Thursday, December 31, 2015


2015 is done.  I met some of my goals for this year.
  • I read 14 nonfiction books (my goal was twelve).  Three I recommend are One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Love Does by Bob Goff, and More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger.  
  • In May I finished the Spanish portion of Duolingo.  
  • In September I learned how to can salsa with the help of my sister.  
My hexagon quilt is not does not have much more completed than I had in January.  I could have completed, but like a few of my other quilt projects, it seemed like it was okay to set it aside for a bit.

There are also lots of things that I did that were not on my list of goals.
  • I finished two quilts (click here and here to see them).  I also began another one
  • I read 60 books.  A few of my favorites besides the nonfiction ones I mentioned above include The Rent Collector by Camron Wright, The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate,  As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti, and Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner.
  • My dad and I went on a week long vacation to northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, spending just one day in Michigan.
  • The eighth annual Camp Clair was at my apartment with seven children in attendance.  It was short due to schedules, number of children, and limited space, but we had a good time.
  • In August I returned to the teaching job that I have had since 2002.  It has been good to be back at work, though some days it seems so much busier than other years.  Maybe it is, or I just became accustomed to a less hectic pace while I was studying Spanish.
What did you do in 2015? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Waiting by Kevin Henkes is a book children will enjoy.  Five toys spend the majority of their time waiting at the window for different things-the moon, the snow, the wind, and the rain.  Then one day, a cat is added to the group.  The cat is also waiting, but for something completely different.  Henkes has done a good job creating another picture book for preschoolers and young elementary students.  Even my older students enjoyed the story-it facilitated a discussion on different things that we wait for.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Auggie and Me

If you read Wonder, then I would recommend reading Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio as well.  It is not a sequel to Wonder, but a companion explaining different perspectives of Auggie's first year at Beecher Prep.  Written in first person, Julian, Christopher and Charlotte tell their story in regards to Auggie.  The author wrote it as if you had recently read Wonder, and since I read it over a year ago,  I had forgotten some of the characters.  Labeled a companion book, you would need to read the other book in order to make sense of this one.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

First Snow

First Snow by Peter McCarty is a good picture book to add to a collection of books about snow. Pedro visits his cousin and friends and discovers what it is like to live where there is snow.  Some of McCarty's other characters are in this book-Henry from Henry in Love and Chloe from her self-titled book.  Brief text and great pictures makes this book great for sharing with preschoolers and elementary aged students at the beginning of winter. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Lassie Come-Home

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight is a book I read over the weekend.  Set in England, this book is about the devotion a dog has for it's owner.  Lassie's family sells their dog to a rich neighbor during hard times.  Repeatedly, Lassie escapes so she can meet Joe, her former master, at the end of the school day.  The neighbor is frustrated by this, and decides to move his dog to Scotland.  It seems to be a wise choice, but Lassie is determined to meet Joe at the end of the day as usual.  So she gets away and undertakes a ardous journey to be reunited with the family she loves.  This book would be good for older elementary students who like animals.  If I still taught fourth grade, it would be good for a read aloud for my class.  Now that I have read the book, I am interested to see how the book compares with the television show.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rhoda's Rock Hunt

Rhoda's Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin is a picture book most elementary aged students will enjoy.  Rhoda is hiking through the woods with her aunt and uncle.  She sees so many rocks that she wants to collect, but soon her backpack is way too heavy to carry.  Rhoda has to think of a solution since her aunt and uncle are not going to help carry any.  She decides to make rock art and just keep a handful, which works for everyone involved.  I checked this book out to share with my students to use as an example of problem solving, but I think the story is strong enough to be shared just for fun as well.  It could also be a story to be shared with a unit about the outdoors, camping, and northern Minnesota.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Vincent Paints His House

Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold is a picture book I came across and enjoyed.  Vincent wants to paint his house, but every time he chooses a color, some animal suggests another color.  This repetitive book is great for kindergarten students or children learning English.  There are some elements that would be interesting to older students as well.  Each page shows some more advanced words for the colors such as amber, emerald, olive, and ebony.  The last page shows Vincent's house completed, as well as VanGogh's Starry Night as the background.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

One Thousand Gifts

I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp back in January. 
The first time I picked it up was several years ago and did not make much progress.  In January, with few choices on what to read, someone lent me this book.  So I read the whole think and I am glad.  Voskamp was determined to write down one thousand things that were gifts.  The book does not detail every single one, but she writes about the challenge and growth that came from looking for the blessings in her life.  Sometimes it is more poetry than prose, but I wrote down two quotes to share with you...

"Thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large, and I hunger for it."
"To learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty.  That is a secret worth spending a life learning."

I do not think I am going to reread the whole book this November, but I will reread parts, and continue to work on being thankful. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

free little libraries

I am a fan of the Free Little Libraries that people have put up in their yards.  My sister lives in a neighborhood that is several miles from a public library.  I was going to suggest she put one up in her yard, but someone a five minute walk from her house had already put one in their front yard.  I like it.  They even have a bench to sit on next to it.   
Here is one in my other sister's neighborhood.   She says that maybe she should get one in her yard since it is across the street from several districts bus stop. 

This is the one in my town.  Do you have one in your community?  Have you thought about putting one up? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

book club or quilt club?

This weekend, my book club and I got together to quilt.  One of our members teaches at quilt retreats.  When she suggested that the group spend the weekend at her house for a quilt retreat, everyone thought it was a great idea.  The eight of us  spent Friday evening and Saturday working on our disappearing four patch quilt squares.  I learned a few things about cutting fabric and enjoyed working on this with others around.  It was interesting to see everyone's color choices and how it can make something look so different.  Though I only got seven sewn on Saturday, I was able to spend time on it yesterday at home.  The blocks take a bit more time than I expected, but I do like how they look when completed.  This is now on my list of things I want to finish in 2015.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

scavenger hunt

The other day ten of my family members and I went to a nature park reserve when we had the day off school.  It being a nature park, I planned a scavenger hunt.  The list was not long or complicated and included the following things:
  • something smooth
  • something that looks like the letter l
  • 2 kinds of seeds
  • 5 different types of leaves
  • tree bark
  • something black 
  • a piece of trash
  • a circle rock
  • something rough
  • a stick the length of your foot
  • something alive
  • an acorn
  • a picture of your team
  • a funny shaped stick
In teams of three (one adult and two children), they had twenty minutes to find everything.  When they all returned, we shared our results.  The picture above was from one team, and another team actually found a worm for their living item.  I enjoyed seeing the variety and everyone enjoyed the activity.  Now I am thinking of ways I could incorporate a scavenger hunt into my English classes. 

FYI-the picture is of my farmer brother and my two nieces.

Monday, October 12, 2015

If Rocks Could Sing

If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk is a cleverly done alphabet book.  Over a period of years, McGuirk collected rocks representing each letter of the alphabet.  She also collected other rocks to represent items for each letter.  With these pairs of rocks for each letter, she put them together in a book.  My friend's preschool daughter enjoyed it.  I  read it to my kindergarten and first grade students.  If you like alphabet books, look for this one at the library.  Your children or students will enjoy it. 

Friday, October 9, 2015


I finished this quilt last night.  It is my third attempt at making a quilt with solids.  (You can see the others here and here.)  After I put this one together, I wished that I had just used squares instead of the triangles, but I think the recipients will like it anyway.  Funny that I finished my quilt with Kona solids...this week my sister did the same, you can see the quilt here.  What color scheme would you use in a quilt where the fabric was all solids?    

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rent Collector

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is a novel I finished reading over the weekend.  I do not remember where I first heard about it, but it was definitely worth reading.  Sang Ly lives in a garbage dump in Cambodia with her husband and young son.  Her family is just trying to survive...her husband picks through trash every day in hopes of finding enough of value to sell.  Sang Ly also picks through the trash and one day  finds something  that helps her make an unexpected friend.  The author did a good job of portraying the characters and showing the challenges of people who live at the dump.  This book reminded me that people are not always what they seem on the surface.  It would be a good story to discuss with a friend or a book group. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Last Saturday my sister and I made salsa from some of the tomatoes from the garden.  With my fondness for salsa, it is about time I learned to make my own.  Hopefully there are plenty of tomatoes and enough time each year to make salsa.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Junkyard Wonders

One fun thing about being back at school is being around people who really like children's books.  My colleague lent me The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco to read.  Like many other of Polacco's books, this story is based on an experience from her own life.  Trisha has moved to a new school and is put in a class called the Junkyard.  The class is filled with children who have a difficult time learning.  At first, Trisha is disappointed because the other children in school are not kind to her or her classmates.  Mrs. Peterson works at making a difference in the lives of her students, and they learn and grow together.  This book would be best for older elementary classes.  It would also make a great read for anyone who works at a school.   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

moving on up

It has been a busy week.  I moved to an upstairs apartment in the same building on Wednesday morning before school.  Now I will be able completely unpack and get more settled into my place.  It is also time to look for a couch.
I am moving up at school, too.  This year I am not in a new classroom, but I will be teaching a group of sixth grade language learners.  That will be different from so many years of second and third grade, and even the kindergarten and first grade students who were in my groups two years ago.  Variety in my schedule helps keep things from getting boring and I am looking forward to it.

Monday, August 31, 2015


My sister designed this fabric line called Good Neighbors for Connecting Threads and it is now on sale.  I like it a lot, especially the fabric with flowers...she used some of the orange on a zipper pouch she gave me.
It is kind of crazy where our lives take us.   I remember wanting to be a teacher since I was in elementary school, but I do not think my sister thought at that age she was going to design fabric, or even make a living by quilting, and blogging...well there was not even the Internet at that point.

Monday, August 24, 2015

fabric finds

I finally got a chance to go to S R Harris to look for fabric.  My sister had told me about it, and other quilters had mentioned it as well.  The good thing was the things I had heard about it helped me expect the grand scale of fabric.  Although some say it is not a good place to look for fabric if you have something specific in mind, that was what I was doing.  Five of the six fabrics I hope to use for my hexagon quilt.  Since I am not the shopper some of my friends are, I am glad that I went alone or would have been ready to leave before all of them.  If you have several hours and extra money to spend on fabric, a stop here would be worthwhile. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was not as riveting a read as Lee's first book, To Kill a Mockingbird.  It is more story about Scout, but now she is in her twenties and has returned to Maycomb from New York City for a short vacation.  Atticus, Aunt Alexandra, Calpurnia are there in the book, but Jem and Dill are gone (except in references to the past).  There is a young man Henry, and Atticus' older brother Dr. Finch makes a strong appearance.  It took over a hundred pages to get to the problem in the story with lots of introspection.  It is offensive at times because of the attitude toward African Americans and the use of profanity.  Though I am glad that I read the book, it is not likely that I will read it over and over like I have done with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Have you read it?  What did you think?      

Friday, August 14, 2015

Click, Clack, Peep!

Click, Clack, Peep! by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin is a new book about some well-known characters, Farmer Brown and his animals.  This story has a bit of a different type of story than the others and so I enjoyed it more than the others.  The book begins with no noise from any of the animals because they are waiting for an egg to hatch.  Once the egg hatches, everyone hears peep, peep, peep.  With no stop to this, the animals are forced to leave the barn to get some sleep.  Of course, Farmer Brown cannot sleep either.  In the end, Duck is actually the one who figures out how to get Baby Duck to fall asleep.  If you know of a child who has enjoyed the other books by this author/illustrator team, this new book will probably be a winner with him or her. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

new things in town

I have been spending more and more time here in LP (I moved into an apartment last week), and am discovering the changes that have taken place in my absence.  Earlier in the week I found a Free Little Library.  I think it is the first little library in town but not the first that I have seen.
There is also a new nine hole disc golf course.  I am looking forward to playing through the course sometime soon, though it does not look like it will be easy since there are lots of trees.  Among other new things, the bike path down to the lake has been resurfaced, there is a different pastor at my church, and my walk to work will now be about ten minutes instead of five.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Herman's Letter

Herman's Letter by Tom Percival is a book that most children would enjoy.  Herman and Henry are very good friends.  Henry moves far away, but is determined to keep in touch with Herman by mail.  With lift the flap letters, it is a story about change and friendship that will engage any age student and many adults.  I look forward to see what else Percival creates in the future. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

northern Minnesota

Northern Minnesota seems a lot different than central Minnesota.  There is so much more water.  There are lots of trees and BIG rocks as well.   Here is a view of Kabetogama Lake.  Most of the lake is in Voyageurs National Park. 
Below is the High Falls on Baptism River in Tettegouche State Park. 
No pictures of Lake Superior yet, but a few views.  I have only been up to this part of Minnesota a few times, but it is a good place to visit from time to time.  Maybe next time I will have to come in the  winter, to have a mosquito free experience and enjoy some outdoor winter activities.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Playing Lotería

Playing Lotería by René Colato Laínez and illustrated by Jill Arena is one of the books that I ran across at the library when looking for things to read in Spanish.  It is a bilingual book that tells about a boy who doesn't know much Spanish.  He goes to spend time with his grandmother who speaks only Spanish.  His grandmother helps him learn Spanish while playing lotería.  In exchange, the boy teaches his grandmother some English.  I enjoyed the story and illustrations and want to use it as a read aloud for my classes in the upcoming year.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

enjoying summer in Minnesota

Summer is a great time to be back in Minnesota.  It sure is nice to be somewhere with lots of outdoor space. I can go on a walk or a bike ride and hardly see anything except fields, trees, farms, and (in the evenings), deer crossing the field and road to hide in the woods.

I have also been tending the garden...the black beans that I planted look good.
So do the beets, though my brother is not sure why I planted them.  I told them that he does not have to eat them.

I have also been reading, cooking, cleaning, and spending time with family and friends.  The other day when I was at my brother's house, my niece and I just spent time watching the kittens play.  It has been a long time since I spent summer time doing that, and I had forgotten how entertaining it can be. 
After working so hard at learning Spanish, I have also been spending ten hours every week trying to maintain my language skills.  I read, write, review my Spanish notes, and use the Duolingo app to keep up.  Hopefully soon I will find a few people to practice my conversational skills.  What have you been doing this summer?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is a book I have been waiting awhile to read, and I was not disappointed.  This is Meissner's newest novel, and again she links something from history to the present day.  Kendra is a history student who interviews Isabel about her life.  Isabel was a teenage girl during the Second World War in England.  I had read much about England during the war, but reading the story made me think more about how much lives changed drastically with the evacuation of children from London.  If you like reading historical novels, this would be a good one to pick up. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Library Book for Bear

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton is a great book to read to your children or students.  It is for preschoolers to eight or nine year olds.  Bear has agreed to go with Mouse to the library.  When the day comes, Bear wonders why he would need to go to the library because he already has all the books that he needs.  Of course, Bear changes by the end of the story, finding out that there are good things about the library.  If your child likes bears, books, or libraries, this book would be a good one to look for.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

green and spacious

After being away from Minnesota for so long, I noticed when I got back how green everything appears.  It is also nice to not be surrounded by buildings, concrete, and people.  Staying in a city for nine months has made me appreciate even more life in a rural area. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

the end

Today is my last day in Mexico and my school year abroad.  The experience of learning Spanish and living in another country has been an educational adventure.  I am glad that I had the opportunity, but I am looking forward to several things- cooking, being out of a city, and spending time with family and friends.  It is going to be good to be back where I belong.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

one goal met

This week I reached one of my goals for 2015, which was to finish the Spanish portion of Duolingo.  If you have studied a language in the past and want to review, this website and app are worth looking at.  I have been recommending it to my friends here who want to improve their Spanish.  One thing I am glad to note is that although I finished all the levels, there are still opportunities to practice.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

ordinary things

It is getting close to the end of my time here, and one of my friends recommended that I take pictures of the ordinary later I will be glad I did.  These pictures should give you a better idea of what Guanajuato is like.
 A view of the city after I leave my house in the morning.
A street I walk each day to get to the center of the city.
Another view of the city near my language school.
A callejon with many steps which I walk up and down to get to where I am living.  When I return to Minnesoa, any hill is going to seem like nothing compared to where I have been walking for the past three months. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fahrenheit 451

I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury this week.  The story is set in an unidentified city of the United States where owning books is banned.  Firefighters have a different role in this futuristic novel.  Their job is to burn books, and generally the home where the books are found.  Guy, the main character, is a firefighter who realizes the value of books.   His life changes quickly and drastically in ways he could not have imagined.   Although this book was written over sixty years ago, there are some things that remind me of how influential mass media is in our culutre.  The book is worth reading even if you generally do not read much literature.  It would also be a good choice for a book club.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don Quixote

I am done reading Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.  It was not on my list of books I need to read someday, but after I arrived here in Guanajuato visited the museum about the classic story it seemed like a good idea.  There is a Cervantes library here with lots of copies of the many languages including English.  So reading the book became a goal, which I completed yesterday.  This version is long-940 pages-but the newest English translation in the library here.  It took a long time (over 16 hours), and I do not think I would have persevered in reading it if I had been in the States.  I wanted to know why it is so famous, and am not sure I know.  Don Quixote is the main character, and his companion in his exploits is Sancho Panza.  Anyone reading it would quickly come to the conclusion that the two of them are obviously crazy.  There adventures are at times entertaining, and there are stories within the story.  But parts of the book are just plain long-Quixote is fond of talking a lot, much of it lunacy.  Thankfully, once part 2 started, it seemed to get better, and move along more quickly.  Maybe because of the length of the book, or being distracted by reading such a long book, sometimes I could not keep all the characters straight.  Have you read the book?  It might be worth reading, but sometime when you have lots of extra time and are feeling diligent.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Saturday I went to an outdoor swimming park.  I was not planning on it.  My Mexican friend invited me to go to Balneario de Comanjilla via e-mail.  I asked her (also by e-mail) where it was, and she replied that it was before the exit to León.  Since I had never been there, I wanted to go.  I thought that it would be a good opportunity to see another community in Mexico.  On Saturday I met her at the central bus station as planned.  I had some money, water bottle, and my camera.  When she got there, she asked if I had my things for swimming.  I explained that I did not know that we were going swimming.  She said she had told me. And she had, in a roundabout way, since balneario indicates it is a place where there are pools. The funny thing is that the day before I had told several other Mexican friends where I was going.  None of them mentioned to me or referred to the reason people go to this place.  I thought about going home, but my friend said she had brought extra swimsuits.  It turns out that there was a whole group from church going, we spent the day at the place and everyone had brought food to share.  Thankfully, they were more than willing to share their food as well as an extra towel and sunscreen.
It turns out to be something to laugh about, but also a good lesson.  My Spanish speaking friends thought I would know what the place would be since I know a fair amount of Spanish.  I never asked what was at Balneario de Comanjilla or if I needed to bring anything special.  I need to remember to ask for more details, and I think my friend will remember to be more specific.  The good thing about this lesson is was funny instead of difficult, like some lessons tend to be.  

Friday, April 24, 2015


 The last couple weeks I have been keeping busy with several different things.  I started an art class.  Above is my first complete drawing.  If you look closely, the dog part of the picture was inspired by a page in one of my favorite books for children...Dog Loves Books.  Itis good to be learning and practicing my Spanish while (hopefully) improving my drawing skills.
I have also been trying to use my time well in studying Spanish.  I finally made some flashcards for vocabulary.  Learning grammar was very helpful at the beginning of my studies, now I spend a lot of time talking with others, reading, and learning new words.  It is easy to see that I have learned plenty since August.  Now that time is getting shorter for my studies, I am more devoted to utilizing the opportunity I have here. 
The last thing that has been taking up my time is reading Don Quixote.  There is an English copy in the library which I cannot check out, so have been spendt a fair amount of time reading there.  Progress is slow, but I may be able to finish it by the end of next week.