Here’s How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation … So Far…

Technically, I have been on vacation for two days now.  I’ve “sort of” been on vacation for a week, though, if you think of “no kids at school, only meetings and packing up” counts as “not working.”  However, on Friday I really and truly walked out of my classroom for two months.  (I’ll be in another classroom this summer when I help teach Wingra School 4 U, our summer program for incoming kindergarteners.) 

So, what am I going to do with all this time???? Oh, I’ll manage to fill it up by:

  1. Taking classes.  In the last week of July, I’ll be up North in Wisconsin, learning all about Wisconsin’s cultural heritage.  I hear that Polish sausage is involved, so I may not be able to participate 100%, but the main thing is, I’ll be able to teach my kids how to be a lumberjack.  Or something.  And earning credits.   Right now, in June and July, I have begun taking Chinese.  It’s a non-credit course, thank goodness!  I am already adrift in the sea of a tonal language.  However, it’s very exciting to have a new challenge.  If I do get to go back to China, I want to know how to say much more than I did the last time! 
  2. Cooking and eating.  For the last few years, and most especially in the last few months, my tummy and I have been at odds.   I have a wonderful doctor who tested me for everything possible (great news – I do not have a lot of bad things!), and even though Celiac Disease was one of the “negatives,” she nevertheless recommended I give up gluten for at least six weeks, to see what happened.  I agreed, but decided to wait until vacation when it would be easier to control my surroundings.  I am very familiar with what this will involve, thanks to several years of students with food allergies.  My son has also gone gluten-free and feels much better all around.  Yesterday I made potato salad, braised tofu, and artichokes.  This evening, I made some quinoa with kale, and some home-made roasted-red-pepper hummus.  I was very proud of myself for successfully roasting and peeling a red pepper.  And it tasted great!  
  3. Reading books.  I normally try to read a variety of books during the school year, and this year was no exception.  However, I’m looking forward to many more books per week/month and have already begun Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See.  (Just so you don’t think I’m doing total-immersion Chinese, my last two books were about Japan: Learning to Bow, by Bruce Feiler, and Heart of a Samurai, by  Margi Preus.  The latter is a novel for kids, based on a true story, and I highly recommend it.)
  4. Oh, yeah, the garden…. guess I’m doing some work out there…. yay….  I guess if I like to cook and eat it, I’ve got to help grow it too!
  5. Vacationing.  Finally, I’ll get to “vacation” with my husband when he takes a week off next week.  Although I dislike the term “staycation,” that’s pretty much the plan – one night of camping at a friend’s farm, and then day trips to Milwaukee, Chicago and good old Madison, where we work but seldom recreate.  In August, I’ll go visit the family out in RI and MA.  Perhaps even a visit to Cape Cod!

Happy Summer – officially starting in just a few days!

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Mad City Vegan Fest

  Yesterday I went to the Mad  City Vegan Fest.  First, however, I went to a Bar Mitzvah for one of my old students, ASG.  It was remarkable because of the particular student and his family – we had all three children and they were all unique and wonderful.  All read from the Torah and were fabulous, and all were happy to see us.  (Hint: this is what warms a teacher’s heart.)  

It was also remarkable for the theme.  ASG’s Torah portion focused on the Israelites’ sojourn in the desert, when they were living on manna.  Some ungrateful Israelites tired of that food, and began complaining that if they had stayed in slavery, they would at least still be eating a varied diet.  (“The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat!”)  To these unfaithful, “Then the Lord said to Moses…’the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat not one day, not two, not even five days or ten or twenty, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.'”  While those Israelites were busy eating the meat, the Lord struck them all with a violent plague and they died.  I’ll bet you’ve never heard that Bible story! 

  In offering his commentary, ASG connected these events to his own life.  In his fifth grade year, he said, he had been sneaking candy whenever he could.  His parents were very strict about when he could eat it, and how much. When he was discovered, his mother imposed the following punishment: he must eat nothing but candy, three meals per day.  Of course, this happened when he was in my class, and my partner and I were cracking up in the back row.  In my recollection, he was supposed to stay on this diet for a week, but I know he only lasted a few days before begging for real food.  In honor of his Torah portion, it was announced, lunch would be meat-based.  (Normally it is “dairy,” which means ovo-lacto-vegetarian, with fish.) I wasn’t too worried, though, because afterwards I was going to Vegan Fest!

As it turned out, there was plenty to eat at lunch – bread, salad, many roasted vegetables, gluten free and vegan desserts – and I wasn’t even really hungry by the time I arrived to the Fest.  That turned out to be a good thing, because when I got there (about two hours after it started) it seemed that many samples were gone (Teese, soda, and some others).  

  The samples I did try were seemingly fewer than last year, despite much more available space. There were many items to purchase and eat right there, but I wasn’t hungry enough to buy any.  I was just happy to chat with people.

Two rooms this year, including this large gym.

        The foods I did try were all wonderful – Coconut Bliss ice cream, Field Roast links, Whole Foods kale salad, So Delicious yogurt, and Mary’s Gone Crackers baked goods.

My favorite new item was Dandie’s marshmallows.  They have the taste and mouth feel that my students are going to appreciate when I bring them on our September overnight!

In September, there will be a similar event in Chicago, which I won’t be able to attend (will be busy with aforementioned campout).  Wish I could go to that one!

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School’s Out For the Summer!

Come on, sing it with me.  You know you want to. 

Today was our last day of school – for the kids! (Teachers have meetings all next week.) We packed up the classroom, played games and shared our favorite memories of the year.  Then I came home and threw all the kids’ cloth napkins in the wash…ready for September!

It was HOT out – just like summer vacation should be!  That stuff dried in less than two hours!  I made a summer dinner (this “Israeli” couscous) with garden chives.  

Soon there will be a lot more, but for now stuff is just coming up.

Here are some photos of the yard before everything goes wild.

An artistically piled bunch of sticks.


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Memorial Day Weekend.

Well, it’s been a quiet weekend in Lake Wobegon again.  We’d had a looong week, and welcomed the break.  We started with pizza –  you know, I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of cheezy spreads, but this was just straight Tofutti not-cream-cheese spread on the crust, under the sauce, and it was darn good!


Of course, being Memorial Day weekend, it did have to storm and rain.  Here is the flooded driveway:

After the storm, the sun came out…..

Wait, where are the monkey bars?

They have been removed – no more kids, and it gets in the way of mowing!

This year we are planting the tomatoes in buckets, away from the rest of the garden.

The peonies are blooming.

The berries will be ripe soon.

The whatchamacallit is blooming.

The garden is planted…..

Home sweet home.



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Our Eclipse

Or not.  We had been informed that this evening’s annular eclipse would be partially visible from the Midwest; that is, the sun would be partially obscured.  Although rain had been predicted, this evening was sunny and cool.  Well, if you live in a valley, as we do, you should learn not to count on the weather above you to be indicative of the weather out there in general.  At the appointed time, we hopped into the car to drive to a hill with a good view.  Driving up the hill, we realized that although there had been sun above our house, the entire western horizon was  becoming obscured by heavy storm clouds. 

Actually, we did try to view that bit of sun through a peephole to see whether it would be occluded, but no.

A lovely, view, but we’ll have to gaze upon this celestial phenomenon, not to be repeated in our lifetime, on someone else’s website.  *sigh*

To the south, it wasn’t too bad.  Enjoy Wisconsin’s pastoral (pastural?)  loveliness.

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Here’s What I’m Missing

Spunky liked to sit on stuff.

Back when I was actually posting to this blog, Spunky was slowly fading away.  When he died, I just didn’t have the heart to say so… so I said nothing.  Spunky lived to be 17 1/2 years old, which is not bad for a cat.  This is who WE are missing.  I think I’m ready to go back to prattling on about our exciting lives now…. so stay tuned. 

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“Eat This, Not That”

Well, that’s the title of a book that offers healthy substitutions when you want a treat. It’s what came to mind today when I was shopping for ingredients for this, and saw “that,” below.

The Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs tomorrow, and as there is no guarantee they will go to the Superbowl, I guess people are going to be partying tomorrow just to play it safe. (Psssst – I don’t really care about football – but keep that under your hat!) Meanwhile, the lentil loaf I made was absolutely delicious…. I would rather have an extra slice of that than any frosted cake! Play on!

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