Another Springer In My Life

Snug is my brother Raymond Pert's springer spaniel. We got a phone call about four months after we had brought our springer Annie home. It was my brother announcing that he too had brought a springer spaniel home. Snug traveled with my brother this week to Kellogg. I love this picture of Snug looking like he is waiting to check his email. Since my dogs had to stay home this trip I have had more opportunity to "bond" with Snug. He is definitely Snug the Joiner. He loves to be with people and loves all the critters at my sister's house. You can enjoy pictures of Snug here. I wish we lived closer. I will miss him when he leaves and returns to Oregon tomorrow.

The Candy Bar That Makes Idaho Famous

Today I was back in my hometown of Kellogg, Idaho. I got to spend the day with my siblings touring the Inland Empire and visiting memorable places from our childhood. I was in charge of dinner at the end of our full day. What would be more fitting than making a dessert that originated right here in Idaho? I had cut the recipe below for Idaho Spud Fondue from The Spokesman-Review awhile ago and placed it in the recipe box. I had never tried it. I did remember the Idaho Spud candy bar as a child. I always felt pride seeing a candy bar in the box on the shelf at IGA with my own state imprinted on the wrapper. It was one of those more expensive candy bars (10 cents) so being allowed to enjoy one was a treat.

A little background- "It is wonderful combination of a light cocoa flavored marshmallow center drenched with a dark chocolate coating and then sprinkled with coconut (Sorry, no potato!). The potato shape and unique blend of ingredients appeals to both young and old, making the "Idaho Spud" one of the top hundred selling candy bars in the Northwest, and is Idaho Candy Company's best selling bar. The Idaho Spud Bar has been a favorite since it was first manufactured in 1918." (from Idaho Candy Company).
This is a very easy recipe. After preparing it today, I would certainly serve it again.
Idaho Spud Fondue
4 Idaho Spud candy bars
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons Kirsch,cognac,or Cointreau, if desired
Combine candy and milk in a microwave-safe container. Microwave until melted. Stir in liqueur,if desired. Stir until creamy. Pour into fondue pot suspended over heating element. Dip sliced fruits or pieces of angel food cake into the mixture. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. My mom baked an angel food cake ( her favorite) to dip in the fondue and it was a perfect combination. Enjoy!
More info on

Back to My Hometown

When I head back to my hometown of Kellogg, Idaho I travel a familiar route that takes me through our beautiful Inland Empire. While cruising south on Highway 395, I know I am getting closer to Spokane County when I drive by the Clayton Burger in Clayton, Washington. This landmark means I am almost to the shortcut turnoff. As I weave through the north end of the county, I see the signs to Green Bluff, the new roundabout, and miles of fields ready to sprout. The I-90 corridor leads me back to Idaho. I enjoy the sunset in Coeur d'Alene. I smell the evergreens in Fourth of July Canyon. Further down the freeway the Catado Mission is like a beacon on the hill by the Coeur d'Alene River. The highway straightens out as I come to the Smelterville Flats, and soon I see the exit that has taken me off the freeway thousands of times before. As I drive into town I am reminded of the changes that have taken place in my Kellogg. The hospital at Jacob's Gulch has recently been replaced by a new one. Turnbow's motel has been torn down and a McDonald's and a gas station have taken it's place. The A&W is gone. A nice latte stand was moved and a Subway went in. When I turn the corner on old Highway 10, I can see the porch light down the block at my childhood home. Mom was waiting with dinner. I'm back in my hometown.

Oh,What A Beautiful Morning!

I haven't always been a morning person. I fell into the night owl category for years. I remember watching David Letterman’s Top Ten List, reading a novel until after midnight, and often staying out late with friends or family. I don’t know if it is age, my environment, or adjusting to my mate’s sleeping patterns, but I have become a morning person. Now I appreciate and embrace morning. Some days I don’t even need to set the alarm. Between the sun rising above the mountain across the lake, the dogs stirring, and the smell of coffee as the automatic timer kicks it on- it is easy now to get up early. Being outdoors is a guilty pleasure in the morning. As the weather continues to warm up all I need is a hot cup of coffee, a sweatshirt for warmth, and brown crocs to keep my feet dry. I enjoy the melodies of birds and the gentle sound of chimes as I tour the gardens. Morning is a time for thoughtful meditation and prayer. It is also my time to put down words to paper. Fresh ideas, fresh air, and fresh coffee work well for me. Yes, I have given up those late night habits (most of the time). I do miss Dave and midnight conversations with friends. Weekdays I still need to shift gears and organize myself for work in the morning. Before I do that I pause, look at the sky, and give thanks for the beauty of the earth.

"The Slowed Evening Is Carried In Prayer"

Cliffs and rock formations are common in the Inland Empire, especially around rivers and lakes. Traveling home at the end of the my teaching day these natural forms of beauty shelter me from wind and sun. The words of William Stafford were perfect for describing these breathtaking rock walls. I agree with him- "the slowed evening is carried in prayer. "
As the living pass, they bow
till they imitate stones.
In the steep mountains then
those millions remind us:
every fist the wind has
loses against those faces.
And at the end of the day
when every rock on the west
claims a fragment of sun,
a last bird comes, wing and
then wing over the valley
and over the valley, and home,
Till unbound by our past we sing
wherever we go, ready or not,
stillness above and below, the slowed
evening carried in prayer toward the end.
You know who you are:
This is for you, my friend.
William Stafford

Dinner Waiting After a Hectic Day: Slow-Cooker Enchiladas

A few years ago a local caterer prepared a special dinner at school. This was the main dish. As soon as all of us took one bite of this yummy dish, we were asking her for the recipe. I always like slow-cooker recipes that I can leave all day to cook on their own. This one is great to double when a crowd is coming. Enjoy.

Slow-Cooker Enchiladas
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 16 oz. can of pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chillies, undrained
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
6 flour tortillas ( 6 or 7 inch)
In a skillet cook beef, onion and green pepper until beef is browned and veggies are tender;drain. Add the next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Combine cheeses. In a 5-qt. slow cooker layer about 3/4 cup meat mixture, one tortilla and about 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat layers. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours or until heated through. Serve it up! 4 servings.

"Before the Eye Can Focus... Crocus"

"First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,

And now before the eye can focus
Crocus." Lilja Rogers
One thing I love about these early spring bulbs is how quickly they appear. One cold, windy day you notice some grass like leaves emerging through the bark in the garden bed. The next day you observe vivid, colorful blooms. If you are just beginning to grow spring bulbs, this is a surefire pick. I like to mass plant them, allowing them to come up in big clusters of color. I knew a guy in Spokane that naturalized them into his lawn each year. In March the front yard was always bursting with purple and yellow blooms. It was beautiful . If you haven't planted a crocus before, plan ahead in the fall. Get the bulbs in the ground then. You will reap the rewards the following spring. These lovely blooms just appeared in my garden bed.

Ten Mile Road Trip #1: Lake Beauty in the Spring

Today we took advantage of the sunny spring weather and our scenic area and took a ten mile road trip. We can leave our house and travel ten miles and see some of the most spectacular scenery in Washington. We started today driving along Lake Roosevelt. This is a view looking north along Inchelium HIghway.

This is a view of Barnaby Island looking south along Lake Roosevelt. We were intrigued with the cloud formation in the afternoon sky. This is another view of the lake from above as we headed up a country road southwest toward Lake Ellen.

When we arrived at Lake Ellen we viewed a contrast of green and white. Because of the altitude and location of this lake, it is still covered with a white layer of ice.

Soon this rock formation will become an island for swimmers and boaters to rest on while enjoying Lake Ellen. I was still amazed today that it was covered with ice. This lake has a small campground at each end and a boat launch. I hear it has good fishing, but I am not a fisherwoman so I wouldn't know. Moving west on the lake road we came up to a aspen grove. In early spring with the stark,white trunks still exposed, these trees take on a unique beauty. In a few weeks this whole landscape will change with green leaves budding out and wildflowers beginning to show their colors.Just a half mile from the lake the beaver pond is thawed and the house the beavers constructed has held up over the winter months.
Our last stop was a clearing that is safe for the dogs to explore. They ran, taking in the new smells of spring. We were disappointed we couldn't hike down to Barnaby Creek. It was also still surrounded by snow. The dogs love this spot and always perk up as we drive near. I guess it is a certain pine, moss, creek smell they always remember. It was time to go home. The dogs were tuckered out from their run and I was anxious to see the new slide show of pictures. We are blessed to live in an area where we can do a ten mile road trip and see this much spectacular beauty. I will share other ten mile trips around Lake Roosevelt throughout the seasons.

Top Ten Reasons for Doing Spring Cleaning Today

10. I have so many cleaning supplies some of them may go bad if I don't use them.
9. The dust bunnies started having babies under the bed.
8. When the ceiling fan was going it caused a freak mini-tornado.
7. We wanted to see the scores on the T.V. screen during the Oregon game. ( Go Ducks!)
6. Spring came this week...isn't that when you do spring cleaning?
5. We read we could save energy by cleaning the coils on the frig... now where are they?
4. It was time to find those muscles I haven't used since last spring cleaning.
3. We want to enjoy sunlight through the window instead of doggy nose prints.
2. Because the house needed it.
1.When done with Day One it gave me a reason to celebrate with fruit, cheese,and a glass of merlot . Wine is good for the heart, right?

Sibling Assignment #16: The Stock Room, Abundant Supplies, A Black Typewriter, and Stories to Tell

Each week I join Raymond Pert and SilverValleyGirl to do a sibling writing assignment. Topic choice rotates between us. This week we are writing about Silver King School. Our mother taught second grade, 2nd-3rd combination, and third grade at Silver King School for the Kellogg School District. The school was situated below the smokestacks of the Bunker Hill Smelter and next to the creek that carried toxic waste from the Zinc Plant located up the road above the school. The structures of the Bunker Hill Smelter and Zinc plant are gone. The school still stands, but has been closed for many years.

I attended first grade at Silver King School and my brother and I spend many hours there after school and on week-ends with Mom when she stayed late or went back on Sunday to put up bulletin boards, correct workbooks, feed the fish, set up art projects, or organize her annual Valentine Post Office. My brother attended first and second grade there. My sister hadn't been born yet.

When remembering Silver King School I think of the Stock Room. Spending time in this room must have started my lifelong love for school supplies. The Stock Room was right next to my mom’s second grade classroom. It was the small room that held all the supplies teachers needed. It was always open. It was one place my brother and I could be found while Mom did her teacher work. The sights and smells captivated me.

A wall of closets had doors that opened me up to a whole world of construction paper. There were shelves of paper in different sizes and colors. Close by was a big, green paper cutter that I am sure was off limits to us. Nestled on the shelves across the room were stacks of handwriting paper. The size of the dotted and colored lines corresponded with the grade you were in and whether you printed or did cursive. There was also newsprint, ditto paper, and heavy poster board. Colorful crayon collections were always a sight to behold. Powdered poster paint in cardboard containers lined another shelf. Sometimes Mom would have me stock her room with supplies. It was a task I relished. I loved counting out the piles of paper and organizing them by color and size.

One smell that takes me back to Silver King School was the minty aroma of school paste. There were big jars of that white paste in the Stock Room. Teachers would carry the big jars to their classrooms and fill smaller baby food jars for their students to use at their desks. I remember that cool feel of the white paste and the minty smell. I asked my Mom last night if RC was the student that always ate paste. She laughed and asked, “Didn’t all second graders eat paste? It had that peppermint taste and smell you know.” I guess lots of kids did eat paste. I remember the smell and feel. I don’t know… maybe I did sneak a taste.

Another distinctive smell was the fluid for the ditto machine. (This was the machine used before copy machines youngsters). A strong fluid from a silver metal jug was poured in the machine and turned a white ditto master into copies in purple ink. Mom and her colleagues called it the purple plague. I loved to operate the ditto machine. Through six-year-old eyes it seemed magical that this machine could take white paper, a ditto master, and fluid and produce volumes of text.

The old, black typewriter captivated our attention often. We would roll paper in the manual machine and type away like we knew right where to put our fingers on the keys. Again, it was magical to see blank paper produce text. We traded off punching the keys and watching words form sentences. Mom also told me last night that one of her teaching partners frowned on our use of the typewriter. Mom must have understood then our desire to put words to paper. Whether it was at that typewriter, on lined paper from the shelves, or with chalk on the blackboard in her classroom Mom provided ample opportunities for us to put letters to words during that time spent at Silver King School. She never made us stop using that typewriter in the Stock Room. Mom gave us the time and tools to begin telling our stories. That was forty-five years ago. We still continue to tell our stories.

A Post for Annie: Another Springer Chapter In My Life

Annie is our English Springer Spaniel. She also thought she should get a post. Are you starting to draw a conclusion that we don't have children, but our dogs are "our kids"? Annie came to live with us a year after Shelby, making her two years old. My first springer Nikki had died in 1996. She was my first dog as an adult and was there with me during the best of times, times of loss, moving on times, and sad times. She was loyal, smart, and my best friend. I kept telling people I would never get another springer because Nikki could not be replaced.

Two years ago after another older dog of ours had died I knew I was ready to research dog breeds again. I began looking on, reading ads, and checking breeds in dog books. I knew I wanted a mid-sized dog. We didn't think we could handle two herding dogs, so a few breeds fell off my list. One Saturday in January I was scanning the ads in the Spokesman and spotted one for liver and white springer spaniel puppies. As I read it to JEJ he turned to me and said," I think you really want one of those puppies. Why don't you call?" When I called the breeder in Garfield, Washington I found a kindred spirit. She told me how much she loved springers. Her voice bubbled with enthusiasm when she described the puppies and their personalities. She explained information about the mother and father dogs. I also learned in that conversation that she was also a teacher. "Why don't you come see them?" she encouraged. It was one of those snap decision moments. " We will be there tomorrow." I knew if we drove that far in a snowstorm I would take home a puppy.

It was easy to pick Annie from the litter. She tugged at my heart as she gazed at me with her beautiful brown eyes. Shelby bonded with her instantly also as we got her set up in the car. She didn't like the movement or the carrier so I wrapped her in a towel and held her on my chest close to my heart the whole way home. As she slept I knew I had made a good decision. I have never regretted it.

Shelby and Scarlet: Separated at Birth

My blog friend at gracioushospitality posted a picture of her friend's dog Scarlet on March 19th under the title Desert Wishes. There are also pictures on March 20th under More Desert Beauty. Scarlet is a red heeler just like our Shelby. JEJ believes they have to be related. I will have to investigate where her friend's dog came from. Australian Cattle Dogs are herding dogs and make wonderful, loyal pets. Gracious had the same thoughts about Scarlet. Shelby's only jobs are herding her Springer buddy Annie and the cats. I think it keeps her pretty busy. Go check out Scarlet. Could they be separated at birth?

Give Me Some Time to Find More Time!

Gathering around the table recently a group of us were sipping coffee and discussing the ongoing dilemma of not having enough time in our lives to " get it all done". One friend shared a story a teacher had told a group of stressed grad students at finals time. " Each of us has the same twenty-four hours a day. It is just how we choose to use it." That is a tough pill to swallow when it is ten o'clock and you still have lessons to prepare, a bag to pack and a breakfast dish to make for a potluck before you go to bed.

When I get overwhelmed and feel like eight of those hours have been robbed from my day, I peruse time management books at a bookstore or online. Just reading titles like Organizing from the Inside Out and Leave the Office Early add extra minutes to my rushed schedule. Books with titles like this sitting on my shelf work wonders. Somehow by osmosis I hope the suggestions and ideas will just fall into my busy brain.

Recently I did take time to begin the book Find More Time by Laura Stack. Looking at the picture above, the cover screams relaxation and reclaiming your time. Laura has the book organized by Pillars that are all P words: plans, priorities, personality, pests, possessions, paper, post, and play (blogger note: post is not what I am doing now... it is the place you reside). Just pronouncing all those P words makes me feel more in control of my time. There are quizzes for each P. I am the queen of quizzes. Good information often, but not a lot of follow-thru! The section I have gleaned wise thoughts from is Pests, which are the time robbers in your life. I have moved through many time management phases. I read the "simplify your life" set, the "organization, system, declutter" set and now this book. Have I found more time? Overall, I think so.

JEJ and I have worked harder at prioritizing what is important to us. I carve out time for writing, gardening, and other hobbies I love. I don't spend as much time venting with co-workers at the end of the day. I am careful what extra tasks I commit to outside of my hours at school. We don't just get in the car and go out to breakfast now ( well.... sometimes still). We organize trips to town, make time for camping at quiet locations with our dogs, and are purposeful in the trips we take. We build in time for volunteer work, but watch less television and movies. Taking a walk through the gardens each day noticing what has grown and changed is a higher priority than complaining with a neighbor about a barking dog or wayward cat.

It is a journey, but I feel more surefooted than I did a few years ago. Days and months seem to move in cycles with events that often none of us can control. That is when we prioritize, rest, and recharge. Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite authors. Here is her quote that hangs above my computer.
"Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around." Enjoy your next twenty-four hours. Remember to rest and recharge!

Sisters of St. Michael's, Savory Soup Recipe, and Finding Time for Writing

A few weekends ago I attended a teacher conference sponsored by the Northwest Inland Writing Project. This spring conference is held annually at St. Michael's Academy in Spokane. This parish is high on a bluff overlooking northern Spokane. Each time I visit this place I am in awe of the serenity, views, and beautiful Tudor-Gothic architecture. Maintained by the priests and Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, it is a perfect location for this conference. The Sisters, staff, and students do an outstanding job of providing a welcoming place for us to gather for two days with other teachers in a learning community focused on literacy education. This year it was chilly the second day before lunch. The kitchen staff made a savory soup that was a perfect menu option as we gathered in the dining room to eat and further discuss our sessions on literature and writing . Being the recipe collector I am, I had to ask the cooks about the soup. It had a distinctive taste and I couldn't put my finger on what the combination of flavors were. I did recognize the zucchini and knew that any tasty soup with zucchini as an ingredient would be perfect at the end of the gardening season when harvesters like myself are searching for one more use for that large summer squash. The cooks were very accommodating. Not only did they discuss the savory chowder, but went and got the recipe and gave me a copy. This recipe is a keeper in my collection.

Zucchini Garden Chowder
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TB minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 can (14-1/2 oz. ) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn
2 cups ( 8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pinch sugar, optional
additional chopped parsley, optional
In a Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat,saute the zucchini,onion, parsley, and basil in butter until the vegetables are tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Gradually stir in water. Add the bouillon and lemon juice; mix well. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes,milk and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Just before serving, stir in cheeses until melted. Add sugar and garnish with parsley if desired. Yield: 8-10 servings ( about 2-1/2 quarts).

( the beautiful classroom of my friend Sister M.)
I also presented a workshop at the conference. It was entitled:
Top Ten Reasons I Find Time for Writing in My Language Arts Class
These reasons may help you as a teacher, writer or artist. Here is a summary:
10. The more we do it, the better we get.
Fluency, fluency, fluency
Time, time, time
Authentic, authentic, authentic

9. It allows all of us to see writing as a recursive process.
Writer considers topic, audience, purpose, and form
Prewriting, drafting, responding and revising, editing, formatting/publishing
Writers are free to move in any direction back and forth throughout the process

8. It provides opportunities for having fun with words.
Word choice, word walls, words in literature
Warm-up activities
Creates motivation

7. I can use my favorite examples of well-written text.
Poetry, poetry, poetry
Things that make my students laugh
Quality writing about topics they care about

6. It provides a structured format to use the gradual release model.
I do it, we do it, you do it.
Structured formats
Collaborative writing

5. It helps my students view themselves as authors.
Writers’ notebooks, sharing their lives
Writing as gifts
Opportunities to share and publish

4. It helps my students see that reading writing connection.
Immersed in good models of text
Work with the structures of text
Read, read, read

3. Writing gives students opportunities to show their thinking.
Graphic organizers
Responding to reading
Writing for all contents

2. It will give my students a glimpse into my writing world.
Model my process and drafts- warts and all
Learn together to create a writing community
Gives me more opportunities to write

1. I want to find time for writing in my classroom because I am passionate about writing and writing instruction and I want my students to share that passion.

The Long Term Garden Plan: Amending Soil Part 1

Almost exactly eleven years ago I moved to the place I live now. I wanted to take the natural landscape and grow cut flowers, fruit trees, and perennials. The original owners had planted some trees and shrubs, but not much else.

I didn't know much about serious gardening at that point. Previously gardening was buying pony packs of annual plants at the nursery and putting them in pots, beds, and borders every year for color. They were beautiful, but it was expensive and short term. I knew I wanted a long term plan with the gardens at this new place. I took a class on landscaping and read, researched, and continued to refine the plan.

I ran into a huge glitch early on. My soil was not even really soil in my mind. It was sand. When you hear the term "sandy soil" you imagine a soil that is a bit gritty that water flows through easily. Mine was sand... pure and simple. The good news was I didn't have to get my soil analyzed. I knew what I was dealing with and just had to figure out how to amend it. I started to compost, but didn't have enough "green stuff" to make it work quickly. Lots of brown stuff, but since I was living alone there were not enough vegetable peelings and coffee grounds to work.

Through my research I found a combination of amendments that worked best for sandy soil. If you have a different kind of soil you can adjust this recipe easily. Obviously I didn't have to add sand to the mix. I started by amending small gardens and raised beds and each year the soil turned richer and healthier. Since that early start I (and now we) have also used lots of manure and continued with compost. We had chickens that provided rich, "hot" manure that had to rest before use. We also keep rabbits because they have a "cold" manure that can be added immediately. Flowers love rabbit pellets... but alas, another glitch. The dogs love rabbit pellets also.

Inland Empire Girl's Soil Mix Recipe

for Sandy Soil

1 1/2 bushels peat moss

1 bushel perlite or vermiculite

2 bushels compost

1 cup blood meal

1 cup green sand

1/2 cup lime

2 cups bone meal

Soak the peat moss. Add the other ingredients in a large wheelbarrow or tub. Add time release fertilizer. ( We like Osmocote... use according to package directions.)

Use as top dressing in garden beds or containers. We have read that deer don't like blood meal and it keeps them away. We have fencing, so I cannot say if that is true. I look forward to mixing up my first batch in a few weeks! I find the ingredients at my local feed store, but most gardening centers carry these products. This is not a quick fix and it is not cheap. Amending soil is a slow process, but I am glad eleven years ago I decided on a long term plan. It has been well worth the patience and time it has taken. This is the first in a series of posts on soil amending. Please pass on your tried and true methods for enriching your soil. I always love to learn from other gardeners.

Slices of Life:The Songs In My CD Holder While Traveling Through The Inland Empire

“The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'
Aaron Copland, US composer (1900-1990)
( the pictures are a landscape on Highway 395 by Chewelah, Lake Roosevelt by Kettle Falls, and Highway 395 by Loon Lake.)
Reflecting back on decades of song titles that have enriched my life, it is always a difficult task to pull out CDs to fill my holder when preparing for a trip. I agree with Copland that there is meaning to music. As we listen to a song, it takes us back instantly to another time, another place, a slice of life that is unforgettable. Can I state what the meaning is? Perhaps not. Does it matter? No. For me it is that strong feeling, whether past or present the music evokes. The feeling connects with slices of my life, creating a music tapestry. I always try to select an eclectic collection of CDs to match my many moods. Instead of the new question “What is on your I Pod playlist”, for me it is “What is in your CD holder for the trip?” That collection represents those slices of my life.

How many times have you heard a song and after playing it once, hit the number on the player so you could hear it over and over again while cruising down the highway? “Bennie and the Jets” is the quintessential selection. Traveling down a straight stretch of highway, this is the song that can re energize me. There was a spring in college that I had a roommate with an amazing collection of albums. We listened to Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, and Elton John. “Bennie and the Jets” was the song we all grabbed the perfume bottle microphones and belted out- especially the part Jetssssssssss, spreading out that “sss” sound. Other songs I hit the number repeatedly for are “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack, “ Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick, “ Coming Around Again” by Carly Simon, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Michael McDonald, “Secret O’ Life” by James Taylor, “Constant Craving” by k.d. lang, and “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News.

Movie soundtracks are another group of CDs that often make it in the road trip collection. One example is Out of Africa. Watching Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fly over Kenya, grasping hands as they took in the beauty of the landscape, the theater was filled with the rich music of John Barry’s soundtrack. No words were said. The music carried the scene. On a road trip I often want those hauntingly beautiful melodies and few words. Out of Africa fits the bill. Another is A River Runs Through It. As “Haunted by Waters- A River Runs Through It” brings that CD to a close Mark Isham’s melodies have taken you to rivers, small town churches, and family… other slices of life. Other favorite soundtracks for the road are When Harry Met Sally, On Golden Pond, and Philadelphia. Each has a unique collection of songs matching moods of this driver.

The one artist that is always in my CD holder is Carole King. She is the artist with a song for every mood and every road. “ Jazzman”, “It’s Too Late”, and “Sweet Seasons” help me travel to a simpler time. “You’ve Got a Friend” illustrates how great words and music can be passed on to another artist like James Taylor to create another winning hit. Whether it is her original Tapestry, her newest Living Room Tour, or her Greatest Hits, Carole’s music has been a slice of my life since I was introduced to the first songs on Tapestry. That hippie, guitar, folk-like music seemed to reach out to me in a unique way.

Could I go on? Yes. Numerous songs have strong feeling attached to them. I haven’t even touched standards, classical music, the Beatles, Christmas music, gospel, or jazz. I get overwhelmed just thinking about getting an I Pod and trying to pick tunes for my playlist! For right now I’ll continue to be traditionalist and stick to my visor holder and the CDs of my life. While writing this post I just turned on the music channel and heard three more songs I could add- “ Betcha By Golly Wow”, “Hey Jude”, and “I Shot the Sheriff. "
.... Gotta go. The Carpenters are singing “Close to You” and I need to find a perfume bottle microphone and do a little singing to my dogs Annie and Shelby.

Sibling Assignment #15: A Book From Childhood I Remember

Reading books was a favorite pastime in childhood. It encompassed hours of my time. One book that always sticks in my mind is The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. At school our teacher always handed out Arrow Book order fliers once a month. I waited in anticipation to view the new, exciting books in that monthly order. We didn't have a bookstore in Kellogg, so this was one way of getting new paperback books. I filled out the little order checklist at the back of the flier and returned it to the teacher with counted out money at the end of the month. I waited and waited for the books to arrive. In fifth grade I received the book The Velvet Room in an order from Arrow. That book has stayed with me ever since. Robin, the main character was a middle child in a family that moved around to work farms in California during the Depression. They were migrant workers that picked apricots At that time I didn’t understand what that meant. I don’t think I really understood the Depression either. It didn’t matter. What I did understand was the main character Robin and the Velvet Room. When she was done working with her family each day she explored around an old mansion close to where her family was staying. She discovered a library full of books. This room was also equipped with a window seat and velvet curtains. It was a place any girl that was in fifth grade in 1965 would like to find. I loved the words mansion, velvet, and window seat. It was a safe place. It was full of books. It was an escape from daily life. Robin was away from her siblings and the struggles of her family. When I read one review of this book another reader quoted,” This book calmed me. It provided a place I could go in my mind while reading the book.” An unforgettable book does this. It transports you to another place, another time. The Velvet Room transported me. I tried to locate the book this last week. No luck at my mother’s house. I ordered it tonight and will wait in anticiapation again for that book to come in the mail. I hope to be transported once again to The Velvet Room. Will it calm me and make me feel safe again? I hope so!

My Nieces, The Sixth Street Theater, and Matilda Trent

Today I had the privilege of being back in my hometown of Kellogg, Idaho for a day. I spent time in the morning watching two of my nieces compete in the Idaho History Day competition. Kiki Aru (in fifth grade) did an impressive documentary on the reforestation of the Silver Valley in the late seventies. My other niece Z2 ( in seventh grade) did an original dramatic presentation of the Sunshine Mine Disaster of 1972. Both of them earned superior ratings and will compete in April in the state competition. My other niece Princess just competed in the speech and drama competition and earned a place in the state competition. I learned new information about the area I grew up in, and was moved to tears reliving the Sunshine Mine Disaster through the words of a play my niece helped compose and perform. I was very proud of my very special nieces today and was impressed by their interest and passion for the history of our area.

The finale of the busy day was the performance of "Madam's Been Murdered: Tea Will Be Late" at the Sixth Street Theater in Wallace. My sister SilverValleyGirl gave a hilarious performance in the role of Matilda Trent, a teacher that retired early and was taking holiday at a manor in England. She was "ready to snap at any time." We also got to watch "Matilda" and her real husband do a sword fight on stage. There were eight of us in the family there to cheer, laugh, and applaud loudly throughout a marvelous performance. It was a perfect ending for a memorable day.


Today in my classroom we tried new versions of TGIF. Here are a few:
Thanks Gonzaga: Inspiration Forever
Try Green Irish Fireworks

The Girl Is Fabulous
Try Green Icy Frosting
Try Good Iced Frappuccino
Try Green Irish Farts
St. Patrick's Day was on many a mind. Usually with thirteen-year-olds it always comes back to farts. Go figure. TGIF

Memoir: To Live Life Twice

" To write one's life is to live it twice". Patricia Hampl

First I began writing memoir. It helped me make sense of the events of my life. Then I began to read memoir. It helped validate in my mind that other authors had to make sense of the events in their lives. Below is a list of memoir books that did just that.
First on the list is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I read her book in a week-end. I kept stopping to remind myself that she survived to reveal this sad, funny, moving memoir. It is her story of a childhood that included adventure, colorful characters, a father that wanted to design a “glass castle”, and living conditions that break your heart. In an honest voice she reminds us that teachers are important and writing can help you make sense of your life as you live it.
Next from my list is Name All the Animals by Alison Smith. Smith’s coming of age memoir captures her adolescent years and how grief can affect all aspects of life. The death of her only brother and the events that follow cause her to question her Catholic faith, her relationship with her parents, and her own demons. Grief can take on many faces and Smith tells her story with honesty and courage.
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the third on my list. In the forward she states “ I was not abused, abandoned, or locked up as a child.” In a fresh way she writes of an ordinary life. The book begins with a timeline, then is organized in alphabetical order as an encyclopedia would be. Under C you can read about Capricious and under P Parking Ticket. She has taken random thoughts, insights, and truth and arranged them to make sense. It made me laugh as I also recalled memories of childhood foods, cream rinse, and 1975. You want to call Amy,meet her for coffee, and reminisce.. Also, I love memoir that makes you laugh.
A few more on my list… Liars’ Club by Mary Karr ,The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, In The Wilderness by Kim Barnes, Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, and Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett.

Swan Song

After the first year teaching at my current school, we lost a student to a tragic accident. It was the first student I had lost, and the first funeral I had attended in this town. After her death I wanted to honor her with this poem.When I see tundra swans on Lake Roosevelt I always think of her.

Swan Song
in memory of S.A. Swan
A Sacred Place On Lake Roosevelt
Don’t apologize for the day you allowed your sister to
mark in that brand new book,
Remember, I wanted you to take it home
and practice reading it to her.

Don’t apologize for the day your mother arrived
to visit your teachers at school.
You were good to steady her when
she stumbled and slurred her words.

Don’t apologize for the day you forgot the words
from a story you composed in class.
Remember, we wrote them, whispered them,
wrestled with them to help you feel the sound.

Don’t apologize for the day after recess when
I had to send someone for you.
Because your other teacher kept you in your seat,
redoing that ditto ‘till you got it right.

Don’t apologize for the day you never appeared,
missing Indian tacos for lunch.
Remember, it was the day your mother returned
to the rez after rehab once again.

Don’t apologize for the day at summer school when
the children heard of your death
We tried to read, we tried to write,
but ended up seeing you.

Don’t apologize for leaving before I could say
how much I loved your spirit.
Remember, S.A., you were a fragile duckling,
beginning to become a swan.

Flavors That Blend: Chocolate and Orange

Chocolate Orange Muffins

A co-worker brought these muffins to a breakfast gathering a few years ago. Ever since that time I have loved the flavors of chocolate and orange together. There is something about the rich, bittersweet chips with the added zest and freshness of orange that makes a perfect combination. Sitting on the deck on an early spring morning we can enjoy the view ( see right), sip cups of fresh brewed coffee and savor Chocolate Orange Muffins.

Chocolate Orange Muffins
makes 12 muffins
2 medium oranges, well scrubbed and wiped dry
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips ( or good-quality bittersweet bar)
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
Heat oven to 375. Grease muffin tins or use foil baking cups.
Finely grate orange peel. Chop chocolate if not using chips. Beat sugar and butter in bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add orange peel. Add yogurt, orange juice, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well. Sprinkle flour then chocolate over batter. Fold gently just enough to blend flour.Put batter in muffin cups. Bake 15-25 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch. Turn out onto a rack.

You Can Never Have Too Many Primroses

Primroses (actual name Primula) are perennial plants that can be placed outside early in the spring to provide those first splashes of color in the garden. As long as primroses are protected and in some shade they can be put outside within the next few weeks. Various containers work well with these hardy plants. Making them mobile allows the gardener to move the containers closer to the house or in a protected place if it gets colder. These inexpensive plants are available now in the garden centers andwill flourish with lots of water and rich soil. I buy a bunch of plants for containers each spring, careful to chose a variety of colors and textures. When the weather warms I find a place to transplant them. The following spring I will have primroses returning in flower beds. Good companion plants are pansies, tulips, and daffodils. As JEJ and I take our first visit to the garden center each spring I always remind him," You can never have too many primroses!" He walks off to find another shopping cart as I study the colors and textures of the plants.

The Keys of Memory

" I wear the key of memory, and can open every door in the house of my life." Amelia Barr

I like things in threes: three pots of geraniums arranged by the porch, three pictures resting on the shelf, three flowers blooming in a vase.

Memoir often draws me to this number of objects. Opening a door of life allows me to revisit objects and attach words to the memories. When listening to first paragraphs of To Kill a Mockingbird I still get chills down my spine. A teacher recited that opening in English class when I was in high school. Hearing it now I can still visulize Scout on that street with Jem and Dill and remember the strong pull of this book and its' lessons. Noting just the cover of this dated VHS movie The Way We Were stirs up sad feelings from failed romance and regret during a time in my youth. The soundtrack of A River Runs Through It draws me to rivers. The music creates vivid images of The Coeur d' Alene, the Clearwater, and the Columbia which are symbols of significant chapters in my life. These rivers also create peace and a strong sense of place in the Inland Empire.

These three keys in my house of life remind me of how strong emotions can attach themselves to simple objects. This enables me to reflect on the overlapping connections in my life and to continue to understand their meaning.

A Space for Inspiration

Writers desire a space for inspiration- that place the writer can imagine, remember, ponder, and draft. For some writers it is surrounding themselves with items of remembrance. I am drawn to a bentwood chair in front of an outdoor fireplace. Often writers find a room with a view or a window facing the morning sun. An old typewriter, an antique pen or a special pad of paper provide writing tools that inspire others. Music can also set the atmosphere. For me, this space above provides inspiration as I recount slices of everyday life and examine the common threads that connect time and place.
“Memory is an aspect of imagination. For writing, memory is one of your most important tools. But you don’t need an excellent memory to use it well. A single phrase, an image, a fragment of a story, one object from the past is enough to spark the creative, intuitive mind. Especially rich are incidents and images stored away that you aren’t sure ever actually occurred; dreams or stories someone has spoken of so many times that they’re engraved as past realities. No matter what their source may be, memories are doorways to new pieces of writing. Memory is like muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. One memory sparks another. Each time you write from memory, another fragment filed in that ninety percent of the human brain that science doesn’t understand slips into consciousness and a creative shift takes place.”
Bonni Goldberg from Room to Write

A Great Find: The Green Picket Fence

We love to go to second hand stores and are always on the lookout for good deals. When we began making our land into gardens we searched for used items that could work into the landscape design. A few years ago JEJ was rifling through some used stuff behind our favorite second hand store. A used picket fence had been taken apart in sections and was resting in a field. I was sure we could find a place for this kind of fence. This great find was loaded up and as we headed home we had a friendly debate about the best place to erect it.The beautiful antique fence was first placed as a border in the front part of our property. Later when a row of Chinese Elm formed a new barrier, we decided to move the fence. Not an easy task, but a worthwhile idea. Now this fence has been painted a muted green color and forms a natural border between sections of our back yard. I love picket fences. Grandma's house had a picket fence. Older houses often have picket fences that support a border of climbing roses and lilacs. In a few weeks sunflower seeds will be planted in front of this fence. By August vivid shades of yellow will blend together to enhance the above view of the garden. I always love a great find.

A Perfect Fit

When I arrive home each day Annie my English Springer Spaniel is usually at the gate to greet me. I caught her waiting in the driveway in the photo above. It wasn't until later that I observed her liver and white markings and how well they blended with the snow and dirt surrounding her. After studying the photo together later on the computer screen JEJ and I were reminded of the artist Bev Doolittle's work. I love the way her watercolor paintings take animals like the pintos above and blend them into their surroundings. Like Doolittle's pintos Annie's liver and white colors seem to belong in this place. Whether my dog is searching for a cat, chasing a ball, following me around the garden, or drinking from the pond she knows her place in the world. She is a perfect fit in her surroundings.