Friday, December 31, 2010

Photo #365: Graphic Design

Today's photo is a picture of my Christmas gift from my sister. This piece of art is from Jacci and by Jacci. She is an art history major, and two years ago she took a graphic design class. Each and every week of the class, she created a paneled design, using a sharpie marker. When I saw her work, I told her that I would like to have one of them when her class was complete. She had a print of my favorite one framed for me for Christmas. I love it!

I have met the challenge! I have actually posted a photo for every day in 2010. It is an idea that I got from other people in my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter. When I saw what some others had done in previous years, I decided to give it a try. Even at the outset, I didn't believe that I would follow through for an entire year.

I decided that my goal would be to use the photos and the blog posts to be a journal of my year. It has actually turned out to be much more than that. It has changed my life. I feel that I definitely have improved as a photographer, but it also served as an outlet for my writing. Instead of living a passive life, I found myself getting up and doing things, because I needed a photo for the day. More than that, I have taken the time to notice and appreciate things around me. And, of course, it has been a wonderful record of the year 2010. Check out the Animoto below to see some of my favorite photos for the year.

This project has been such an important part of my life. I will definitely continue with the photo challenge for 2011. This next year, however, I will post on a weekly rather than daily schedule. I am hoping that I will then have more time to devote to writing some of my other blogs. So that is my last post for 2010. Happy New Year! Now it's time to begin thinking about my first photo for 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Photo #364: Abandoned Trailer

This old trailer was abandoned in the field behind Nancy's house. I like the way the red trailer contrasts with the yellowed grasses and white snow.

I don't know if Nancy has any snow left at her house, but it's totally gone here in Des Moines. We had a high of 57 degrees today. The ice on my driveway has melted away, as has the snow in the yard. What a gift on December 30th! Freezing rain is forecast for tomorrow, lest we forget that this is winter in Iowa.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Photo #363: Country Life

I am not a very good traveler. No matter how far ahead I plan a trip, I become increasingly stressed about it as the time approaches. I worry about driving, I worry about my car, I worry about the weather, I worry about leaving my house, and I worry about my dog. Then once I actually go, I have a great time, and I find myself wondering why I don't go more often.

Such was the case this week, with my trip to visit my friend, Nancy. Nancy used to be our school counselor. About a year and a half ago she moved back to the area where she grew up in southeastern Iowa. It's only 119 miles from Des Moines, but I am definitely a city girl, and this is such a different lifestyle. She lives on a farm, and on a clear summer evening sitting by the fire ring, you can see the lights of the farm where she grew up, her sister's farm, and her brother's farm. Nancy is still a school counselor in a neighboring county. She is the counselor at both the middle and elementary schools, which are located in different towns. This means miles of travel between home and each school.

The house used to be an old two story farm house. With the help of the local Amish workmen, they had the upper story removed, and the entire house remodeled and renovated, saving the original wood floors, where they could. This transformation has taken a long time, and originally it was planned as a weekend retreat, not her full time home. Perched on a hill, the house has a beautiful view, and I love the peace and quiet of the place. This morning there were four wild turkeys in the field behind the house, but by the time I got out there with my camera they were running across the field.

Yesterday we went to lunch in Keosauqua, and Nancy gave me a tour past the high school and middle school. Mostly we stayed at her house and talked for hours. I miss having her here in Des Moines, but it is amazing that even though I haven't seen her in months, we pick right up where we left off. That is the sign of a true friendship.

I love the old barn. Today was foggy and overcast. I wish I had taken some photos yesterday when it was bright and sunshiny.

One thing that made this trip less stressful was that I took Bailey with me, and thankfully, he was a well behaved canine. Here he is sniffing things out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Photo #362: Smokey Row Mug

As an after Christmas treat, I brought myself this great mug from the Smokey Row Coffee Shop. First of all, I am a lover of all things red, and second I love the shape and substantial feel of this mug. It feels solid in my hand. I spent time hanging out at Smokey Row on Sunday and Monday. I like the roominess of the place, as well as the historical atmosphere of the building.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Photo #361: Hoarfrost

I woke up this morning to a fairy frosted world. It was foggy last night and this morning and it left every twig, every branch, and every pine needle coated in a thick layer of frost, making the trees look as if they'd been flocked. It is truly beautiful, but it doesn't last long.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Photo #360: Christmas Night

My sister always prepares a wonderful dinner on Christmas night. Besides the fact that she is a fantastic cook, the centerpiece of this meal is the prime rib. Donner carves beautiful slabs of the tender beef as we are about to sit down.

Jacci and I set the table earlier, carefully arranging the napkins in their ornament rings, and the traditional crackers, but somehow neither of us noticed that we neglected to put out any silverware. I guess we were talking instead of thinking.

We had a much smaller gathering this year compared to previous years. My kids were not with us on Christmas day. Lisa was with Colin's family in Minneapolis, and Michael was working. My nephew Dylan and his fiance, Suzanne were driving from Toronto, and were not due to arrive until Sunday. Summer and Jill also arrived later than usual, because they spent Christmas Eve with Jill's family in St. Louis. And of course, Mom is already in Arizona for the winter. Thankfully we had Torin, who is home from college, and Kendrick, and Summer and Jill arrived early in the afternoon.

We had a very nice Christmas, but I confess that I miss the days when the kids were small and we were all together.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Photo #359: The Nativity

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying this Christmas Day.

Many years ago, my mom gave me the figurines for this nativity set. She picked them up for me in an after Christmas sale. During the first eleven months of the year, they reside in my china closet, and then during the month of December, they move into this stable.

The great thing about after Christmas sales is you can get things you might not otherwise be able to afford. The downside to after Christmas sales is that you can't always get everything you need. Apparently all the "Josephs" were sold out, so we have a shepherd standing in for our Joseph. You probably wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't brought the whole thing up.

Whether it's Joseph or a shepherd, I enjoy looking at the creche in the soft blue light, and remembering what Christmas is all about - - LOVE!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Photo #358: Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's Christmas Eve, and I'm just getting around to shopping and wrapping presents. Instead of using my stamps, I decided to print off some of the photos from this blog, and make them into Christmas Cards. I like the way they came out. Too bad some of them won't arrive until after Christmas, but they'll be just as beautiful a few days from now.

Have a very wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photo #357: A Candle

I love candles! I love the fragrance they emit. I love the flickering light. I love the ambiance. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to take the time to light a candle, sip a glass of wine, or a delicious cup of tea, and savor the moment. Winter vacation began today, so I hope to take some time to do just that in the coming days.

Even though the calendar tells me that vacation began today, I feel very disoriented. I cannot believe Christmas is in just two days, and it doesn't yet feel like school vacation, because I worked at Huntington this morning. Afterwards I went to the doctor and learned that I have a sinus infection. I have been struggling with cold symptoms for the past month and a half. Now I have a really good excuse to spend time laying around and doing nothing, and I have the time to do that.

Let's light a candle, and crack open a bottle of Pinot Noir!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Photo #356: A Happy Snowman

This happy little snowman was a gift I received several years ago at a staff Christmas Party. I think it was one of those gift exchanges where people steal someone else's present, if they like it. I think I came out pretty good, because I really like this little guy.

Today was our last day of school before winter vacation, and we had a good day. It was a shortened day, and I kept the day packed with activity. We presented a readers theater of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Mrs. Ratliff's first graders, and later we watched the cartoon version (with Boris Karloff) on DVD. We've been studying probability in math, so we had a probability game party. If the game has a spinner, dice or cards, it involves probability, and you could play it at our party. We wrote friendly letters to people we love, and turned them into holiday cards. We had fun! Even so, I am as happy as this snowman to be on vacation.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Photo #355: Santa

This little Santa was made by the mother of a former colleague. It's made out of some sort of dough mixture and then painted and glittered. You just can't be grumpy when you look at this cute little thing.

I should have taken it with me to school today. I could have used it there. It was a hard day. The kids are so excited for Christmas and the beginning of their vacation. The teachers are too! We'll make it. There's only one more day until vacation begins. It's a short day for the kids. They leave at 1:30, but teachers have to stay.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Photo #354: Bows

I haven't done much shopping, but it's time to get out the trimmings and trappings to wrap the gifts that I have purchased. Fortunately I have a big supply of gift wraps, bags, and bows. I am afraid that the gifts that must be mailed are not going to arrive in time for Christmas.

We had a good day at school. We still have two more days of school before our winter vacation begins. I don't remember going to school this close to Christmas in a very long time. Usually we have two weeks of vacation, and I'm very sad that we have only a week and a half this year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Photo #353: Dinner Guests

We had dinner guests tonight. Chris came and she brought two of her dogs. Bailey really enjoyed having some doggie friends to hang out with.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Photo #352: New Cookie Press

People that know me well, can tell you that I used to be pretty hooked on QVC. Whenever someone would ask where I got something, the answer was usually QVC. Now days, I usually avoid watching. Every now and then, however, I succumb. I am particularly vulnerable to the kitchen shows. Such was the case about two weeks ago, when I just had to have a Cuisenart electric cookie press. It arrived about a week ago, but I just got around to using it today.

After studying the recipes in the book that came with it, I decided to make the sugar cookie dough. I mixed it up, using my Kitchenaid stand mixer, which I also purchased from QVC a few years ago. Then I tried to assemble the cookie press. After spending twenty minutes looking for the missing shaft and shaft adapter, which it turns out were already installed inside the cookie press, I was finally ready to begin.

I think it's going to take a while before my cookies look like the cookie press cookies you see in cookbooks and magazines. The book says it takes practice, and I would say I need more. I placed the cookies beside my snowman on the sled to make them look better. I think a bunch of frosting would help too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Photo #351: Popcorn

One of the kids brought me a big tin of popcorn for Christmas. You will notice that the carmel corn is going down a little faster than the other sections.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo #350: The Library at the Mall

The Franklin Avenue Library is currently located at Merle Hay Mall. This Christmas display is located right outside the library. Everyone enjoys a good book.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Photo #349: Nutcrackers

My brother-in-law loves Christmas! Over the years he has aquired a large collection of nutcrackers. The family of nutcrackers continues to grow, since he frequently receives new ones as gifts each year. Here are just a few of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Photo #348: Apple and Onion Pot Roast

This is one of those nights that I didn't get home from work until 7:00. That's because I went from one job to the other. I really like my part-time job, but tutoring after I've taught all day, is very difficult. Tonight I told them that I would no longer work during the week. I seem to do okay when I'm just going in for two hours on a Saturday, but two hours tacked on to a full day at school is a different matter. By the time I get home, I don't even want to eat, much less cook.

I did cook last night. I made my favorite pot roast recipe in the crockpot. I love coming home from work to a hot meal, but often I am disappointed with crockpot recipes. Lots of them taste the same to me. This one is always good, and it's so easy! Give it a try!

Apple and Onion Beef Pot Roast

From Taste of Home's Slow Cooker Favorites

1 boneless beef sirloin tip roast (3 pounds) cut in half
1 cup water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 large tart apple, quartered
1 large onion, sliced
1 envelope of brown gravy mix

In a large nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, brown roast on all sides. Transfer to a 5 quart slow cooker. Add water to the skillet, stirring to loosen any browned bits; pour over roast. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Top with apple and onion. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until the meat is tender.

Remove roast and onion. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing. Strain cooking liquid into a saucepan, discarding apple. Bring liquid to a boil; cook until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Stir the brown gravy mix into cooking liquid . Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over beef and onion. Yield 8 servings.

For a recipe like this that takes only 5 or 6 hours, I use a lamp timer to turn the crockpot on and off at the right time. This works with the old fashioned dial type crockpot, but not the digital ones.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Photo #347: iPad Bloggers

When we first got our ten iPads I was rather lukewarm to them. I was frustrated because there were so many things we could not do with them, that we could do with the laptops. It turns out that a lot of our problems were being caused by the school district's filters. After changing the settings, we can now access our class wiki, and our Kidblogs, and now that Google Docs can be edited on the iPad, they are so much more versatile. Later this week, I will write more on my Day In the Classroom blog about the ways we are using the iPads in our classroom.

Today we started using them to blog. It's interesting to see how the kids get comfortable with their iPad. Some like to lay them flat on the desk, others use the case to prop them up, still others are lap bloggers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Photo #346: Lazy Day

After a night of blizzard conditions, and with a high of only ten degrees today, the best place to be was under a down throw. Other than a trip to the grocery store, this is how Bailey and I spent the day. Please note the holiday socks. I am dressed for the season.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Photo #345: Beads

In spite of blizzard warnings, I spent part of the afternoon out at my sister's house. We were making necklaces with these fantastic beads. These beads were hand made in Greece. I love the textures, the shapes, and the colors. I brought my bead box, but Jacci's beads are way better. This is because Jacci knows what she is doing when she buys or works with beads, or any other kind of jewelry for that matter. We had a really good time.

Afterwards we went to Altoona Christian Church where Donner was directing a Christmas play, "Dinner at the Bethlehem Inn." It was a dinner theater, with the cast serving dinner to the audience. By this time the blizzard was in full force, so we drove in blowing snow both to and from the church. We are thankful to be warm and cozy once again in our respective houses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Photo #344: Christmas Lights

I love looking at the beautiful lights and decorations at Christmas time. Most years, I don't bother to take the time to put them up myself, but I definitely enjoy the benefits of other people's hard work. This house is located about two blocks away from my house. This is the same house that had all the Halloween decorations in October. These people really get into the spirit of the season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Photo #343: Snowflake Ornament

It has occurred to me that there are only two weeks until Christmas, and I have yet to begin Christmas shopping. I haven't done much thinking about it either, so I don't even have gift ideas in mind. Well, at least I have a few decorations up. I like the way the colored lights shine through these clear snowflake ornaments.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photo #342: English Tea Cakes

During the month of December, there is food-a-plenty in the teacher's lounge at Phillips. Members of the staff bring treats almost every day of the month. We do it by floors. Third floor, which is grades 3 through 5, is responsible for the first week. Last night, I finally got myself motivated enough to do some baking.

These English Tea Cakes are a favorite of mine. I found the recipe in the Taste of Home Baking Classics. The recipe came originally from Beverly Christian of Fort Worth, Texas.

These elegant looking cookies are really very simple. I love the combination of pecan and buttery sugar cookie, and I really like the way they look. They come out perfectly round, because they are baked in a mini-muffin pan. My one piece of advice is that it's better not to think about how much delicious creamy butter is in these little cookies.

English Tea Cakes

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
60 walnut or pecan halves, toasted

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix well. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls into greased miniature muffin cups; flatten slightly. Press a walnut or pecan half into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire rack. Yield: 5 dozen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Photo #341: Quilted Stockings

I have a new approach to decorating the house this year. When I need a new photo for this blog, then I put up some more decorations. Today I got out the Christmas Tree skirt and stockings.

I made the stockings and skirt several years ago when I took a couple of quilting classes with my friend, Nancy. I really haven't done any quilting since then. That's too bad, because I always feel really pleased when I unpack these stockings each year.

Not only did I piece and quilt the stockings, I embroidered our names on them with gold thread. I had not embroidered in years. My mom taught me how to embroider back when I was in elementary school. It turns out that isn't something you forget how to do. There is something very satisfying about making the things you use.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Photo #340: Teddy Bear On a Drum

This bear was one of the spinning bears decorating the large tree at Merle Hay Mall. It makes for a very nice photo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Photo #339: Christmas Train

I took the weekend off from Huntington's. Instead, I spent most of the weekend just hanging out at home; blogging, writing lesson plans, correcting papers, and cooking for the week ahead. In fact, the only time I went out at all yesterday was to go to the grocery store. Since I had spent so much of the weekend sitting at a computer, I decided to get some exercise today. The problem is, it's 4:34 in the afternoon, and it's still only 21 degrees, so I decided to go to the mall to walk. I figured I would be able to find some good photos while I was there.

Today I decided to come to Merle Hay Mall. I guess I haven't been here in a long time, because I didn't even know there was a Staples or a an Ulta here. I was surprised by how many empty storefronts there are. I guess the poor economy has been hard on this mall.

At the center of the mall is the Christmas train, and Santa. I was enjoying myself until the "Grinch" who was guarding Santa told me that I was not allowed to take pictures, and that I would be put on the naughty list. Naughty list or not, here is my photo for today.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Photo #338: Poinsettia

Once again I found my photo while I was at Hy-Vee picking up groceries. The flower shop had lots and lots of beautiful poinsettias. It's Christmas!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Photo #337: Metal Rings

Another photo of school supplies. I do like metal rings. I use them for lots of things.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Photo #336: Crayons

It was already getting dark when I was ready to leave school at 5:00. I didn't have a picture for today, so I pulled the drawer of the art cart open and snapped this photo. I love color, so I was happy with the way it came out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Photo #335: Canadian Geese Rest Stop

I wonder how all these Canadian Geese knew that they should stop at this little pond behind Chips and The Waterfront Seafood Market and Restaurant. They were everywhere! Maybe there are some tasty fish in that pond.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo #334: Angel

When I left for school this morning, I was determined to take lots and lots of pictures. Then I got there, got busy, and totally forgot about it. I went straight from school to working at Huntington's, so it was pitch black by the time I got home.

Plan two was to take a great photo of some of the Christmas ornaments. I am still decorating the tree, but I added some decorations, before starting my photo session.

Over the course of the year, I kind of forget what I have, so as I trim the tree, I rediscover the ornaments I have collected over the years. This little angel bell is one of my favorites. I remember buying it, along with a second one at an after Christmas sale at Park Fair. This was when Lisa and I were living in our first house on Cambridge Street. My tree has lots of angels on it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo #333: Lobster Trap

Today was the first day back to school after five days off. It was a bit of an adjustment. We didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but tomorrow will be easier.

It was dark by the time I left at 5:15, and this evening I had a staff meeting at Huntington. No new photos today, but I did snap this one when I went up to the Waterfront Seafood Market on Friday. Lobster traps are interesting, even when you find them in an unlikely place like Iowa.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Photo #332: Bichon In a Wagon

I put up the tree yesterday, and began decorating it today. It's pretty easy to put up. I just drag it, piece by piece from the garage, and assemble it in front of the bow windows. The lights are really simple, because the tree is prelit. It does take a while to get all the branches puffed out and pushed into shape again, after it's been stuffed in a box for eleven months.

One of the things I like best about decorating the tree, is rediscovering all the ornaments that I have packed away. For several years, my mom has been giving me a Bichon ornament from the Danbury Mint. It usually arrives early in the fall, so the first thing I have to remember is where I stashed it away. This is the ornament for 2010. It's a Bichon in a Wagon.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Photo #331: Seafood Chowder

While almost everyone else in the United States was eating leftover turkey on the the day after Thanksgiving, I decided to make some Seafood Chowder. This involved a trip to The Waterfront Seafood Market. It's so nice that we have one in Ankeny now. It saves the time that it would take to drive to West Des Moines, and it's the best place to get fresh fish. This made a nice meal for Lisa, Colin and I before we headed out to the movies. This time I made the chowder without the bacon. Instead I sauted the onion in butter. I do think that the bacon adds some nice flavor, however.

Here's the recipe:

Seafood Chowder

3 slices of bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups of cubed peeled potatoes
1 cup of water
1/4 pound of bay or sea scallops, quartered
1/4 pound of fresh or frozen lobster or crab, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp
1 pound tilapia (or 1/2 pound cod, 1/2 pound haddock)
2 T butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
3 cups of soy milk (original recipe called for 2 c milk, 1 12 oz can evaporated
milk, but I use soy milk whenever I can.)

In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels. Reserve drippings. Sauté onion in drippings until tender. Add potatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add the scallops, lobster, shrimp and tilapia. Cook for 10 minutes or until scallops are opaque, fish flakes easily, and shrimp is pink. Add the butter, salt and parsley. Stir in the milk. Heat through. Garnish with bacon. Serves 6.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Photo #330: At the Movies

It's been a very pleasant day after Thanksgiving. Lisa and Colin arrived Thanksgiving Day. Today we spent some time hanging out at Smokey Row, I made Seafood Chowder for dinner, and we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. I don't go to the movies very often, but I'm a big Harry Potter fan. The movie was good, but I feel like I need to reread the book again, in order to keep everything straight.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Photo #329: Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did! Jacci and Donner hosted the dinner. Here are Donner, Torin, and Kendrick getting ready to enjoy their meal.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Photo #328: Smokey Row

For the first time in the twenty-four years I've been teaching, we had the day before Thanksgiving off. In the morning I ended up working a couple of hours at Huntington, so it really felt like Saturday. In the afternoon Jacci and I checked out Smokey Row. Neither of us had ever been there before.

We met the owner, and from him we learned that this is one of four locations. The building was built in 1904. I love the way it's been refurbished. For many years it was the Planned Parenthood book warehouse. I'm sure it took a lot of work to bring this building back to life. In addition to the great atmosphere, the Chai Lattes were delicious! I really like it. I think I'm going to have to split my time between Smokey Row and Caribou Coffee. Caribou Coffee has the great leather arm chairs for comfort, but Smokey Row has a menu, so you can have your coffee and eat dinner too. I now have two westside offices.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Photo #327: Stuffed Turkey

I was able to take this little stuffed turkey out of the china closet this year. When Zoe was alive, the turkey had to be protected, because Zoe was very fond of stuffed animals. She loved them . . . . . to death. She would start out holding them in her mouth and cry. Then after a while she would start picking at a flaw, some area where the stitching was loose. Then she would tear it apart. Actually, I've been in some relationships like that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Photo #326: Summer and Donner

This is my brother-in-law and my niece. I snapped this photo Saturday evening, when we went out to dinner at Latin King. I think it's a great shot!

I went to school today, but I'm still not feeling very well, so I really didn't take any photos today. Last night I went to bed around 7. I might manage to stay up a little later tonight, but not much.