SOLS: 2013:23 Lighthouse White

sols_6This is my first visit to coastal Maine. I’m creating a list of new experiences and observations for sharing. Had a wonderful day attending a Choice Literacy Workshop. Looking forward to tomorrow. Ruth and I took a walk before dinner and I tried to write a poem about it.  How can a few written words be so difficult? This writing is hard…as hard as running. At least I do not sweat when I write so I don’t need to take an extra shower.  We had dinner at Archer’s, a restaurant on the water in Rockland, Maine. A new friend that coaches south of Boston joined us. We then visited the Fresh Bakery in Camden, Maine. YUM! Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte…need I say more about that?

Lighthouse White

Bundled tight
Breakwater walk
Pushing on
Lighthouse white.

Brutal wind
Lingering cold
Pushing on
Lighthouse white.

Careful steps
Slapping waves
Pushing on
Lighthouse white.

Safe refuge
Rest awhile
Lighthouse white.

Runny nose
Rosy cheeks
Return again
Gray rock shore.

Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons

Posted in Gail Gibbons, Lighthouse | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

SOLS: 2013:22 Noticed at the Farnsworth Art Museum

sols_6Side by side students were standing next to each other engaging in quiet but enthusiatic conversation. Pencils were recording thoughts on a think sheet clipped to a clipboard. I leaned in to listen. Each pair were discussing their observations…their noticings  about the beautiful Wyeth (three generations) paintings on the wall at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Art is a powerful way to practice thinking strategies that we teach for reading. Display art work. Have students “annotate” the art on a think sheet. What do they notice about the painting? What do they think the artist thought was important?What would they title the painting? (Determine Importance) Why? What is the tone and mood of the painting? How did the painter show the tone and mood? What did the painter title the painting? Why? What do you think the painter wanted us to appreciate about this art? Do you like it? Why? (Synthesize)

As we moved into the next room there was a group of students  sitting before a painting of sailboats in a harbor. They listening to a “mini-lesson” by a person who worked at the museum. He was asking them what where was the wind coming from? One girl answered incorrectly. The teacher stepped in and asked “Why do you think that?” The girl wasn’t able to give any evidence for her thinking so she realized that she needed to take another look. The next person who answered was able to answer and cite evidence. Exactly what we want to teach our readers to do…think and articulate the invisible thinking that goes on inside our heads. Listening to that inner voice…becoming stronger thinkers, readers, writers, artists, mathematicians, scientists…

Love watching smart teachers in Maine today.

Illustration work created by Wyeth.

Illustration work created by Wyeth.

Posted in Farnsworth Art Museum, Maine, Reading, Reading Focus Lesson, Synthesize, Uncategorized, Wyeth | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

SOLS: 2013:21 Quiet

sols_6Susan Cain has a New York Times Bestseller on her hands: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It has been a fascinating read journey and I still have a ways to go.  As soon as I read the last word on the page I know I will have to go back and dig in to absorb the ideas…based on solid research and observations. Of course, answered questions lead to new questions.

Extroversion became the cultural ideal beginning in the early 1900s although it has always been in our DNA according to many psychologists. It is suggested that collaboration can kill creativity. Louder voices are heard even if they might NOT be shouting the best ideas. Some companies such as Microsoft have created working spaces to allow people to have “chance” encounters to share ideas in a low key environment. But they also have created work spaces where introverts can work alone in their own decorated space away from others. I thought about our classrooms and Common Core. There is a lot of emphasis on group work and collaboration. Do our classrooms offer space for students to share ideas but also offer space for independent alone work? Another big idea was the findings on the “reward” system of the brain. This section of the book gave me new insights on rewards that we use in schools.

I have a greater understanding of myself and those around me but I’m just scratching the surface. Great insightful read! Link for Susan Cain’s Ted Talk:


Posted in book review, Introverts, Susan Cain | Tagged | 3 Comments

SOLS: 2013:20 Childhood In a Museum


Time: 1960s

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Jolly white-bearded man in a red velvet suit and black boots holds two wide-eyed children on his lap as they lean and whisper their Christmas lists to his ear.  A photograph is snapped of the captured moment that is later taken home and placed on the mantle.

Traveling to downtown Indianapolis was a holiday tradition that my brother and I looked forward to each December. Dressed in our best clothes we would travel and enjoy the magical atmosphere of the city. On Monument Circle brightly colored lights climbed from the bottom of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to the very top resembling a Christmas Tree.  After locating a parking space we would visit the L.S. Ayres department store that was distinguished by a outdoor clock. After Thanksgiving a bronze cherub would adorn L.S. Clockthe clock and look down on shoppers during the holiday season. People would crowd around the windows to watch the animated Christmas story windows that looked very much like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. You would then hop onto the elevator to the eighth floor “Winter Wonderland”. As a child you could easily imagined you were at the North Pole. Santa’s Christmas elves were eager to help children climb aboard the Santa Express train. The Santa Express would click clack around and round the track through snowy scenery until you arrived at…Santa’s residence. “Ho-ho-ho! What would you like Santa to bring you?” Santa would ask as you balanced on his knee (depending on your age). With great excitement you would go through your list and at completion a candy cane was placed in your hand. After having your photograph snapped it was a special treat to eat at the L.S. Tea Room. If you were on your best behavior, after eating, you could select a prize from the treasure box. A little shopping and then homeward bound with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.

Imagine being able to visit your childhood memory…in a historic museum! You can experience the L.S. Tea Room, the Santa Express, the animated story windows, and a visit with Santa at the Indiana State Museum. Not sure how I feel about my childhood being in a museum ALREADY! You can even buy the L.S. Ayres cherub as an ornament for your Christmas tree…which I did.



Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons

Posted in Christmas, Family, Gail Gibbons, Indiana, L.S. Ayres, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

SOLS: 2013:19 The Rest of the Story – Territorial Wolves

sols_6Time: Summer 1975

Place: Living Waters Camp   Cassopolis, Michigan

Stories have layers. There is always another layer to peel back. Stories within a story.  Two or even more sides of a story. Paul Harvey made “The Rest of the Story” radio broadcasts popular by sharing more of a little known story. Mr. Harvey would then end his broadcast with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

There is more to the story, The Howl of  Love.  I mentioned that it had been a year of change. One of those changes was the end of a two year 1/2 year college relationship with a boy named Alan.  It was one of those bittersweet endings. We had parted ways because my spiritual beliefs had changed. He wasn’t sure of his own spiritual beliefs and his emotional feelings for me.  One of the reasons I changed schools was to make the parting easier but changing schools was big time change. Often I felt like I was in a whole different world surround by people I didn’t know, new belief systems and a different way of schooling.  I had begun my college education at Bloomington IU. Imagine going from apartment living with lots of freedom and large lecture halls filled with students to a small Bible college dorm with small classes in northern Indiana. A Bible school with lots of rules…a dress code…required attendance at chapel every day…curfew…new Bible classes on my schedule. Big change. After the months of separation Alan wanted to spend the 4th of July holiday weekend at camp with me. I was fine with that.

“Wolves are highly territorial animals…” states Wikipedia.

Steve knew about my past romantic relationship with Alan. The weekend began with me picking up Alan in Elkhart and driving him back to the camp. Guess who greeted us? Steve. Guess who would eat with us every meal served in the lodge? Steve. I would be in the middle between Steve and Alan for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Guess who put Alan, who had never been on a horse, on the biggest horse in camp? And then gave Tex the horse a big slap on the rump? Steve. No, it was Scott, Steve’s friend. All I remember is Alan hanging on to Tex’s mane for dear life while they both went charging up a camp hill.  Guess who went to evening worship service? All three of us side-by-side. Not sure if Alan experienced the archery and rifle field. Maybe I nixed that idea after the horse ecapade. What was truly miraculous was the baptism of Alan in the cool water of spring-fed ponds at the camp before the weekend was over. And now you know the rest of the story…well, unless you peel another layer and find another story within a story.

Written by Barb Rosenstock

Written by Barb Rosenstock

at Yosemite

at Yosemite

Posted in Camping, John Muir, National Parks, Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. Presidents, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

SOLS: 2013:18 Angel Wings

sols_6Text on my phone from my daughter on Saturday: I’m sorry I said that Texas Road House was better than your butterhorns. 

My response as I’m confused about the text: What are you saying? My butterhorns are better? 

Daughter: That was from CT. (CT is Boy Blue, grandson, Christian)

I was still confused and curious why this text came out of nowhere. What was the story? Well, CT (grandson, Boy Blue, Christian) had generously taken the family out to eat for a family member’s birthday celebration with his money. When the bread arrived Boy Blue said something about loving the rolls from Texas Road House. Jennifer (his mom) responded and I can picture her eyebrows raised with a look that says, you better be careful how you answer, “Better than Grandma’s butterhorns?”  Without taking too much time to think Christian just answered with a simple yes.  Jennifer pulls out her phone and  threatens, “Oh boy…I’m calling Grandma right now and telling her.”  There must have a little bit of a scrimmage for the phone. Christian won and sent me the apologizing text.

Among the row of cookbooks in the kitchen cabinet there is a 8 1/2 x 11 piece of tagboard that has a recipe  At the top of page in cursive blue ink probably from a Bic pen it says:               To: Debbie                                                                                                                                    August 1974                                                                                                                                   From: Sue                                                                                                                                                 The piece of tagboard that has the recipe written on is covered with contact paper that has yellow paint along the edges. Yellow paint from a kitchen I painted and I had used the tagboard as a straight edge. That was before the recipe became treasured and part of our holiday traditions. For several years it was just a recipe taking up space in the cabinet. Steve’s family baked homemade butterhorns for holiday dinners from a recipe that required you to mix, knead, form, raise and then bake. Time consuming. My family didn’t have a homemade roll tradition. The rolls were one thing that my Grandmother didn’t make from scratch. The rolls were bought from the store. Even though they were store bought there were never any left as we are bread lovers…even the store bought kind.  It is now my turn to be in charge of holiday dinners. That responsibility was what brought the contact paper covered recipe out of the cabinet several years ago. As I gained experience the butterhorns became everyone’s favorite on the holiday menu. The butterhorns melt in your mouth and are as light as angel wings.  Nothing can compare. We challenge guests who would dare say that their family’s rolls were better than our butterhorns.  Eat with us and see. Angel wings win every time…at least so far. The recipe for butterhorns only come out for holiday meals and very special occasions. I did make a batch a few weeks ago when we went to visit Boy Blue. He had broken his leg while sledding. Butterhorns or angel wings were just what he needed! Jennifer has already asked me to leave her the yellow painted contact paper covered original recipe. Geez!

I did call Boy Blue and told him it was ok if he enjoyed the rolls at Texas Road House…just as long as butterhorns were at the top of his favorite list.

Refrigerator Yeast Dough

1. Put in 2 cup container: 1/2 c. hot water, 1 package yeast, 1 heaping tablespoon sugar. Stir. (Should foam in 5 minutes.)                                                                                                    2. Put into large bowl: 1/4 c. shortening, 1 t. salt, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 cup hot water. Stir.           3. Add 2 cups of sifted flour to second mixture. Stir. Gradually add 3 beaten eggs, vigorously stirring after each addition until well blended. (I use the bread beater on my mixer.) Add yeast mixture. Add three more cups sifted flour. Stir for a few minutes.         4. Cover bowl to keep air out. Refrigerate overnight for dough to rise. Use in 1 to 4 days.

Divide dough into 3 sections. Roll out one section of dough on a floured surface in a circle shape. Brush with melted butter. Cut into 8 − 12 triangular pieces (like a pizza). Roll from the widest part and place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with wax paper. Raise until double in size. Bake for 8 − 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Brush the tops with melted butter.

Recipe was given to me from Sue Anderson which is Kate’s daughter from The Backlash. Some of my favorite bread books:

Rhyming text for young children that explains how bread is made.

Rhyming text for young children that explains how bread is made.

Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola

Recipe is included for making sun bread. Perfect for this time of year as we are waiting for spring!

Recipe is included for making sun bread. Perfect for this time of year as we are waiting for spring!

Posted in Baking bread, Book Selection, recipes, Tomie dePaola, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 11 Comments

SOLS: 2013:17 The Backlash

sols_6Inspiration for this recollection: Our book club is reading Time Keeper by Mitch Albom for this month’s selection. As I’m reading I’m thinking back to when I was a 14 year old waitress at The Back Lash in Cicero, Indiana. The older couple sat a table at the far end of the room. They had a beautiful view of Morse Reservoir but their focus was on each other. I approached with a greeting and asked the usual question, “What would you like?” Their response was stated in a matter of fact way,  “More time.”  I don’t remember how I responded but I have reflected on that moment time and time again.

Time: 1968

Place: The Backlash, Cicero, Indiana

back~lash noun a snarl in the that part of a fishing line wound on the reel

My first real job. 14. Waitress. Fifty cents an hour plus tips. My family had only been in the area for a short while and I just had begun my freshman year at Hamilton Heights High School. Having spending money suddenly became a need for a girl beginning high school.  One of my first friends that I had met on the school bus, Shirley, worked at the Backlash. She thought I could get a job there also. And I did.

The Backlash was an unique place. It sat on the west side of Cicero with a view of Morse Reservoir. In fact there was a dock where boaters could anchor their boats and walk up to the restaurant for a bite to eat. You would also find the local town people enjoying the menu. You wouldn’t find the high school crowd there though…Char-Burg was the hang-out for kids. One exception was if someone was hopeful of stirring up a romantic interest with an employee or if the romance was already brewing…then they would drop in for a bite to eat. There were two walk up windows. Almost daily a man walking his hound down to the reservoir would  stop at the window and order an ice cream cone…for his dog. The place was furnished with lacquered picnic-like tables.

Kate and her husband, Jut were the proprietors of the place.  Kate would be in the kitchen every morning around four baking homemade bread that she served with her spaghetti, shrimp or steak dinners. A wide variety of homemade pies were baked also and kept in a small pie safe outside an ordering window. Homemade vanilla ice cream also was churned and stored in the freezers. One of my favorite items were FFO – french fried onions. Deep fried onion rings created with a homemade batter of egg, flour, oil, and salt. Large onions were sliced into rings and separated. The rings were coated with flour by shaking them in a lunch-sized paper bag. Then each ring was dipped in batter and dropped one by one in the deep fryer. The rings were fished out of the fryer when the golden brown onion ring floated to the top. YUM! Especially when you dipped the crispy hot onion rings in Heinz ketchup.

I didn’t think about it then but looking back I think it was very strange that the eatery was also a bait shop that shared space with the dining room. A bait shop with a full service bait counter. Fishermen would walk up to the counter and place their order of worms, minnows, crickets and who knows what other kind of  bait a fisherman might need.  Creepy crawling things that often had a unappetizing smell were stored in that bait room. The bait room was behind the counter and it had a screen door.

Jut. Nickname for Justus. In charge of the bait counter. Jut wasn’t tall but he was a large man with an intimidating appearance and manner…he was a man of few words…on the gruff side. Jut would sit in the bait room in a lawn chair smoking cigars only getting up to wait on bait customers. He had a panoramic view of the dining room and you always knew he was watching. You knew you better be doing your job. A customer would walk up to the bait counter and it seemed like it was a few minutes before you would hear the screen door bang as Jut always moved at his own pace. Jut was often visited by friends that would sit with him during the hours of selling bait. I think they had pleasant time back there smoking cigars, telling stories and watching us girls work. They all enjoyed teasing us. Some of his buddies would come in after they had been coon hunting during the night. Many a night I would find a hairy coon’s tail tied to my car’s attenna. That tail would stay there a couple days or until I found someone to take it off…I wasn’t touching that thing.  Every once in a while Jut would come out to the dining room floor and reach for our hand and slip us a twenty dollar bill. I think he thought Kate should be paying us more than she did. This surprise bonus only happened if we were on our own in the restaurant while Kate was doing errands or taking her afternoon naps. And you never knew when so it was never expected. Kate took daily naps as she was up at four every morning and the restaurant didn’t close until nine.

More recollections will be coming about The Backlash in future posts

Time Keeper

Another thought provoking read by Mitch Albom

Posted in childhood memories, Indiana, Mitch Albom, The Backlash, Time Keeper, Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

SOLS: 2013:16 Weather Greetings

sols_6Indiana weather is a mystery. When you open the door in the morning you just are not sure what season will greet you. I think it has always been this way in the Hoosier state although as a child I remember seasons being more defined.  Daily weather checking is usually not on my daily agenda but I have this lingering memory of last spring. Last March Indiana brought us summer weather early. We went from winter to summer with only a few days of spring. Sweet spring was missed but the arrival of summer made one forget. So the first order of the day after getting my feet on the floor was checking the seven day forecast. I have this hope of a repeat of last year with a tinge of more spring. UGH! The expected highs are not close to the normal 47 degrees for this time of year. Appears it will be wet and gray and cold. Disappointment. But on the horizon is Spring Break and hopefully it will be warm and sunny where we will be going. We northerns so do depend on it.

There are countless great books about the weather. Our older readers have been engaged in the Storm Runners series by Roland Smith. There are several great engaging NF weather books. Check out Gail Gibbons besides the few titles listed here.

storm runners Pink Snow on-the-same-day-in-march

Posted in Book Selection, Books about Weather, Roland Smith | Tagged , | 7 Comments

SOLS: 2013:15 Box on the Counter

sols_6As I have walked in the door each day this past week my eyes glance over to the counter. They are searching for a box addressed with my name. I wasn’t sure if I should make the purchase because there was a part of me that thought it was a little silly. Writing and thinking about some of my childhood experiences have flooded me with memories. Some of my story inspiration has been coming from old photographs and other memorabilia. Recently I came across a newspaper photograph of myself and two other smiling girls in their Camp Fire Girl uniforms showcasing hinged decorated eggs. These intricate eggs were quite fancy…worthy enough for a picture in The Indianapolis Star. This was just one of the many things we did as a group when we met together every Tuesday after school. In the picture I notice that all three of us are wearing our navy blue vests decorated with different colored earned beads. Each colored bead represented the seven crafts: business, citizenship, creative arts, frontiers, home, outdoors, and sports and games. You received your beads in a ceremony to celebrate your work. You then sewed your beads in a design on your vest. Every girl came up with their own design. I kept my beads for a long time but they are now long gone. I wondered about the Camp Fire Handbook that I poured over when I was a young girl. The handbook outlined tasks that you needed to complete to earn your wood craft beads. There were also patches you could earn.  Google search. Could I find a 1960s Camp Fire Girl Handbook? There were several but not the edition that I wanted. Then on Etsy I found a seller that had the 1965 edition of the handbook AND a vest with beads AND the beanie AND the tie. Tempting.  Then I thought…I need to downsize…not collect more stuff. This is silly. Blog-stalking husband said to go for it if it brings you joy. I caved. Today the box was sitting on the counter as I walked in the door. Big joyful smile as I pulled the items one at a time. Again I will be pouring over the handbook.

Listen to this from Chapter 3: How Camp Fire Girls Began  camp-fire-girls-book

“Those early days began in 1910. A group of very capable men and women were concerned about boys and girls and the fact they had nothing much to do after school that was really interesting or that would help them to grow up to be strong and healthy and good citizens. This was at a time when mothers were beginning to have jobs, and when more and more things were being invented. Looking ahead, these men and women saw that many ways of doing things were going to be changed. people would be able to travel faster and farther than ever before. Many new kinds of jobs would need to be filled. There would be many more things to be learned.

But in spite of all the changes they saw were coming on, these people knew it was important to keep some things that would always be, or should always be, part of living: things like music and singing, and dancing, and making beautiful objects with one’s hands, like knowing about and loving the beauties of nature, thinking lovely thoughts and trying to put them into words.”

It then goes into the planning for the Boy Scouts of America. Then they wondered, What about the girls?  “Nowhere in the country was there a program for girls of all races and nationality backgrounds and religious beliefs.”


Posted in Camp Fire Girls, childhood memories | 3 Comments

SOLS: 2013:14 Soles of Running


My running shoes have logged one year and one month on their soles since I began running last February. I’m not even sure if it fair to call my shoes running shoes. Jogging shoes or fast walking shoes or just getting one step forward shoes might be more appropriate names. And fast is not a word I would use to describe my “running”. Barely moving might be a more accurate choice. “Why is that girl sucking air? Why is she so sweaty? Her feet are barely moving. Is the belt even moving? I hear the slap, slap, slap of her shoes hitting the belt.” These thoughts are the ones I imagine are probably running around in the heads of RUNNERS on treadmills on either side of mine.  

We have assessments that help teachers identify reading levels, comprehension, and fluency.  I need the same kind of assessments for my running. I need levels. I need a running chart. I need criteria. Maybe this why I feel uncomfortable when someone asks me if I am a runner. “Well, I go out 3 times a week to run. I enter 5Ks.” BUT I don’t feel like I’m a runner yet. In my mind I have a picture of all those runners I observe that makes running look effortless. Some of them look like Greek gods with golden wings coming off their feet. Here’s start on the chart. I have no idea what speed should beside each one. 

  • Upright
  • Meanderer
  • Stroller
  • Walker
  • Fast Walker
  • Jogger
  • Runner

Yep, my “run” last night was not easy. Yep, I’m whining. I thought it would be easier after a year. It is still SO hard. Wondering if these same thoughts go through some of our readers and writers…

Pete the Cat

Content is rich enough even for adults.

Content is rich enough even for adults.

Posted in running, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

SOLS 2013:13 Story Treasure Box

sols_6One of the reasons I LOVE going to conferences is meeting authors of the books I have loved and shared over the years. Guilt sometimes washes over me as I think there might be some that think I should attend a “how to teach reading” session. But then my heart and head take over…stories matter…a lot.  There are times when I’m frustrated because I have had to choose between author sessions that are scheduled at the same time. Which one? But I’ve been blessed to hear many of my most favorite writers for children. I collect their stories and store them in my mind treasure box to pull out as needed.

I am a reading coach for our district. There was some unexpected unscheduled time  last Monday. So I went hunting to find a class that was ready for independent practice reading where I could quietly slip in to confer with readers. BINGO! A third grade classroom. Teacher was fine with me coming in with no notice. I sit beside one reader after another and we talk about reading and their current read. I approach a boy who has a picture book opened. As soon as I sit down, I notice the illustrations. Clearly Tomie dePaola. “Are you familiar with this author?” I ask. He turns to the cover and looks at the name and shakes his head no. I smile as I think of my memory of sitting in a school auditorium several years ago in Goshen at the “feet” of Tomie dePaola.  I remember the auditorium ringing with laughter at thestrega_nona_cameo stories Tomie dePaola tells about his mischievous escapades as a child although some school experiences were tinged with sadness.  “Oh, let me tell you about Tomie dePaola. When he was your age he was mischievous. Are you ever mischievous? Wait until you hear this. His grandmother was a wonderful Italian cook and Tomie loved her and her cooking. In fact Tomie now enjoys having guests over at his house and cooking for them. Often his Grandmother would use a recipe that would call for chicken but she didn’t go to the store for chicken. She would butcher the chickens she needed. She had to remove the chicken’s head and feet. Tomie would always ask for the chicken legs and feet. He would then put them in his coat pocket. When it was time for recess he would hold the chicken feet and legs in his hands and then pull his hands inside his coat sleeves so that only the feet and legs would be showing. He would then chase the girls all over the playground.  I need to tell you something else about chicken feet and legs. There is a nerve that is attached to the feet and legs. As soon as Tomie would get close to the girls, he would pull on the nerve. The chicken’s feet would move as if the feet were alive. Oh, the girls would scream and run away. Tomie would just find more girls to chase or chase the same ones over and over.” The Tomie chicken and feet story again pulled out from the treasure chest…to unlock the magic of story.


This is excellent autobiography to share with young elementary students.

This is the book the third grader was reading.

This is the book the third grader was reading.

watch out for chicken feet

Wonderful book…will bring warm memories especially if you are an American -Italian family. Bread recipe in the back.

Posted in American-Italian, Conferring, Family, Tomie dePaola, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

SOLS: 2013:12 Finally, I’m A Big Girl

Background Knowledge: I’m very fond of the aroma of coffee. I always breathe a little deeper when coffee is brewing. Both of my parents drank coffee. My husband has to have a morning cup. My friends drink coffee. My colleagues drink coffee…except for Ruth Ayres. She had me worried when we were attending a workshop a year or so ago and there was a steaming cup of coffee she had sitting on her placemat. “What’s up with the coffee?” I asked. This is not a direct quote but her answer was something like this: I think writing and coffee go together. I think I’ve acquired a taste for it. “REALLY?” I say. So I think, maybe I need to try coffee again. I pour myself a cup from the carafe on the table. Gingerly I put the cup to my lips to take a small sip and act writerly. UGH! Coffee has the most wonderful smell but it still tastes like dirt. I give Ruth one of my looks as she nurses her cup of coffee and looks very writerly.

sols_6August 2012: The road beckons me in the summer as I love to use my “vacation” time from school for traveling. Often I go alone as my husband only has two weeks off for vacation time annually.  I usually plan at least one summer road trip with Boy Blue, my grandson whom has blue-green eyes that are framed by long dark lashes. One of Boy Blue’s responses to my question, “Where are places you would like to explore?” was the The Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Sounds like a plan. Our trip is planned and we’re off. Before too many miles are traveled Boy Blue requests a Cafe Mocha. “Is it ok with your mom if you drink coffee?” I ask the almost thirteen old. “She lets me have it sometimes.” he answers. I order him a Cafe Mocha and a diet Coke for myself.  My Diet Coke is quickly consumed before many miles go by and Boy Blue is snoozing in the passenger seat. Hmmm…maybe I’ll try one of these fancy coffees. I peek over to see if his eyes are still shut and sneak a sip. Hmm…doesn’t taste like dirt. How could that be? Pretty soon, I’m becoming bold in taking sips and I hear, “Grandma, what are you doing?” I responded, “Christian, can you believe it? This coffee actually tastes pretty good.” We decide we need to stop and try another kind of coffee. Christian can’t believe it. It is our big news when we return home. Grandma is drinking coffee.

When school begins and I see Ruth, I share my news, “I’m a big girl now. I drink coffee!” She smiles in a very writerly way.

March 2013: I’m still a big girl and drink coffee although not everyday. Sometimes it is not even once a week. Yesterday Steve bought me a tall iced coffee from a town errand. I pour some of the coffee into a large glass of  milk and ice. I open a few packets of natural raw sugar and nurse the glass all day long wondering if I have truly made the crossover to the big girl drink. And is coffee drinking something I really want to pursue?  : )

I usually suggest a book to go along with my post but not one book popped into my head until I thought about why Americans are coffee drinkers. It all began here!

I love this informational series. Very engaging.

I love this informational series. Very engaging.Boston Tea Party by Pamela Duncan Edwards

Posted in Boston Tea Party, Road Trips, Uncategorized, You Wouldn't Want To Be Series | Tagged , | 12 Comments

SOLS 2013:11The Hunt of the Wolf

sols_6Guest Blogger: Blog-stalking Husband, Steve

The story of the Howl of Love is absolutely accurate and I must admit tears came to my eyes as I was transcended to those early times. I admit I do stalk my wife’s blog but I try to respect her boundries. She gave me “permission” to reply and I was about to do so, but realized it would be longer than any reply should ever be. My comments to Deb led to the result that I could do a guest blog. Please understand that there is no way I can weave the stories she does and give you a good book at the end. But each one of you who blog must know that there are those that are consumed by love for you for who you are!

Yesterday’s blog pretty much tells the story of how I started to fall in love with the one that married me. What it does not tell you is how that really went down. I WAS that guy leaning against the table. I was a previous empoyee of the camp since I gave horse trail rides to groups coming to the camp during the winter from Chicago as well as other places. A buddy of mine and I were greeting and “checking out” the newbies. I was not looking for a romantic  prospect. That does not change the fact that by the end of that two weeks of training this older college girl “possessed” me!

I spent the remainder of the summer spending every moment with our Water Safety Instructor that I could. After trail rides and horsemanship classes I would take my favorite Arabian horse (Charger) to the beach to see Deb. It took me and the smartest horse I have known in my life most of the summer to capture her. There are some stories about our romance that involve both her dog, Rattler,  and Charger that could be told..but not today.

I will strive to keep this short as possible. I can not count the number of times I asked Deb to marry me! I will tell you I remember COUNTLESS (closer to hundreds than dozens) responses of “You have to be kidding”, to “I don’t think so”, to “maybe” to “okay…if you quit asking!” That was it! I never got a yes before the “I do”. The okay was good enough for me! I dare say the time beteen the howl of the the wolf and the capture of his life partner was well worth it!

Some more favorite wolf books from Deb:

One of my newer favorite authors. Talk about plot tension. Students are always engaged with this one!

One of my newer favorite authors. Talk about plot tension. Students are always engaged with this one!

Is this one a classic yet? Still love it after many readings in the classroom.

Is this one a classic yet? Still love it after many readings in the classroom.

Posted in Family, Uncategorized, Wolves | Tagged , | 15 Comments

SOLS: 2013:10 The Howl of Love

Time: Summer 1975

Place: Cassopolis, Michigan

Dedicated: To my blog stalking husband.

sols_6My destination was Living Waters Camp located outside Cassopolis, Michigan to spend the summer as a lifeguard, swim instructor and camp counselor. Only my student teaching experience and a few classes remained before I completed my education degree. Many changes had taken place the previous year. My father had died. The house we had lived in for several years had been sold. Mom was moving to be closer to my grandmother.  My college “love” was no more. I had changed schools at semester and was looking at another school change to begin my senior year in the fall. I was traveling out of state alone to begin a summer job. Well, I wasn’t alone. I had my faithful beagle dog with me, Rattler. Rattler and I arrived at our destination and parked outside the lodge at the campground. Being on the shy side I’m sure I sat in the car for a few minutes and took a few deep breaths before entering the doorway. What I noticed first as I walked through the door was a dark-haired young man leaning against a table with his hands crossed in a friendly way across his chest. Big smile and a hello. I learned he was in charge of the horses and horseback riding. And his name was Steve. Others walked in and the summer began. For the next two weeks our days were filled from early morning to late night with  learning all the things that needed to be known before the first campers arrived…Bible study, archery, horseback riding, camping skills, crafts, swimming, music, shooting, first aid and on and on.  The group of counselors bonded together as we experienced our training together. A special friendship between myself and the leaning-against-the-table young man developed over the next few days.

Our last training activity was a drop-off trip to somewhere in southwest Michigan. We were only supplied with a piece of plastic, a sleeping bag, water, and a Bible. Maybe we were given a compass. I don’t remember. The mission was to spend hours of solitude in the woods overnight. We were dropped off at different points and admonished, “No contact.” I love nature. I like solitude. BUT there was a growing feeling of fear in the pit in my stomach. I have an imagination. And did I REALLY know these people? What about snakes? Big wild animals? Creepy, crawly things? Jack the Ripper? Axe murderers? I was far from home. Even though the night was beautiful…it gets really DARK in places where there are NO lights. Besides being acutely aware of the thumping of your heart, what was that rustling sound over to the left? Was that breathing I heard to the right? Footsteps?   Then I heard the howling of a wolf…except it sounded a little human. Some laughter. I recognized the “wolf”s” voice…Steve. A few other “wolves” howling in response. A little more laughter. I was then able to get a few hours of sleep. The next morning I found out that this “wolf” had climbed a tree and gave out the howl. Since I married that young man  less than year from that evening I believe that was the howl of love.

Fast forward thirty-seven years. We discovered Wolf Park near Battleground, Indiana when we were on a weekend camping trip. The advertisement beckoned visitors to howl with the wolves. We couldn’t resist. The link to this park is listed before.

Some favorite wolf books include:

One Wolf Howls by Susan Detwiler

Julie of the Wolves

Look to the North

Howl with the wolves at Wolf Park near Battleground:

Posted in Battleground, Jean Craighead George, Uncategorized, Wolves | Tagged , | 8 Comments

SOLS: 2013:9 Yes, It Was Bright Orange

sols_6Time: 1957 – 1975

Place: 9401 Kerwood Drive and 226th Street

As far as decor I have nostaglic leanings. I’m drawn to decorating in rustic and primitive styles.  Was my decorating taste influenced by all those books I read as child that were rooted in the past…Little House on the PrairieChildhood Biographies of Famous AmericansIsland of the Blue DolphinsCaddie Woodlawn? The rustic style certainly didn’t come from my mother’s influence.  She decorated with a modern urban flair during the fifties and sixties. Furniture in our house had a space-age feel. One of the pieces I remember so well was the orange chair that survived decades of moves. Bright orange chair.  A recliner. Far from a Lazy Boy though. It didn’t begin as orange but a dark conservative color. When my parents moved from their first apartment to their first house my mother had the chair reupholstered. Bright orange. It was the focal point of the living room and it pointed to the television.  Every evening my mother would relax in the orange recliner. In a way the orange chair was like a kitchen table where family gathered round.  The orange chair was the safe place for a three- year-old me to hold her newborn brother and have a photograph snapped. Another memory is coming home from school one day and seeing my mom sitting in the orange chair crafting items for a Holiday Bazaar. In the evenings my brother and I would stretch out on the floor beside the orange chair and watch Donna Reed or Leave It To Beaver or Bonanza.  It was at the foot of this recliner that mom taught us to play Canasta, Monopoly, and Yahtzee. Those countless evenings of playing taught my brother and I how to play fair, take turns, how to win and lose, and how to have fun. Life skills at the foot of the bright orange chair. Many years later my mom had to move back to an apartment. There wasn’t room for the orange chair so my aunt inherited it. Time marches on and I’m not sure what my aunt did with the orange chair when she had to move to an apartment. Many memories sat on that orange chair.

This is my cousin sitting in the orange chair...he even looks on the orange side.

This is my cousin sitting in the orange chair…he even looks on the orange side.

a chair for always

Posted in connections, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments

SOLS: 2013:8 Leave Your Worries At The Door

sols_6Brightly colored paper chains adorn each doorway of the awesome fourth grade team at Milford School. The swag of chains provide a splash of spring against a backdrop of our recent snowstorm.

It is March. It is the first week of standardized testing in Indiana. ISTEP. Hearts of teachers and students beat a little more anxiously during testing weeks. Teachers have taught well. They have built mathematical, reading, and writing confidence. Students have learned well. But anxiety is still there. It is the unknown. It is the state’s “security measures.” It is the test. Remedy: Leave your worries at the door of the classroom. Students write their worries and anxieties on paper and make paper chains, stress chains. Students walk under the stress chains and are reminded that each of their worries are left behind at the door.

Here are some of the worries from fourth graders left at the door:

Will I get a bad grade?

I’m scared I won’t enough time.

Will I know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide?

I’m nervous I won’t pass.

What if I my eraser runs out and I can’t erase?

I’m scared I’ll forget something.

I’m afraid I won’t come up any ideas for writing.

I’m nervous about reading because I read too fast.

I’ll forget everything.

I might get a wrong answer.

I’m nervous about failing the test.

Pretty big worries for nine and ten year olds. A good lesson for all us and our baggage of  worries…leave them at the door.

Favorite Picture Books About Worrying100th day worrieswemberly


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SOLS: 2013:7 Favorite Hang-Out

sols_6Discovery road trips for me usually involve stops at one of my favorite hang-outs…the buildings that houses books…libraries. Each one is as unique as each of us. The architecture. Some are from the Carnegie era. Some are small as they serve a small rural community but often have materials specific to the area they are located and not found elsewhere.  Some are large as they serve a city and you can get lost wandering through stacks that stand taller than a NBA player. Usually the older libraries have more than one floor that have walls outlined in oak wood. Bannisters that feel smooth from time and that are older than the people who use them.  You can feel the dip in the old slate steps that are worn down from countless book travelers climbing up the stairs. Some are modern with an urban flair. As I enter a library I take a moment to inhale the rich smell of … books. Love that smell. Love the ambience of a library.  A feeling of anticipation begins to build as I walk in. What treasures will I find? Will a  mystery of my family’s past be will be solved? Or will a new mystery be discovered? I open books and gently feel the paper…so many textures. I know, it is weird.  It makes me sad when I read the that books will be obsolete…I already see them in antique shops.  Oh, I know people will read but sometimes it’s difficult to embrace parts of this digital age.

Yesterday this article caught my eye as worry about one of my favorite friends, the library. My first thoughts were of disappointment. The phrase, “Don’t sell out!,” kept circulating in my head but then I thought…survival. Some of these ideas are very unique. What do you think?

One of my favorite among many is: The Library Dragon

Here is a list of books about libraries from Good Reads:

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SOLS: 2013:6 The Beginnings of a Reluctant Writer

Time: 1962

Place: Nora Elementary School

sols_6Mrs. Rayle…my second grade teacher…loved her…all second graders wanted to be in her class. Mrs. Rayle, the teacher that sparked and flamed the love of reading for me. Now I realized I would jump through hoops to gain Mrs. Rayle’s approval and respect. Vivid moments of time from my second grade year are burned upon my being even after fifty years. Closing my eyes I can see the arrangement of student’s desks and Mrs. Rayle’s desk. Surprisingly the desks weren’t in rows. They are in a long U shape. Blackboard in the front. Mrs. Rayle moved my desk five feet in front of the board one day because I just couldn’t see. Trip to the eye doctor and soon had glasses resting on my nose. The SRA kit sat on the shelf under the row of windows that look onto the playground where we joyously played tag, pumped our feet to reach the sky or swung across the monkey bars. SRA was a favorite part of reading time for me because I could work at my own pace. I could choose the story folder I wanted to work on and I was trusted to check my own work and move on when I felt I was ready. Empowered. Close by to the SRA kit was a wood “tree” that held cool-looking fold out paper apples. Each student had an apple with their name written on the leaf. Your apple was placed at the bottom of the tree. Your appleapple “climbed” up the tree when you read a book and recorded the book title and number of pages on a 3 x 5 index card. Mrs. Rayle also required a parent signature on the card. THEN when your apple reached the top of the tree you were awarded a tagboard bookworm handmade by Mrs. Rayle. She would write To: Your Name and Love: Mrs. Rayle. You even picked the color of your bookworm. Imagine my joy when I received my pink bookworm autographed by Mrs. Rayle. Other sweet reading memories from Mrs. Rayle were her read alouds. The Boxcar Children. Do I need to say more? Who as a young child did not fall in love with The Boxcar Children? Second grade was the year that began my love affair with reading that became my life work. All because of the powerful influence of Mrs. Rayle.


My parents owned their own business when I was in second grade…a bar. I lived on the north side of Indianapolis before Interstate 465 circled around the city. My family lived in an area where most fathers were lawyers, financial investors and other white collar careers…not owners of a tavern. Every Sunday my mother, brother and I attended services at our church. Following service we would pile into the car and drive to the south side of the city to clean the tavern. While the grown-ups cleaned my brother and I had a grand time pulling on beer taps at the bar, admiring different bottle shapes full of liquor, and playing the juke box with fingernail-polished coins (my dad would get those coins back when the machine was emptied). Tag and hide-and-seek was taken to a new level with all of the booths, bar stools, kitchen, bar, and beer storage room.

Writing assignment…not a clear memory but the piece of blue-lined primary paper with perfectly formed letters that made words is. The story told of my typical Sunday experience. Two red-inked lines crossed out the correctly spelled word, tavern and the word town was written above the “mistake”.  As a second grader I couldn’t figure out why the word was crossed out. Town didn’t make sense. Tavern was spelled correctly. I knew I had disappointed my beloved teacher but I didn’t know why. The family laughed about it when the paper was passed around to grandparents and aunts and uncles. I didn’t understand what I had done. BUT I do know that I don’t remember any other writing experiences ( excepting for regurgitating facts for an informational text) until I reached college. That is another story.

I know Mrs. Rayle didn’t intent to birth a reluctant writer or silence a writing voice but…we as teachers are a powerful influence that can go one way or another. We can learn from both kind of experiences…I’m a better educator because of both experiences. Asking forgiveness from anyone that I unintentionally pushed backwards.

The Boxcar ChildrenStill a great read after all of these years. There are even graphic novels of the series although I prefer the book. The Boscar Children - Graphic Novel

Posted in childhood memories, Reading, Writing | Tagged , | 11 Comments

SOLS: 2013:5 Winter Dance

sols_6There has been a heavy sprinkling of comments and picture postings on social networks about the snow storm moving through our area. These postings are from disappointed and depressed people that are tired of winter. Beautiful pictures of sailboats against a summer sky with the words, “I Miss Summer” and “Come Sail Away” are filling my FB page. There was even a cursing of Phil the groundhog. By this time of the year I, too,  am weary of gray skies, cold and bare trees. Winter is not my favorite season but one of the things that keeps me sane through the winter is SNOW. Snow makes the world new. White and bright. I’m hungry for spring but I love the falling swirling flakes and the possibility of a school delay or even a cancellation. I smile at the possibility of a delay tomorrow as I look out the window and watch the winter dance. Yet knowing…spring is just around the corner.

Winter is dancing around,

Trees bow down to waltzing partners

adorned with snowflake dresses.

Snow by Cynthia Rylant

Snow by Cynthia Rylant

Who else but Cynthia Rylant can describe snow and all the things one can do on a snowy day? I can see writers using this book as a model for making lists in their writing notebooks. It would also be a great mentor text for writing descriptions in Writing Workshop and making connections in Reading Workshop.

Posted in connections, Reading Focus Lesson, Uncategorized, winter, Writing Focus Lesson, writing notebook | 7 Comments

SOLS:2013:4 Thrill Ride Battle Wound


Time: August 1960

Place: Coney Island, Ohio

Peeking through my bangs in my first grade school picture is a bandage that doesn’t look like it’s hiding any serious injury. But behind the bandage is a battle wound. Before school began I had a row of fairly fresh stitches across my forehead from one of my several bike collisions with our stone bridge. The bridge was a crossing for the meandering creek that ran in our front yard.

For an end of the summer fling, our family visited Coney Island near Cincinnati, Ohio. I was only five, almost 6 and my brother was two. Apparently my father wanted the thrill of a roller coaster ride and the only viable option for a passenger to go along with him…was I. Was there any discussion or did my father just ask me, “Would you like to ride the roller coaster?” Or did I request to ride the roller coaster as we passed by? Or did my dad ask my mother if she would ride with him while I watched my two-year old brother? I can imagine protests from my mother on all the above ideas. I don’t think she much liked roller coasters. I am certain she wasn’t comfortable leaving a two year old with a very shy five year old in the middle of an amusement park.  I wonder what made her give in to my dad? Did I beg to go? And didn’t they have height requirements? The fact is that she caved in to my dad.

The thrill begins……

Before I know it I am at the queue line to ride this towering wooden roller coaster that seemed to reach the sky. It is hurry, hurry to get into our car. The seconds feel like several minutes as we wait for the ride to begin. The car begins to move on the track. Stomach butterflies flutter as the roller coaster click clacks up to the cloudless sky. Head and body are pushed back against the red covering of the seat while white knuckled hands clutch the safety bar. Excitement builds along with a sprinkling of fear, as the car edges closer to the top. I become aware of the thump thump of my heart because the click clacking noise is now silent. I are at the top of the hill. For a few seconds I feel suspended in air. It’s coming! Some people dare to put their hands in the air but I hang on for dear life. The car thunders down. My body jerks from side to side as the car rapidly whips around sharp curves with my hair blowing in the wind. The car travels up another hill and down and around and yet another hill. Tightly I hang on but all of a sudden my head jerks forward and cracks into the safety bar. Ouch….blood drips as my dad realizes that I have broken open the row of stitches in my forehead.  As soon as the car comes to a stop I carefully get out of the car with dad holding my head. You know how head wounds are. We rush to the first aid station that is nearby where they stop the bleeding. Homeward bound. The end of a summer fling trip now cut short. Wonder what the ride home was like between my parents?

I am assuming that it is the following day when we go to our family doctor, Dr. Brown, for damage assessment. This battle wound requires metal clamps to pull the skin together. I do remember that Dr. Brown said I was very brave as she put the clamps in…not a tear. It must not have been too much of a family trauma as we continued to attend fairs and visit amusement parks. On the other hand, I don’t remember riding another roller coaster with my dad. ??? Come to think of it I don’t often do roller coasters…even now.

rollercoaster book 2I’ve used Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee for Reading Workshop Lesson to model making connections. Most kids have all kind of connections to roller coasters or that tingling butterfly feeling in their stomachs! Marla Frazee has other great titles for Making Connections focus lessons: Fast Food and Birthday Presents.

Posted in childhood memories, connections, Marla Frazee, Reading Focus Lesson | Tagged , | 16 Comments

SOLS: 2013:3 Souvenirs

sols_6Stacks of books teetered on the floor. Stacks that needed to be organized. A weekend with no plans. I set the goal to get rid of the several stacks piled on the floor. That would mean dedicated focus on my part.  No stopping to take a peek at the words wrapped inside. The book was in the first stack that I was tackling…sandwiched between other titles; Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read by Diane W. Frankenstein. Uh- oh. I tell myself I’ll just take a small peek as images of reluctant readers danced in my head and the never ending quest to move reluctant readers to reading together book coverbook lovers.  I open a book divided in sections. One section is called “101 Story Pages”. There is a two page spread for each suggested book title. Each two page spread contains these sections: Story Synopsis, World of Ideas (themes and topics), What I Noticed, Quote, Look Closer (a section that contains thoughtful questions), Who, What When, and Why (a section that answers “right there” questions),  Next (a section that list other titles that the reader might enjoy) and Souvenir (a souvenir quote from the book). The word souvenir caught my eye and sparked my imagination. At the end of winter my heart turns toward spring which reminds me of Spring Break which reminds me of vacations which reminds me of … souvenirs! I’m filled of images of different souvenirs I have brought home from various travels…books, t-shirts, mugs, hand-crafted items, shells, post cards, photographs, beach sand, sunburns and yes, even injuries. I take the souvenir idea further…not just about collecting things from a trip. It’s about collecting souvenirs of our life experiences. Isn’t that why I scrapbook? I’m collecting words and images for future generations…souvenirs. Why not use this idea for readers? For a book souvenir Diane Frankenstein has collected a quote from each book she highlights. Readers can collect all kinds of souvenirs from a book…a quote, a word, a memorable character, a setting an artifact…so many souvenir choices for remembering. What a great focus lesson using the souvenir idea to help readers determine importance and synthesize. Often someone will ask me if I’ve read a certain book and I answer, “Yes, but it’s been awhile. I just remember I enjoyed it.” For the past few weeks I’ve tried taking a souvenir from my reading. It causes me to pause and reflect. I’ll have wait to see if it stands the test of time as far as remembering what I have read. I could also “take” a souvenir as a writer. That will be more difficult for me!

I’ve also am trying this idea with readers at school. So far I have found it is a great strategy for readers to reflect on their reading experience. They have to state or write why they chose their “souvenir”.

The Lemon Drop JarThe Lemon Drop Jar will pull at your heart strings as Great Aunt Emma has a souvenir of a lemon drop jar given to her by her mother when she was homesick. Good luck finding this gem. There are a few sellers on Amazon but the price is hefty!

I am still in process of reading Louise Steinman’s adult book, The Souvenir. Louise finds an ammunition box of World War II memorabilia after the deaths of her parents. A Japanese flag is among the letters and medals that leads Louise on a search of the story behind the Japanese flag. the-souvenir-cover

Posted in connections, Determining Importance, Diane Frankenstein, Japan, Reading Focus Lesson, synthesis, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

SOLS 2013:2 The Bathroom Off the Kitchen


Ruth Ayres and I have worked together for several years and have shared countless books. I believe we were both surprised at the discovery that Roxaboxen was a book that we had not talked about even though for years it had been pulling on both of our heart strings. It was special for me because it was one of the first mentor texts that I had used in classrooms to teach how making connections support a reader in making deeper understandings that made you fall in love with a story. Again it became special for me when Ruth and I included it in our recent Writing Workshop trainings. The book inspired me to write intentionally about childhood places and memories. One of my writing goals this month is to write those stories and share them on this blog.  The following is the first one I have completed.             roxaboxen

Time:  1962 – 1967              

Place:  The House at 9401 Kerwood Drive

Room:  The small bathroom off the kitchen


Shelves full of choices. Usually I do a quick calculation in my head to find the most cost effective brand to save a few pennies on the grocery bill…but not for all items. Hershey’s Cocoa is a brand that evokes memories instead of mathematical calculations. Although I’m sure Hershey has changed the label on the tin, it looks to be the same or similar to the tin that my mother bought at the grocery fifty years ago.  The thought of saving a few cents doesn’t matter anymore…as a matter of fact even a dollar or two wouldn’t matter.

On the rare occasions that my father was home and he was in the mood for chocolate fudge…out would come the Hershey Cocoa tin. He would mix together sugar, cocoa, milk, vanilla and butter.  The scent of chocolate and the sound of the spoon stirring against the pan would fill the room.  After what seemed like an eternity my father would holler, “Quick, fill the sink with cold water!”  I would jump up from my favorite reading spot and run to the bathroom off of the kitchen.  Quickly I would turn on the cold-water spigot and fill the sink and step out of the way. Then my dad would run, while madly stirring the chocolate goo, from the stove to the sink. The never stopping stirring was to keep the fudge to turning to sugar when it cooled. The pan would be placed in the sink full of cold water.  He would wildly whip the creamy chocolate round and round in the pan.  At the point when I thought his arm would fall off he would pour the chocolate goo in a buttered pan.  And we would wait…and wait…and wait for the fudge to harden.  “Maybe I didn’t whip it hard enough,” he might mutter under his breath.  My brother and I would not dare make any comments. Not a word.  Eventually my dad would resign to the fact that again this batch of fudge was not going to set up. The chocolate goo would remain…well, goo.  It didn’t matter to us. We just reached into the silverware drawer for a spoon and ladled the Hershey fudge into a bowl. We would then spoon the chocolate sweetness into our mouths.

I reach for the Hershey Cocoa and place it in my shopping cart with a smile.  The memory is worth the price.                      I have discovered why my dad’s fudge never did set. Look at the cooling time. Then you stir! : )  hershey's cocoa

Dear Blog Stalking Husband,

I found a Hershey’s tin on ebay that has the cocoa recipe on the tin. I’m thinking about buying it. Just wanted you to know in case you see a mysterious charge on our statement. : )

Your 2013 March blogging wife

Posted in childhood memories, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

SOLS:1:2013 Waves Along the Shore

sols_6Some words that came out of my mouth today …”sometimes relationships with others is like a wave on the seashore…there is an ebb and flow.” Close and not feeling as close. Ever changing. Sometimes thunderous crashing and churning with words that are full of emotion. Other times gentle lapping with words that are soothing. Sometimes a backdrop of cloudless brilliant blue skies. Happiness shining through. Other times a backdrop of angry gray of an approaching storm. Sadness gathering up ready to overflow.  Different hues of green, blue and gray ocean water that are visible through the ever changing light. Relationships.

The conversation between the ladies of the Literacy Room was focused on daughters. Some young still at home and others grown on their own. Our own relationships present and past with our mothers. Ever changing.

The conversation ended but the connection between relationships and waves continued to  break in my mind…my relationships with my colleagues, my spouse, friends.

Sometimes those waves can knock you down but I know from childhood days spent at the beach you laugh or cry, wipe the spray from your face, and wait confidently to stand again. I also know that there will be other waves that will just gently lap my feet. Ebb and flow. Ever changing. Waves. Relationships.

my-life-with-the-waveMy Life With The Wave is written by Catherine Cowan and illustrated by Mark Buehner. The picture book is based on the story by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz. A great model of personification for readers and writers.

Posted in personification, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments