbelly of a senior basset hound

Example: Don’t step in the puddle, Fiona, your belly mohawk will get wet.

cookie noun  any treat

Example: Lucy, do you want a cookie? Sit!

Dr. Pet Vet proper noun affectionate name for Dr. Davies, also, a character fromThe Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a Canadian TV show of the 1970’s, starring Billy Van and Vincent .

to chase a bunny verb to dream, esp. to make spasmodic movements with the legs while dreaming.

Example: Oh Lucy, sleep sweetly.  Are you chasing a bunny?

mama’s special helper noun  sous chef

Example: Come in the kitchen and you can be mama’s special helper while I make dinner.

waddle noun  a walk, esp a basset event involving many basset hounds

Example: 1. Hey girls, let’s go for a waddle. 2. The Waddle begins promptly at noon. All bassets must be leashed.

howliday noun  any celebration, but especially those in December

Example: I wonder if we will get any cards today for the annual howliday card exchange.

flat-basset adjective  a passive aggressive basset move in which a basset ays down and refuses to move

Example: Our 20 minute walk took an hour because Lucy went all flat-basset in a sunny spot.


As you can see, living with basset hounds requires a very specialized vocabulary. Maybe I’m not that crazy after all.






The Best Advice #SOL15

25 Mar


Thanks to Jen’s slice this morning that inspired today’s slice.

Over the years I’ve receive and given my share of teaching advice. But in the first few years of my career, I got the two best pieces of advice all new teachers should know.

The first came from my cohort leader while I was in teacher’s college at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. It was 1987 and she was a retired teacher who had a second career working in the Education program. She was a tyrant in some ways and some of the things she said would probably get her into some hot water now . “Ladies, don’t try out a new hairdo or pair of heels for your interview!” Probably good advice for anyone, not just the ladies.

The important piece of advice she gave us all was this: When you pass a fountain, take a drink. When you pass the restroom, use it. Nowadays, with water bottles becoming a lifestyle, the first piece of her advice is out of date. But the second part is still relevant, especially since everyone carries a water bottle all the time. I still heed her advice.

The second came from Ken Bell, the VP at A.R. Kauffman, the first school I taught at. He told me that, whenever you walk through the halls, you should carry some papers in your hand. People will think you are on a mission and are less likely to interrupt and keep you from doing whatever it is you are on your way to do. I laughed at the time, but he told me to remember it. Clearly, I have because it is true. Try it if you don’t believe me.

Neither of these pieces of advice had any direct impact on the kids I teach, but they allowed me to become a much better teacher.

Parallel Parking #SOL15

24 Mar


Parking at my vet’s office can be tricky. In spite of the lack of cars in the picture above, there are usually few spaces available in front of the clinic and there is no parking lot. The street in front used to have two lanes on either side, so, if someone decided to parallel park, they didn’t block traffic.

Last year the city redesigned the traffic flow. Now, there is only one lane on either side and a turn lane in the center, making parking even harder. Additionally, a  block away, a bank was torn down and replaced with an apartment complex, which, though it appears to have underground parking has made parking more difficult. There rarely seem to be spaces near the vet’s office to park.

This isn’t a big deal when I am taking Lucy to the vet. I can park far away and Lucy will run, excited to be somewhere new. Fiona, at 14,  is another matter, and today was her annual appointment. I usually pray for a space large enough for two cars, so I can drive in and then adjust. Today, there was no such luck. In this circumstance, I often drive around the block once or twice hoping for a miracle.

Today as I drove slowly in front of the building a space just big enough for one car was open. I had a split second to decide if I was going to keep driving or attempt parallel parking. I HATE parallel parking in the best circumstances, but, here I was, in the middle of the day on a busy street. Knowing this might be the only spot nearby, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it.

I pulled up beside the car in front of the spot I wanted. My blinker was on so the river of cars beside me flowed into the turn lane to get around me. I took a deep breath, cranked the wheel and started backing up into a perfect act of parallel parking. I crowed my pleasure. Fiona just looked at me from the back seat like I was crazy.

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