Sunday, August 21, 2016

Catching up...

     Summer... where did it go?  I go back to teaching on Monday the 29th. My children still have until September 6th to play. I thought I would just come say hello and catch you up on our recent adventures. (Let me preface this by saying that our adventures weren't incredibly exciting, but out of the ordinary for us.)
     In my normal routine, I have been trying to prepare for school- studying music, planning lessons, thinking of my SMART goals, editing lessons, etc. I am also preparing on mentoring out newest member of the music department. (This year I will be mentoring 2 members of the department. The one I mentored last year is a terrific guy and we get along really well. I'm hoping the 2nd person is just as delightful to work with.)  This week, Matt and I sat down and talked about morning/afternoon and bedtime routines for the boys. Neither one of us feel that we need to strictly adhere EXACTLY to certain routines/schedules, but I tend to be more of a structured person than he is. It calms my "control freak" nature makes me feel more prepared when I have a general idea of how things should be going at different points in the day, especially when I'm at work. We've also discussed chores and allowance. We've decided that our sons will have some chores that they will complete to help contribute to the well-being of the family, but there are some "extra/optional" chores that they can add on if they would like to earn an allowance. This was very exciting to David. When he woke up and learned about our new chore system, he got straight to work. He opted to sweep the kitchen, help make lunch, clean the bathroom sink and wash the bathroom mirror. Tim chose to spend a few minutes dusting. It was nice to see them excited about helping out.
     For the special things- We just spent a little time away from home. Matt and I surprised the boys with a night at Great Wolf Lodge New England. It's a splurge for us, but we know the boys really enjoy it.  We had a good time. The boys were happy with their 1 night there. They swam- a lot, rode the water slides, played at the arcade, and then we went out to dinner. We stayed past check out and swam for a while. I really appreciate that my kids are generally very grateful and do not need many things to keep them happy.  I think our cross country trip last year also changed some of the things they look forward to for a vacation.
 
   Originally, we had planned to go Quebec this summer but that didn't go as planned. A few things that we had expected this summer didn't happen. Vacation was one of those things. We realized that we might only have a few days to go away so we wanted somewhere somewhat close. We went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (Which felt pretty far away since it was only a few days of vacation- maybe too far.)
    On Saturday, we went to the Turkey Hill Experience. This was pretty fun. We did not get a chance to do the taste lab, but that was okay since we would've been really worried about Timmy's allergies the whole time. Do you have Turkey Hill ice cream where you are? It's delicious. My favorite is double dunker.  We tried free samples of double dunker, cookie butter, orange sherbert, strawberries and cream and I'm sure a few others. They also had free samples of their tea and punch. We learned a lot about the company as well as how the ice cream is made, packaged and distributed.
     We also visited Wilbur Chocolate Shop in Lititz. If you don't know, my husband is now working as a candy maker/chocolatier. (I know, life is rough.) He had WAY more fun then we did here since he knows exactly what each little thing does. Tim was panicking that the woman was giving our samples with cashews in it. I was just hot since the heat index outside was over 105! It was still an interesting shop though. We also accidentally found a HUGE craft fair when we went to Lititz. Unfortunately it was too hot to really enjoy it.
    The unfortunate part of this day was that I really wanted to go to Central Market in Lancaster. Our hotel had a paper that said it was open until 5. When we got there, at 3:30, we saw that it had closed at 2 and would not reopen for the rest of our vacation. Boo.
    The most interesting for me was going to Good N' Plenty, a restaurant with the option to eat "family style," where you are seated with other people until the table is full. Matt was a little apprehensive of this since he's not a big talker, but I loved the idea since I enjoy meeting new people. I had eaten like this in Germany or Austria once. I imagine it can be fascinating sometimes and maybe terrible some other times.  They served us Pennsylvania Dutch food. The table was served a lot: Appetizers: cottage cheese, white bread, wheat bread, apple butter, chow chow (pickled vegetables- new to me), applesauce  Entrees: Fried chicken, ham, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, butter noodles (also new),corn and green beans. Dessert- apple crumb pie, shoo fly pie, ice cream, cherry cheesecake and cracker pudding (New food- not my favorite.)  We ended up sitting with 4 older people from Maryland and a couple from Virginia with their 2 year old. It was a lot of fun.
     For some reason, I didn't think ahead to realize most things in Lancaster (especially Amish related) was closed on Sundays. Dur. We swam a lot and just enjoyed the family time. We rode around and looked at some of the farms too. It was an easy day followed by some yummy take out food.
      On Monday we headed back to Massachusetts. On our way home, we planned to stop at The Crayola Experience. (I know- what's up with all the "experiences?") Other than dealing with a few really loud summer camps, this place was awesome. David was especially excited about coming here.  We played around with many Crayola products and had a lot of time to be creative in many different ways. Honestly, Crayola is a brand that I buy regularly because of the quality of the products and the innovative things I see come from them. David was able to label a crayon "Light pickle green," which was cool since he had written to Crayola to suggest that color. We had tons of fun here and ended up spending more time here than we anticipated.

"Big Blue" the world's largest crayon. Ironically, "Big Blue" is also the mascot of the town I teach in. "Big blue what?" is usually the next question. I think that it must be a subtle way they are supporting the arts. lol.

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 So, I look totally goofy in this picture but, if you know me already, you already know I'm weird. This was super cool. That little dragon on David's head is a picture he colored in using special crayons. We then scanned his coloring page into the computer and it became a 3D image which he could put in different backgrounds, interact with by making it fly/move/jump or take a selfie with. We shrunk him down a bit, sat him on David's head and then took this shot. Here is his buddy in the forest.
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Here's Tim's:
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Interesting huh? They used model magic clay, crayons, markers, digital images and design, chalk, paint, etc. If you have young kids who like art, they would love it. They also came home with a few crayons, their art work, a crayon they molded into a dinosaur and some model magic.
      After we got home, we were treated to dinner at a friend's house. It was us and 2 families from church. We had white chicken chili and this decadent, wonderful chocolate cake. Another great night!
     THEN, I took the boys to visit my parents in Maine. My parents recently sold the house I grew up in in MA and made Maine their permanent residence. It has been an adjustment. We stayed there from Thursday to Saturday. It was extremely relaxing since there wasn't anything that really needed doing. We/I hung out with my parents, swam (Can you tell my kids like to swim? Do you know I hate to swim?), relaxed, wrote a few letters and read. One day my mom brought us to the Willowbrook Museum Village, which is very close to their house.  It's a village set up like it would've been in the 19th century. The boys each did a little scavenger hunt as we explored.  We went on this steam powered carousel. (Apparently I cannot find a picture that will display for this tonight)
Interesting facts: This carousel would've been considered an adult only ride. It goes quite fast, and they had it on the slowest setting. (David had athletic shorts on and his little body kept sliding around everywhere. I thought he was going to fall off.) The horses do not go up and down they go from front to back. This carousel used to be broken down and brought from fair to fair.
     A funny thing happened when we were waiting for the carousel to open to give us a ride. They had music playing and Timmy was whistling along. He found that he knew the march and yelled out "Wait!? Is this John Phillip Sousa!?" It was. Music teacher win. Tim is doomed/honored to be a nerd too.
     Another thing I found interesting was their schoolhouse. They had a list of rules up about how many lashes a child would get for doing something wrong- like drinking in class, talking to a girl, coming to school looking untidy, etc. In the school, there were slate chalkboards out on all of the desks. There were at least 3 messages in beautiful writing saying something to the effect of "Isn't it sad that people don't think teaching penmanship is important?" Yes it is. There were also displays of the pens, inks, books, etc. that were used. I kept thinking to myself "I get annoyed when a middle schooler breaks a pen and ink gets all over them or the desk, can you imagine having a small bottle of ink on each desk?"
    Lastly, their houses- the rooms were so much smaller but so much more functional. I would benefit from each of my rooms having a specific purpose- and making that room work. On the other hand, there was no plumbing in the house and there was no kitchen so, I guess I'll live.
    I also found this. It's a mail wagon. Nice! I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I can tell when our mail comes because our mailman's truck has squeaky breaks. I will often go say hello or catch him before he has to get out of the truck with a package. He and I chat often. My kids sometimes laugh when they hear "mail's here" from a few rooms away from the window. I can't imagine I wouldn't know this contraption was coming. :)
   
         Okay, that's about it for recent adventures. I hope you are well. If your kids are starting back to school, that  everyone feels prepared and excited for the new year. If you wouldn't mind- As I've been typing this blog post, everything keeps reformatting and I'm having major issues. Can you let me know if everything seems okay on your end as a viewer? If not, please let me know what is not coming out right. Thanks in advance!

    

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sculpture exhibit

    One of the items on our "Summer Bucket List" was to visit a sculpture exhibit at our local library. Here are some pictures of the sculptures (and my boys, who felt the need to pose with each of the pieces.) I'm not quite sure I understand sculpture fully, but I do appreciate how much work goes into creating a piece of art. I tend to appreciate some art when I know the background of the piece. I'm sorry that I don't have the name of the sculpture or the artist.
    This was made of marble. We liked the symmetry of it.
     Timothy didn't like this one. He said it looked like someone trying to go to the bathroom. It was called "Figure in motion" or something.
 We all liked these polar bears. It was made out of steel.
 David said that the sculpture felt all smooth, kind of like pottery. They also were surprised that it was hollow until I asked how much it would weigh if it was solid.
 The shadows made this a little hard to see. It's made of concrete and kind of reminded me of a sandcastle.
 A dog made of resin and bronze patina. Careful, he bites.
     This one immediately made me think of a solar system (from a different angle). Timmy walked up and said "I bet you like this one, huh? This is really cool. It's really obvious what the artist wanted to make." I asked him what he thought it was and he said "A conductor." The piece's name was "Holst" so- maybe a conductor conducting Holst's Planets?

 "This one looks like a time portal"
This one was titled "Sanctuary."  Again, Timmy with his insightful thoughts (after the potty one of course) said "This is pretty cool. I bet this is God's hand... and that's us, resting in His palm. This is awesome." Then he asked if the artist was a Christian. I don't know if she was or not, but I liked the interpretation of her art. 
 Wood and metal, not quite sure about this one.
 Liked the colors. The boys said that this was a woman.
 We liked the smooth, polished pine in this one.
 David got all excited when he realized that this artist was the same who did "the colorful lady."
 We liked the purple stone at the top of this one. The color didn't come out nicely in this picture. Again, weren't quite sure what it was supposed to be, looked different depending on the angle.
 This one is Timmy's favorite. I think he and I have a lot of the same preferences. I liked that it was very orderly and Tim liked how smooth it was.
 Dragonfly, so...
 I liked the kids in front of the sculpture more than the sculpture by itself. This one was David's favorite. Sorry I didn't make myself into a dragonfly for you all.
 2 rocks...?
 These ones were interesting. They were both hollow and had a hole in the top. Timmy sung into the top and it resonated through the sculpture, which was pretty cool.
 The "Reading Dog" with friends, one who kept giggling.
 The Reading Dog by himself.

      Out town library is beautiful. We come here about once a week during the summer. (The boys get books, I still have my "to read bookshelf.")  The building itself is apparently in the Georgian Revival style. I learned that our original library used to serve 2 towns. Once it was decided that each town needed their own library ("for the promotion of knowledge and morality" apparently), a library was built in 1869. It burnt down in a fire and the one we have now was built in 1892. I just read that there was once an auditorium that held 1, 100 people while the library basically functioned on the 1st floor. I might actually ask the library staff about that. I'd love to see pictures. I can't picture how the upper floors were ever an auditorium.


A brass urn that was recently renovated.
      Then, we just enjoyed the beautiful day under the shade of this giant tree.


   We also took "Going to another state" off our list after going to a Fisher Cats game yesterday with my good friend, Wendy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kids Art Week Day 2: Dubuffet figures

     Had another fun time doing an art lesson for kids, offered by Carla Sonheim. Jean Dubuffet was a French painter, printmaker and sculptor.  He lived between 1901-1985. He wasn't able to really work as an artist until about 1942. Like Klee, he was not impressed with "scholarly" art, but was inspired by "outsider art" of alienated groups such as prisoners, mentally ill and children too. He coined the term "Art Brut," meaning raw art. I read that he was influenced by Klee (in style and subject matter) and he was also a musician. Some of the ways he added texture to his paintings were interesting. Here are a few of his famous works:

The Arab in Orange 

The Reveler (Le Festoyeur) 

 

   Our goal today was to create a figure in the style of Dubuffet. We could create a face or a whole body. Timmy and David did this with me. We started with a treated watercolor base. I did the project separately with each boy. I was surprised that they each chose almost the exact same colors (and that they were the colors I had originally chosen to use. Grrr..), but their backgrounds came out very different. The top one is David's. The middle one is Timmy's. Mine is at the bottom.


   
   After our background dried, we made our "figure."  The way we all interpreted these and worked through our own styles of creating was pretty varied.  Here is David's (Sorry he is sideways):
 
  David had a meltdown over how to draw arms. We originally had them leading off the page and then he decided he wanted them raised up. When he saw that his figure was "weird shaped," he was a little disappointed. Then I showed him what Dubuffet did and he felt much better. Once he added the black, he was very happy with his work. He especially liked the nose he drew.

Timothy's (Which might be my favorite):
 
Tim knew exactly what he wanted right away. He liked that his face was a bit lopsided. He drew the eyes close together, like Dubuffet would have. Those things on top "could be horns. Actually, I like that they are ears, kind of like animal ears." I love the eyelashes.

     It should be no surprise that the person who struggled the most with this was me. (Though I didn't cry like David.. lol)  I picked colors that were different from the boys to make something different. I found that working with colors that might not appeal to me as much was a challenge, but I liked the results. What I found really hard was to let this guy come out "uneven" without "fixing" him. I also wanted to make it look more aesthetically appealing to me, but exercises like this are wonderful since you're imitating someone else's art. Some people made their examples more personalized, but I'm a bit of a rule follower.He looks like a mix between Squidward and Gumby.  I sure have come a long way since the first time I posted art and was nervous that people wouldn't like it!

Tomorrow I will be introduced to Robert Motherwell, also new to me! Before I forget, there's still time to play along. If you'd like to catch up on the classes, join here

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kids Art Week- Carla Sonheim

   I forget how I originally heard about Carla Sonheim, but I think it had to do with the Index Card a Day Challenge a few years ago (ICAD). I started looking into art journaling, other artists, drawing, etc. Anyway, I signed up for an e-mail list from Carla a long time ago and this week she is offering free online art classes for kids. David loves arts and crafts so I thought he might enjoy doing these projects with me. I signed up for the classes and we completed day 1.
     Today's project was based on the grid paintings of Paul Klee. He was a Swiss-German artist who lived between 1879-1940.  It seems that Klee cannot really be categorized into a certain "school" or art. He seemed to be influenced by many different artists and places that he visited. His dad was a music teacher and music was also really important to him. (Sorry this is not as informative as it could be. I didn't know anything about Klee before today... and I just wanted to show you what David and I worked on.)  Klee had many grids in his paintings. One such painting is called Static-Dynamic Gradation:
Static-Dynamic Gradation
   As I looked through his art, I realized that I have done some art in a style similar to another painting of his, Rocks at Night:
Paul Klee, Rocks at Night, 1939. Watercolor and ink on chalk-and glue-primed letter paper, mounted on paper, sheet: 8 1/4 x 11 5/8 inches (20.9 x 29.5 cm); mount: 10 7/8 x 14 1/4 inches (27.6 x 36.2 cm) 

   Today's paintings used a grid. We first made a grid and printed our name in it. Then we painted it with watercolor and did a few more steps. (If you are interested in Carla Sondheim's Kids Art Week, you can sign up here.  I think it was so generous of her to put this together!)
    Here is David's. I love his colors that he chose.


     This was mine. We did a color wash to see how the watercolors reacted with the second color. It really made some of my colors pop and changed a few others. I'm thinking I might make a few of these as small gifts for friends. (Let me know if you want one :) ) 

     Tomorrow's lessonis a Dubuffet figure. I have never heard of Dubuffet, so it will all be new to me. More crayon and watercolor.  If you join us, post a picture here to show your work. the name painting was a fun, easy lesson. Carla, if you end up reading this, thanks for your lesson!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Updated summer bucket list

Here's our updated lists. The (x) have been done.

Summer "To do" list:
-Visit a museum (x)
-Go somewhere touristy-
 -Have a picnic
-Make snickerdoodle ice cream sandwiches. (Don't they look delicious? D is most excited about this)
-Go on a local bike trail (maybe this one, which we've never been to.)
-Make s'mores
- Go camping
- Have a firepit
- Go fishing (x- Well, Matt and David went)
- Go deep sea fishing (boys have never been) or a whale watch (? Timmy and I went to see the Hokule'a sail out)
- Explore some of the local towns for a day.
 -Swim in a lake
-Swim in a river (x)
- Swim in a pool  (x)
- Learn to surf (T)
- Do a puzzle (x)
-Stay in a hotel
- Go to a different state
 - Visit Dogtown
-  Eat at Woodmans (or get fresh seafood somewhere)
-Plan Quebec vacation  (Anyone reading from Quebec? Suggestions for us?) We might have to postpone this trip. Maybe around my birthday? We didn't realize that we wouldn't get back the paperwork from baseball until today. It might be too late to get passports to travel this summer.
- Try to learn some French for Quebec
- Invite friends for dinner
-Visit relatives
- Run around in the rain (x)
- Visit a farmer's market (x)
-See The BFG (x)
- Visit Pettingill Farm  (I have relatives that are Pettingills, I'm wondering if there are any relations.)
- Family tree research (Anyone into genealogy research? I'm stuck in a few places.)
-Watch fireworks
- Go to an outdoor concert.
- Play a board game (x)
- Get an ice cream (x)
-Ride a roller coaster
- Catch fireflies
- Get slushes at Sonic (x)
-Go to a beach
- Visit the Rochester Fair
- Canoe on the Ipswich River
-Make Brazilian limeade (x- We made this recipe and loved it.)   
- Visit Six Flags  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Books this week

Goodreads Goal

    Last week I received an e-mail telling me my progress on my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. Ironically, 2 of my favorite pastimes can completely take time away from each other. Both reading and penpalling takes some effort and time for me to fully pay attention. Because of this, I had decided early on that I wanted to make sure that I read at least 1 book a month. After my first few books I realized that that was a pathetic "goal" for me and there was no way I was going to read less than 12 books in one year. I chose to aim for 50 books, knowing that most of my reading would be done during school vacations and the summer.  As of last week I was at 48% of my reading goal.
     Due to Timmy's crazy baseball schedule (and the request by the coaches to "stay out of the sun"), I had a lot of time to relax read last week. In addition to having time, the weather here in MA was humid and disgusting. I'm a pale Irish girl who feels like my skin is being fried whenever I walk in full sunlight- never mind when it's hot and humid with no breeze. I also browsed some book blogs and decided to give myself the luxury to enjoy my leisure time.

Books last week: 

 
    I heard that this book had been read in many book clubs and I found it in the book swap in our teachers' room at school.    This book is about a girl named Dolores Price. It tells about the relationship with her father and the consequences of her life when he leaves the family to be with another woman. At first I liked this book because the characters just seemed (very dysfunctional but) real. They had problems that people have and some of them reacted to those problems in common ways- denial, gratification in some other way, escape, etc. Maybe it was the narrative style of the book that I appreciated at first- or the sarcasm.  Unfortunately, I never found any edification for any of the characters. I wanted to like somebody in the book but it just kept getting more depressing. I finished it, in hopes of something good, but was left feeling just kind of gross. I thought I read somewhere that this was going to be made into a movie at some point. I would not watch it.
 
   I have read the previous two William Marshall books (A Place Beyond Courage and The Greatest Knight.) and enjoyed them so when I saw this on the same teacher swap shelf as the book above, I snagged it. I was concerned that I wouldn't remember the story or the characters since it has been a while since I've read the first 2 books. Since this book continues chronologically from the other 2, this was not a problem. Chadwick is good about reviewing family relations in the book and I found this book very easy to just settle into.  
     One thing that I enjoyed about the book was also the one thing that kind of aggravated me too. The story, and the relationship between William and his wife, Isabelle, was a little formulaic. On one hand, I appreciated seeing the steadfastness in their marriage and knowing that she would wait for him or support him, regardless of what their family was going through. On the other hand, William is upset- Isabelle comforts- William goes away- William comes back- Isabelle comforts, got a little old to me.
      I do like Chadwick's style of writing. I appreciated all of the research that must've gone into this book. I have always been interested in Medieval times so stories set in that time period tend to get my attention.
     This was another book I got from a Goodreads giveaway, and another book I probably wouldn't have given a chance if I hadn't gotten it for free. This book is about a woman named Halia, who owns a soul food restaurant named Sweet Tea. After leaving an investor of the restaurant to close up, Halia returns to find Marcus (the investor) murdered in the back room. Fearing that this would look very bad for her restaurant, Halia and her cousin Wavonne, who also works at the restaurant, move the body.  Halia expects that the body will be discovered in the morning but when she doesn't hear anything she makes an excuse to throw some boxes into the dumpster near where the body was dumped. She then realizes that somebody else had taken the body. 
    Marcus ends up being found in a nearby lake. Unsure of what to do, and not wanting to be implicated in any way, she and Wavonne investigate the people they suspect might have been behind the crime. 
     This book was an easy read. The book itself (despite the murder) was a bit lighter than what I usually read, but I enjoyed the characters. Wavonne is one of those people who just speaks her mind, regardless of whether what she is thinking if appropriate or not. There were quite a few characters whom I felt I could associate with people I have come across in my life and Sweet Tea seemed like your average local diner. The book also included a few recipes that I might try. 
  
    This is the final book I completed this week. It was my favorite of the bunch.When I first heard of this series I thought, "Wow, that looks kind of different and interesting." I tend to be a bit of a book hoarder so a few years back I made a "1 book out/ 1 book in" rule, meaning that I was going to add a book to my apartment, another book had to go. This shouldn't have been hard because I don't really re-read books. It's harder than I thought- and then my upstairs neighbor (who is retired and apparently addicted to James Patterson..lol) started getting rid of her hordes of books bringing me books and leaving them outside our apartment. Now I have too many books that have started to become piles on top of my "to read" bookshelf. A few months back I got a gift card to Amazon.com and decided to buy myself this set as a gift.  
     This book is about a boy named Jacob who, after his grandfather's death, feels that he needs to go to a remote island of the coast of Wales to research the stories of his grandfather, which he could never decide were fact or fiction. This research led him to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The home seems deserted when he first sees it. Throughout the story Jacob uncovers the meaning of his grandfather's last words, discovers the answers to many questions regarding his grandfather and learns a lot about himself.  
     I finished this book in one day. I enjoyed the whole concept of the book and thought it was very creative. The pictures throughout the book are apparently all real pictures that have been obtained from people's collections. The author, Ransom Riggs,  has a penchant for creepy photographs that just seem, "off" in some way or another. As I looked at some of the photos, many gave me a "What the heck?" type feeling. I love the way that he built a story around these photographs. Speaking of the author, as I was reading, I realized that I recognized his name from somewhere other than these books. I read that he is the author of Strange Geographies, some of which I had looked at and read before. I look forward to reading the other 2 books in the series and possibly see the movie when it comes out. I can imagine that it will be very interesting visually. 

Other than reading:

   In other news:
-Timmy's team lost the sectionals, which was kind of a disappointment, but we're proud of his hard work.
- Another baseball tournament starts this weekend. lol
- I might try to take some time this week to catch up with some family. 
- I joined a gym. After I finish this post I'm going to drag myself there since I obviously have gotten no cardiovascular exercise this week! (PS. I'm now at 54% of my Goodreads goal and reading The Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel.)