Monday, June 22, 2009

Stargazing report


So, has anyone actually been out stargazing? In the village I was able to on a couple of occasions last weekend and the weekend before, though it doesn't actually get dark until after 10pm this time of year. Anyway, I saw both of the Dippers and also Cassiopea. The weekend of the 13th I saw a ton of stars, and they seemed so close. I wish i could have identified more constellations, but I will consider it an asignatura pendiente.

Please take up the challenge and report back! I am curious about what people can identify, and where.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Slice of life, or pie


It occurred to me that it might be fun to post a picture of our kitchen message board, mostly used as a shopping list (by me) and a sketch pad for designing the kitchen layout in the house we are building in the village (by Santi). If you can read my handwriting (the chalk stub is pretty small and hard to work with, and I'm usually writing on the fly, with Dani in arms, or in some other way occupied), you may note that it is truly a bilingual list (and you may also note that beer is such a priority that it gets listed twice. Wouldn't want to be without a cold one to pop open now that the summer heat has arrived...)

And the pie!



Some people use their birthdays as a time to reflect, and some as a time to indulge. Taking advantage of the height of cherry season, you can guess which one I'm doing today... It was my first attempt at making crust, and I didn't really end up liking this recipe very much (too sweet.) And clearly while I like the idea of making my own crust out of butter instead of partially hydrogenated fats, I am really a slacker when it comes to baking, so when it wouldn't roll out perfectly I improvised and threw it into the oven-- thus the mutant octopus design. Oh well.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How many blogs does a person need, anyway?


True to my record of "new life-experience= new blog", I have started a fledgling blog about living with peanut allergy in Spain. Apparently I also have a bit of an evangelizing tendency, since I feel the need to share my hard-won wisdom with the world, be it about school in Spain or this more recent venture. While one of my goals in doing this (with both blogs) is not only to share information, but also to spark discussion or the exchange of ideas, I have to admit that with the school blog, I get a slow but steady stream of visitors, and hardly any comments. Not that I mind-- after all, I rarely post there anyway. And, it's true that I often-- very often--read blogs without commenting, either on a regular basis or because it happened to turn up as a search result for some particular topic I was looking into. So that's cool.

And when I was doing my teaching practice, I started a private blog just as a place to record observations and make notes. I made it private to avoid potential confidentiality issues since I talked about specific students (not by name, though) and also because it probably wouldn't have been of general interest anyway. Sort of an online journal, where I could keep it all in one place, with handy functions like a search bar and labels for the posts. And this morning I considered starting yet another blog, to be private or invitation-only. I wanted to write about an incident with one of the kids, and while it is in part a cute anecdote, it also seems that he is getting older and that it might be a violation of his privacy to share certain things with the wider world on this non-anonymous blog.

I don't really want to start yet another blog, yet old-fashioned pen-to-paper freewriting/journalling has somehow lost its appeal. I could just write it in a Word document, you say, and that way I would have a digital copy. True. But here's the terrible truth: after five years of blogging, I don't know how to write without an audience. I mean, what's the point of crafting a piece of writing, reflecting, capturing nuances and making connections-- if no one else is even going to read it??? Yes, I realize that those descriptions can hardly be applied to my blogging of late. There are plenty of bloggers out there who actually do all of those things, and do them well (I would link to more, but I don't have time right now.) But if even my off-the-top-of-my-head writing is for public consumption, than why should I ask any less of my more deliberate writing?

I'm not going to start another blog, and in fact probably won't even get around to writing about that incident today. My Math test is tomorrow, and the only thing I'm going to be reflecting on for the next several hours is the joy of teaching elementary mathematics from a Constructivist standpoint, or the intricacies of Set Theory. I think what I need to do is just bite the bullet and pull out a notebook and pen and just get going, and forget about who reads it. Just freewrite for myself. Even with that nagging voice of narcissism in the background.

Though if any of you have a place online that you save your writing (other than a blog), I'd be interested to hear about it-- maybe there is some middle ground out there after all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Double-Dare Ya!


So I signed up to participate in the Double-Daring Book for Girls book shower, first because I think Andi and Miriam rock, and I'd love to help get the word out about their book. But also because I never got around to purchasing The Daring Book for Girls (this being a household of boys, and boys who are still a bit young for these activities) but was curious. I did see the Spanish version last week in my local bookstore, and looked through it there-- very cool!

So anyway, this time around, the idea is not so much to do a book review (though you can do some of that, too) but instead to throw down a challenge to your readers based on one of the book's activities. I'll get to that in a moment, but first I want to say a bit about the book itself.

Since I hadn't seen the original, this was totally new to me. I love the old-fashioned feel to the layout-- the marbled endpapers, the fonts, the gorgeous watercolor illustrations. And then there is the meat of the book-- the activities and information. There's something for everyone here: quilling and caligraphy, car camping, making a rope ladder, playing the harmonica, card games, how to paint a room... Useful stuff, fun stuff, stuff that most people won't actually do but is fun to read about, etc. I would have loved to have a book like this when I was a kid.

(Oreneta, I'm thinking your adventurous girls would love it. In fact, I even thought of sending it to you, but I can't bear to part with it, and my book-buying budget has been severely eaten into lately by my new obsession with books and materials on peanut allergy. But if you can get ahold of a copy, definitely do!)

My first thought was that I could take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to hem some pants (p. 253), a service which is often needed in this house. However, I thought that might not set the right tone for the challenge, because, um, who actually wants to hem pants? Yes, it's useful, and the end result is much more aesthetically pleasing and secure than the old iron-on-adhesive method we tend to use, but somehow I doubt it would inspire any takers. And it really doesn't capture the daring spirit of the book.

No, instead I think I'll toss out a challenge from the very first activity in the book: stargazing. Fitting, because 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, and also because it's something I actually want to learn to do and teach the kids to do. At this point, all I can reliably identify is the Little Dipper and my favorite, Orion.

Unfortunately, Orion is a winter constellation, but according to this site, the Little Dipper can indeed be found now in the skies of North America and Europe, as can Libra, one of the constellations featured in the book.

So my challenge is this: find three constellations in the sky, then tell me what they are, where you are, and the date and time you saw them. Bonus points for more than three. This challenge depends on factors like having a clear sky, and being away from bright lights and preferably the moon, so I will keep it open all month. I am thinking I will have to wait until I can get to the village for it to be dark enough to see the stars well, but I am preparing by studying up on what to look for.

Do try this, and leave me a note in the comments.

So there you go-- I double-dare ya!