Category Archives: Little things

Simple pleasures

It’s been cool for a couple of weeks, so I think it’s safe at this point to say that summer is more or less over. I’m no fan of winter, but with the changing of the seasons, three small pleasures return:

1. It’s been cool enough for us to resume our tradition of taking Song and Riggy to the dog park on Sunday afternoons. After being cooped up in the house all summer, they’re really enjoying the change to get out and romp with the other dogs.

2. It’s cool enough for cappuccino in the evenings. I bought a new burr grinder several months ago but never put it to use because the weather was so hot, I just didn’t feel like messing with it. I cleared off a counter and set it up tonight. I didn’t have any good espresso on hand, but I rummaged around in the cabinets and found a bag of decaf house blend I’d picked up in Makanda last time I was home. It was stale, but I put it through the grinder anyway. Stale or not, Makanda Java tastes like home, and for me, cappuccino is always a multisensory experience anyway — one that exists in both the past and present tenses simultaneously. Depending on my mood, the time of year, and my surroundings, a cappuccino can conjure a skipped class, an icy morning in Carbondale, a laugh with a friend, a 20-year-old conversation about politics, a Gus Bode cartoon, a novel I never got around to writing, a text from a friend at a moment of crisis, a date in St. Louis’ Central West End, or any of a thousand other scraps of memory scrawled on paper napkins or scribbled on receipts and bank deposit slips and dropped down the rabbit-holes at the bottoms of purses that no longer exist, where they slipped through singularities and vanished, waiting to surface again at odd moments when the first shock of hot, bitter coffee penetrates the gentleness of foam and carries me into the past at the very moment I’m savoring the present.

Even bad coffee is usually a good experience.

3. Hoodie season is upon us. I didn’t really appreciate hoodies until I wore one to ward off the chill of San Francisco this spring and realized the cool suited me fine if it came with Beat poetry, an ocean breeze, and breakfast in a little coffeehouse two or three blocks from the Pacific. San Francisco is a long way from Oklahoma, but somehow it feels closer when I’m snuggled into a warm hoodie under a cool rain.

Hope you’re enjoying your evening, wherever you are.

Glorious day

I have very little to report at the moment, aside from the fact that Songdog and Riggy had an absolutely wonderful time running around at the dog park today, and I am more or less caught up on the things I needed to do this weekend. I have a couple of math lessons to plan and a handful of papers to grade, but those can wait until tomorrow. It’s looking increasingly likely that I might actually get to curl up in a comfortable chair and enjoy a nice stress-free Sunday evening at a coffeehouse.

Life is good.

Emily

Daybook for Sept. 19

Haven’t done one of these in a long time:

For today…

Outside my window… summer quietly giving way to autumn on a cool September evening.
I am thinking… about baseball and an old Paul Simon song and the cobalt shade of the sky this morning as I was walking across campus.
From the classroom… stress, anticipation, and an unexpected reunion with an old, old friend.
I am thankful for… two decades spent chasing stories.
From the kitchen… nothing tonight, but I’m thinking about chili tomorrow.
I am wearing… khakis and a Route 66 tiki shirt because I was too busy to change into jeans after school.
I am reading… The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman.
I am hoping… tomorrow’s journalism lesson goes well.
I am creating… a newsroom.
I am praying… to express the “unlabored motion of the divine energy” and the “vigor, freshness, and promise” of youth that carried me through the demands of a senior year that included projects very similar to those I have undertaken lately.
Around the house… a random assortment of small objects meant to remind me of New Mexico.
One of my favorite things… watching the dogs leap into the air to take the cookies Ron holds up for them.
few plans for the rest of the week… grading, planning, editing, and maybe an hour or two in a comfortable chair tucked into the corner of a coffeehouse somewhere.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

We watched this little bee work the sunflowers along 66 west of Glenrio during our trip to New Mexico a couple of weeks ago.

Emily

One of the perks

There are down sides to being a teacher in a public school, the three main ones being — to borrow a line from the late Warren Zevon — lawyers, guns, and money. If legal requirements aren’t tying your hands in one direction, security policies are tying your hands in another … and don’t even get me started on funding issues.

Throw in self-serving political maneuvering by people who have never set foot in a public-school classroom for anything more than a carefully scripted photo op; standardized test scores and all the attendant pressure and paranoia surrounding them; and the endless (and moronic) scapegoating of mythical “bad teachers” who are supposedly to blame for everything that’s wrong with public education, and … well, it’s almost enough to make a girl wonder why she ever let a certain smooth-talking little smartass coax her back into the profession in the first place.

Almost.

And then the girl in question runs across a student project from last semester that reminds her of exactly why she let said smartass talk her into said profession:

 

Precocious teenagers can’t fix everything, but their off-kilter sense of humor definitely makes the down side of working in the public sector easier to stomach.

Emily

Busy weekend

Wow. What a weekend. Since Thursday night, I have recorded myself reading seven children’s books for the munchkins in my family; made two batches of truffles; taken photographs all over Tulsa; gone to the Blue Whale twice (once so Ron could photograph Santa’s arrival for his blog, and once to deliver some Blue Whale Christmas cards for the volunteers to sell as a fundraiser); glued a miniature plastic sushi playset to my dashboard; built a shelf to hold a planter on my kitchen windowsill so I can grow culinary herbs above the sink; painted a lawn gnome in psychedelic colors; gone shopping at Grumpy’s Garden; designed a set of erasable number lines for my Algebra I kids to use for graphing inequalities; and designed a set of robot-shaped mini-chalkboards for the kids to use for showing me the answers to in-class problems.

Here’s my awesome dashboard:

If I hadn’t stuck that rose rock to the dashboard, it probably would have become part of an assemblage involving a sheela-na-gig.

Shiny objects — yay! The stars glow in the dark, in case you were wondering.

The usual suspects. Please note the tiny plastic chopsticks in the Pizza Planet alien’s left hand.

Wider shot of the usual suspects.

The left side of the dashboard. The Care Bear and shiny stone came from geocaches. The roadrunner is from Tee Pee Curios in Tucumcari, and the gecko is from Kix on 66 in Tucumcari.

The lizard came from a geocache. The roadrunner came from Seaba Station. The frog came from the dollar store.

The little Lego robot was lying on the ground on the patio at Coach’s — the restaurant that overlooks the field where the Redhawks play in OKC — while Ron and I were watching Ryne Sandberg throw batting practice for the I-Cubs last summer. He gets more sushi than the rattlesnake because he has sentimental value.

TravelOK is selling charms to promote Oklahoma tourist attractions — including the Blue Whale, which of course I had to have.

How awesome is it that the miniature sushi playset came with both a set of miniature plastic chopsticks and a miniature spork?

Hope your weekend was as fun and productive as mine.

Emily

Daybook for Nov. 12

For today…

Outside my window… a cold, damp evening.
I am thinking… that an eighth-hour student’s decision to read the role of Creon in a hillbilly accent actually made Antigone more accessible and understandable for his classmates. That probably shouldn’t have surprised me, considering I once hooked a group of sophomores on mythology by retelling the myth of Cupid and Psyche in a North St. Louis accent. (Note to self: Insist on funny accents when we read Hamlet.)
From the classroom… a few algebra papers to grade and a few lesson plans to write.
I am thankful for… a few quiet moments to enjoy Cristofori’s Dream on a rainy afternoon while my kids worked on an assignment.
From the kitchen… Irish soda bread.
I am wearing… a school shirt, jeans, and Crocs.
I am reading… Ryne Sandberg’s autobiography. It’s woefully out of date and not terribly revealing, but the parts where he goes into detail about how he plays — e.g., the mechanics of his swing or the difference half an inch and a couple of ounces will make in the way a bat performs — are great. He really ought to do an instructional book for kids who are just learning the game.
I am hoping… our scholar bowl team does well at regionals tomorrow.
I am creating… lesson plans. Always lesson plans.
I am praying… to know that my kids are perfect expressions of divine intelligence, even if they do act goofy sometimes.
Around the house… the smell of freshly baked bread.
One of my favorite things… getting to work with a few minutes to spare on a cool, drizzly morning.
A few plans for the rest of the week… tournament, church, dog park, and maybe some watercolor painting if time allows.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

Irish soda bread is such a lovely snack on a fall evening.

Emily

Springtime in Red Fork

This is what our deck looked like a few days ago:

In case you are wondering, wisteria smells heavenly. For a few glorious days, our deck was an utterly gorgeous place to be. (The bumblebees thought so, too, and were rather assertive about guarding the blossoms.)

A closer look at one of the blossoms. They look and smell a lot like the royal paulownias that were blooming all over southern California when we were there last June.

I discovered this little guy in a hanging basket that’s been enveloped in wisteria vines. One of his siblings didn’t make it — I found it on the ground — but Ron found another one the deck a little while later and put it back into the nest. I’d been concerned that the nest was abandoned, but Ron said the mama bird sat nearby, giving him the skunk-eye and yelling at him, when she saw him pick up her baby.

Our front flowerbed was a sea of purple when the grape hyacinths and violas started blooming at the same time. This was a few days ago. The hyacinths have since faded, but the violas are blooming even more profusely now and have been joined by native violets. My great-grandmother would be proud. Purple was her favorite color.

Speaking of purple, here’s an extreme close-up of one of the chive blossoms. I just have them in a smallish container on the deck. They don’t seem to mind; they’ve come back two years in a row.

We planted tomatoes yesterday evening. We bought only seven plants this year — less than half our usual number — but I’m hoping for a record harvest anyway, as we are really babying these plants: The raised beds are full of horse manure and barn litter, and we bought some red plastic mulch to lock in moisture and stimulate growth. I’ll probably treat them with seaweed tea before it’s over, too. Tomatoes love seaweed tea.

I love rugosas. They’re tougher and less temperamental than regular roses, they smell absolutely wonderful, and they produce intensely flavored hips as big around as quarters — wonderful for making Red Zinger tea. (Speaking of which, I need to get some hibiscus and lemongrass for the corner flowerbed in the front yard.)

A closer look at a rugosa blossom.

Last but certainly not least, here’s the bee yard. We planted buckwheat in the garden next year to give the girls a convenient nectar source (and hopefully produce darker, richer honey).

A closer look at the bee yard. The hive in the middle is in its third or fourth year (I’ve lost track) and is populated with golden Italians. The hive on the right is in its second year and is occupied by a colony of feisty Buckfasts. The hive on the left houses a brand-new Buckfast colony.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this already, but we have a new chicken. A couple of weeks ago, we bought a buff Orpington rooster from a lady in Beggs. We named him Bond, of course. He’s very pretty and has fairly decent manners — not too loud, and not inclined to crow at night. Guess we’ll keep him around for a while.

Hope your spring is as pretty and productive as ours….

Emily

Monday

I finally got caught up on some of my projects this weekend. New ones are already starting to collect on my to-do list. It’s maddening.

When I worked at the paper, I used to take a couple of minutes out of deadline day to watch this little cartoon. It always helped. I’d nearly forgotten about it until this evening, when I was looking over the list of things I’d accomplished today and thinking about what I had on my plate for tomorrow. I stuck it on my bookmarks bar so I won’t forget it again. As we head into March, every day is starting to feel like 5 p.m. on a Thursday at 81st and Harvard, circa 2006.

Take a peek at the cartoon. Turn up your speakers a little bit so you can hear the ominous Psycho-inspired violins in the middle and the little people singing near the end. (Their little voices are so ridiculous that they crack Ron up every time he hears them.) It’s a good way to start your Monday.

Emily

Green men and groceries

Today was a good day — busy but fun, with a cappuccino and some cheese grits for breakfast; a ride in Gretchen; trips to the feed store, the hardware store, and an awesome new grocery store; a hive inspection that revealed a colony of happy, healthy, and intoxicatingly fragrant* bees; a pizza; a little garden work (I found some dried-up loofah gourds on a long-forgotten vine in the backyard and spent a few minutes peeling them and getting them ready for a good soak in bleachwater before I use them); a new Grateful Dead bumper sticker from Peace Frogs; a stroll through Southwood Nursery, where I picked up the irreverent Green Man you see above; a stop at Tie-Dyes of Tulsa to pick up a dress Kelly had custom-dyed for me; and two bowls of stir-fry from Genghis Grill.

Hope your Saturday was as full of fun as mine.

Emily

* You can tell a lot about the condition of a honeybee colony by its smell. If it smells off, something is probably amiss. If it smells good, all is well. This hive smelled wonderful — like beeswax and honey, of course, but with a distinctly botanical note, like freshly cut grass mixed with lemon blossoms or something. Heavenly.