Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring in the Yarden

I was inspired by a few of the posts on By Night, and thought I would make one of my own. About weekly she features photos from I presume, around her yarden. All of her wonderful flower/yarden posts are titled balade au jardin.

So Monday, I walked L to school and then came home, grabbed my camera and took a walk around our yarden. Snickers was also very gung ho for the little walk about.

Snickers with her nose to the ground, pointing out the flowers that match her collar bling. We have a ton of violets. My mom gave us a few starter plants and now they dot the flower beds. If anyone wants some, stop on over, they transplant well and are easy to grow. Deer also eat them, which is fine as long as they leave my other stuff alone.

These lilacs are almost ready to bloom. I love them. They smell so good. These bushes are from H's mom. We moved them from Cleveland, to our house in Clintonville, to their current location at the edge of our yarden. This weekend I will cut a few. I might send some to school with L for teacher appreciation week. Each year the blossoms become more numerous.

Snickers engaged in a battle with the short branches and leaves and I am afraid to say, the branches won.

The bleeding heart is very lush this year and the blossoms on Monday were near perfect. I love this plant and its burst of early spring color. It is also very near the spot we buried Bundles, our beloved nutbrown, Netherland loop rabbit. She was our first pet and was with us for 8 years.

Lily of the Valley. H's favorite flower. His mother gave us this, dug it up from her yard, brought it to me in newspaper and I hurried to replant it. It took a few years but it is going strong now. I should be able to pick some tomorrow and have it in the house for the weekend.

In the fall H split these guys, even though you can hardly tell. All around the yarden are new little hosttas. They are so versatile and pretty. This bed used to have a crab apple tree, which I had taken down, as it made a mess on the deck and was good for a wandering toddler. In its place, I replanted these hosstas, some black eyed Susan's and other late summer flowering plants.

I have no idea what this plant is called (the purple is myrtle) but the long thin green leafed plant, will produce lovely yellow flowers in mid summer. I bought three tiny plants at Lowe's on super markdown, and lo and behold, it has morphed into this sea of green. This side of the house is FULL sun and finding plants who can take the beating sun all day has been a challenge.

My Peony plants. I should have glorious blooms by Memorial Day for sure. I think the white flowering things is a weed, but it is pretty enough, so I am letting it be. Some "weeds" are pretty enough to be flowers.

This is the first year in many, where our tulips have not been munched completely to the ground. We had always thought it was the deer, but perhaps it wasn't. Perhaps our vicious attack cat has scared off the rodent type vermin and that is the reason, I have been able to enjoy these lovely tulips. We covered them with chicken wire when we planed the bulbs, which keeps the bulbs in the ground. But... every year something munches them to the quick. Not this year.

These came from a live flower arrangement H got me for my birthday on year.

The tulips swim in a sea of lamb's ear. My mother gave us the start of this also. It has spread and that is a blessing. Out front is blazing sun most of the day and the soil is not fantastic and nothing has really wanted to grow.

Policing the yarden is tiring but important business.

And lest you think Snickers is sleeping on the job, here is a reminder that she always has her eye on the prize.

And when she is taking a nap, her new friends Hedgy and Edgy are on the job...

After our walk about, Snickers settled into one of her favorite spots and I went inside for some ice tea...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Music Monday: Spoonman, the case of the missing spoons...

This has to be where all my spoons have gone...

Soundgarden - Spoonman

I always seem to be short on spoons. Even though the set of everyday flatware has both tablespoons and teaspoons. I am always chasing spoons. Even more frustrating, I have back up spoons, from the various random spoons I have accumulated over the years. My parents old flatware, random pieces from H's bachelor days, spoons left by friends after potlucks and unclaimed, spoons brought home on accident from the crash pad in NYC, spoons from the college dinning hall, and other random spoons. The long and short of it is, I also have a set of silver, which had dozens of spoons. My MIL was a huge fan of spoons it would appear and bought a set of silverware with ample spoons. I never use the silver. It is tucked safely aware for special occasions.

I am seriously short on serving spoons. I just broke a cooking spoon the other day, I am short on those as well. Let's face it in a house where Indian is prepared often, sometimes those spoons are multi colored too. One would think they would stick out, if they were, I do not know, stolen or misappropriated.

I went to raid my stash of plasticware yesterday, those odd left overs from take out and picnics and school events, where I am inevitably assigned to bring plasticware. I have knives and forks to feed a gaggle, but in the mess there is nary a spoon.
I do have a plastic spoon in my purse. In a pouch with tissues, lip gloss and other important items. I keep this for on the go snacks. Thus far I have managed to keep track of it and not lose it or break it. This spoon has saved the day more than once. It is like my super secret spoon weapon, which isn't so much a secret anymore.

I will admit, I got rid of all the baby/toddler spoons awhile a go. My baby turned 6 last week, so we really haven't needed those type of spoons for a long time now.

What I am not at all short on are measuring spoons.

I have three full sets and then a few random measuring spoons, left behind by old college roommates and given to me when my mother moved or saved when my MIL passed away. I could bake all day and not have to wash a measuring spoon. One of these sets, might actually be my grandmothers, come to think about it.

When we remodeled the kitchen, we invested in this type of dishwasher. (Ours is not this modern and angular looking, but same idea.)
 (photo from Fisher Paykel)

So I could wash smaller loads. With H traveling so often, it is often just me for most of the day or me and two smaller people and we were often running the traditional dishwasher half full, mainly because we were short on spoons or sippy cups. This gives us options and I chase spoons less, but still I seem to be spoon poor and fork rich.

So for E's family birthday gathering I was chasing spoons and yesterday at our Easter egg coloring brunch, I was also searching high and low for spoons.

All I can say is it had to be the spoon man's fault. Where else could all of these spoons have gone? It's not like they could have hopped away...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Monday: Pink Floyd - We Don't Need No Education

Pink Floyd - We Don't Need No Education

The other day, my neighbor and friend, A and I walked the long way to school, to soak up some Vit D and enjoy one of the first very nice spring days. We are both writers and I mentioned my blog and noted I had been writing about a craft project. She mentioned I had been more crafty and less ranty and philosophical, I told her to check back, I was back to ranty of late.

Today is no different.

I will first say I have a t-shirt from the Wall Concert at the Wall, or what was left of it, in Berlin, the summer of 1990. It was an amazing time to be in Europe and Berlin. There was some deep meaning, the concert happening, in a city once divided. The perils of bureaucracy.

Lately I am feeling very vexed about the state of our schools. The No Child Left Behind Act seems like a good idea on its face. I am here to say that it isn't or at least in how it is being enacted.

This Act and the States push to make sure they qualify for all the federal dollars has turn our public schools into a factory. Everyone is focused on these various achievement tests. L is now in a test taking boot camp type class on Mondays. All to boost the schools numbers and the distract standings. None of this is being done to benefit L. Sure, they will force her into a a mold, they will make her a great test taker. All of which would be great if that were her goal in life as an adult, to be a great test taker. It isn't, so how is this process in her best interests. It isn't. If anything it is lately causing her to doubt her abilities and is turning her off from learning.

News flash she is 8 years old.

What we need to be doing is encouraging our children to wonder. To question. To learn how to find the answers to questions, which interest them. They need tools. They do not need to be crammed full of "test knowledge."

When I reach out to her school - I get predictably the party line. "We have to teach the State Standards."

If I hear about the State Standards one more time, I might go postal.

Here is the deal. I was a straight A student. I graduated college cum laude, while working two, sometimes three part time jobs. I did reasonably well on the ACT/SAT or whatever bullshit we had to take to apply to college. I had an A- overall GPA during MBA school.

Currently I am an underemployed writer and a full-time mom.

Wanna know something else... no one and I mean no one ever asked me what my GPA was after I got into college. Not one employer. Not a one. No one wanted to know about my test taking skills. Now that said, I think I passed the GSE - General Securities licensing exam, in part because I had decent test taking skills and I took a study prep course.

What my employers and clients have wanted to know, is can I get the job the done. Can I deliver results. Can I think on my feet. Do I have fire in my belly. (Seriously, I was asked that in a job interview once.)

I am going to say something that will make me unpopular - with most of my friends - on both sides of the aisle. European and Asian children do better in school for some of the following reasons -

1. Teachers are better educated and better paid in many cases. Even the elementary ones. Being a teacher is tough. In Germany, becoming a high school teacher is almost as difficult as it is to become a medical doctor. They have a highly concentrated degree in the subject they teach AND a degree in pedagogy.

2. Children are grouped by ability. This does not mean kids who struggle are labeled. It means kids are grouped by learning style and talent. Some kids have an innate talent in math or science or art. I do not see the harm in allowing kids to focus. By high school, middle school even, I think you need to continue the basics, but allow kids to focus some of their learning on the areas they excel at. Let's face it, unless you want to be scientist, Advanced math or basic Calculus is probably enough. Also college is set up differently.

3. Basics are drilled. There is alot of homework for the kids in Europe and Asia. There is also, more regular time off and there is no time wasted on school based sports. If kids play a sport, it is through a local club. At the German Gymnasium I went to, there was no football team or debate club for that matter. We went to school. We got out at lunch time and sometimes went back. My host sister had tons of homework. Tons. Languages are taught sooner (yes I said languages) and the expectations are high, the classroom is also high on content.

4. Cut admin. I am sorry, there is no need for these Central Offices and over paid administrators. It is sinful that in many cases the administrators make three times what a teacher makes. Sinful and a waste of my money, which should be impacting the kids directly. At my high school there was something like 4 principals. Even today, I am hard pressed to say what any of them did of any value.

5. Teachers should be tested not just the students. Teachers should be required to pass tests in their subject area annually. They should also be paid and promoted based on merit and not seniority. There is a kindergarten teacher at L's school who is not fit to be in the classroom. Everyone knows it. Ask anyone in our area and you are likely to be told a horror story. She keeps her job because she cannot be fired. That is wrong. Most of us in the state are at will employees. Within a certain set of limitations teachers should be no different. A year to year contract for continuity, a peer review board, a chance at additional training. Notice I am not saying they are being paid too much, they aren't. They should be paid more but based on merit. Nothing puts fire in the belly like really being held accountable. I also think they should be paid more, because they do alot of prep on their own time. I certainly don't want to do work and not be paid. As a tax payer, I also do not want to pay for someone who is punching the clock. There has to be a balance.

Just as in this video, I feel that we are grinding our kids into ground beef and for what? These achievement tests are not a measure of what they know. I think a Montessori approach would bring us better results. Let the kids work on units until they get it and it sticks. For some kids in some subjects that might take a week, others a day. Have a content test. Pass the content test, move on. I am also in favor of a National minimum curriculum. Same books, same content tests and same set of basic standards in every school in every State. The fact that L is learning something completely different than her friends in the town over is silly. States rights be damned. One set of clearly defined per grade standards. Schools can supplement, once the National standards have been met.

The reason we don't do this is it would be challenging to implement. Get over it. Clearly what we are doing isn't working. It is not achieving the goals intended. Children who do not test well are getting taught how to take tests and again, if we had a bevy of jobs in this country which required superior test takers that would be great. We don't. We need people who can think and solve problems, who think outside the bubble and who know that sometimes the best solutions are not contained in answers A, B or C but sometimes the answers are somewhere in between.

We Don't Need No(ne) of this kind of education....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Necklaces with scarf like qualities...

L wanted a necklace with scarf like qualities. My BFF also really liked mine, so about 10 days ago, I made two more, experimenting with different fabrics and styles.

I found a too small long sleeve pink t-shirt in L's closet. It was thicker weight than the undershirts I dyed and used in my necklace and my BFF's necklace.

This thicker weight material, just did not "roll" as much when stretched tight and in many cases the seam snapped, but it worked. I added in beads for fun and did not double it over, as the shirt was small and this fit L just right.

For my BFF, I again used one of H's too small, never worn undershirts. I had some tie dye left over and so I loosely wrapped the t-shirt and dyed it.

Then I cut it up and added beads also. In this case, I did double it over just as I did mine to give it that scarf-like quality.

My BFF has been wearing it and it looks great on her. You really do not have a tie dye feel at all, just some nice color variation.

I think this would make a nice older tween sleep over party activity. I made these while watching TV, it is fun and easy and the results are fresh and fun.

Monday, April 11, 2011

There is a hole in my sweater...

I love this J Jill cashmere sweater. I will admit, I paid full price, a rare occurrence.

I loved it and I bought it a few years back. I am careful with my woolens and store them together, with cedar and all that. The other sweaters were just fine, this one got nibbled, right in the middle. I spent the winter pondering what to do. I almost turned this sweater into a hat, but then I decided, there had to be another solution.
There were three holes, in places I just couldn't patch, right in the center front of the sweater.

Then one day, while wandering JoAnn's, I saw these pre-made embellishments. They are less than two dollars each.

The embellished t-shirt is all the rage this season, as is the tunic with the "folkloric" print. I decided this was a solution to my moth hole problem. I am not sure these will survive a dry cleaning, but then I am pretty sure it will survive a round or two o Dryel, so I was willing to go for it, the sweater was pretty much ruined with the moth holes, what did I really have to loose, other than a few hours of my time.

This is a hand sewing project and you must match your thread carefully. Other than that, no special skills required.

I centered the flowers over the holes and then stitched the outer edges, very carefully. My one caution is, hold the sweater taunt, otherwise it will pucker and you will not have smooth results.

My fashion photographers are currently at school, but I will try it on and see how I like the results, I have additional flowers, if I need to add some more for balance or not, remains to be seen.

This was a fix, which breathes some new life into a sweater that some moths decided would make a tasty snack.

Music Monday: J. Geils Band - Centerfold

J. Geils Band - Centerfold

So I remember this song from the roller rink. I had these great, white skates with a blue swish, I think and I got from the "skate shop" these red pom-poms. I thought I was just the coolest. Also the coolest - the red creme soda. Loved that. Especially with those crushed ice pellets. Delish!

For those of you who didn't skate or aren't old enough to remember the skating rinks fashions, I found this picture online. To help with the visual.

My pom-poms were bigger and fluffier and I wore them at the base of the laces. This skate however is the correct shape.

I could skate backwards and forwards and do all sorts of fancy moves. (I know, right, the things you thought you knew about me. Last week I come out as a capitalist and this week, I am admitting to being a skating rink fashion plate. What might I reveal next week? Stay tuned.) I remember working SO hard to be able to skate backwards, because it increased your options when it came to couples skates and well, I was determined to be able to do it.

I am also pleased to announce, well pleased is the wrong word. Bemused. That seems to fit slightly better.

On Wednesday I got to be featured as Uncle Sam's centerfold. That's right, the first time I fly since the TSA (which I think stands for totally stupid assholes, and I will explain why, in just a moment.) started taking non consensual and "porn by extortion" pictures, I get to give it a try. So yeah, I had my right to say no to sexual situations violated and my constitutional rights violated all at once.

Now since I was clear about my being a capitalist, I will say, I am really ok with porn. I might be willing to sell pictures of myself, for an appropriate fee, but they stole the images of me. They have rigged the game. (I also am willing to bet that those pictures are in some database somewhere or worse yet on some porn site by now. I just don't trust their rhetoric at all.) They say, if I want to fly, then I get to be criminally violated. What they do is no different than holding a gun to your head. They have criminalized the purchase of an airline ticket. (See my related posts.)

And in the interest of candor, because your elected officials will lie to you, in fact I am convinced that is a test, you cannot run for elected office until you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that you will in fact lie and cheat your constituents. They do it all the time. Show me a politician that hasn't ever lied about something, and I will give you a kiss.

So in the interest of candor, I will say this, I am totally opposed to having pornographic pictures taken of me without me receiving due compensation, but that is not really what made me angry Wednesday morning.

What made me angry is that the TSA officials insulted my intelligence. When I suggested it was odd that only women were being put thru the scanner the supervisor sort said, "Nope. Nope, it is random."

Ok, let's recap. I have an MBA. As an MBA, I have recently taken not one, but two higher level stats classes. I can tell you more about random sampling than the average writer.

How was it random, when there were say 45-50 waiting at the check point and the ONLY people going thru the prono scanner? All female. Every last one of them, save the guy with the bilateral knee replacements.

Look, I get it. You want to see boobs. You are a pervert and the US government has hand delivered an easy way for you to get your kicks. You would be stupid to not avail yourself of this opportunity. So don't lie to me and insult my intelligence, simply cop to being a pervert and tell me thank you. I know I have pretty perky girls.

To make matters worse. We have this porno machine at our little airport and then in NYC, nope, nothing, nada. Just a plain old metal detector. At one of the busiest airports in the world, the metal detector is good enough. That speaks volumes.

My blood runs cold, my memory has just been...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Music Monday: Howlin Maggie

Easy to be Stupid

I'm a Slut


I saw Howlin' Maggie back in the day. They put on one amazing show. They recently came back together for a benefit for Andy Davis. They are a local band and I think they made two fantastic records. Above are three of their best known songs. At least, three of my favorites.

 Today's post will likely get a few people worked up. So fair warning, if you do not want to read my frank discussion about sex, violence, capitalism, and the judgmental and I believe stupid and misguided regulation of vice, I humbly suggest you stop reading this now. Right now, move along - nothing for you to see here.

I am going to link to some works written by some folks I respect, who aim their material to those folks who are over 18. There will be a crafty post later and you should really think about coming back for that one. For this reason I am employing the cut. To protect those who choose not to stop reading. You click, you affirmatively have decided to read what I have to say. (For those of you reading on Facebook, you were warned. Stop now if you don't want to read about sex and capitalism.)