Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monthly Photo Project: Guilty Pleasures

I was very excited about this month's theme when my friend and fellow photographer suggested it.  Plenty of ideas came to mind (lots of notes in my notebook) and I thought that I would have plenty of photos to showcase.  Well, I don't.  I struggled with this challenge a lot and discovered that bringing my photo ideas to fruition was quite difficult.  What I learned in this challenge is that I love available light and only have the gear to take pics in that kind of light (though I now have a photographic gift list started which includes things like a flash, a product lightbox and a new macro lens just ordered one on sale at  I had to scrap some of my initial ideas and reconceptualize my pictures (and again, and again).   However, I now have loads of ideas to try out in the future.  Oh, and a larger waistline (not shown are bags of potato chips and cartons of Rolo ice cream).  Thanks, DJ, for this challenge! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Freaky Friday

The day's plan was simple enough: at 10:30 AM, leave work, get JK from daycare, pack the family into the car, go home and switch out school gear (laptops, marking, books, backpacks) to town gear (library book returns, cooler for groceries, grocery bags, Salvation Army box, water jug) and leave for town to make a 12:50 PM dentist appointment for the whole family. The execution of the plan: not so great. Start the car. Ummmm, the car won't start. Try again. Starter turns over, but that's it. Take anxious daughter back inside school, tell my spouse, try to get help from fellow staff members and colleagues. No solutions. My spouse calls the dentist to let him know we might be late. No problem, she's told. Try car again. Still nothing. Helpful staff suggest gas anti-freeze, a new fuel pump or call a tow-truck. Try car again. Nothing. My spouse calls CAA. Guess what? Our membership doesn't cover having a tow-truck drive 100 kilometres (one way) to come and get our car (the cost to have this done was quite expensive). Can we upgrade our account? Yes, but it will take 48 hours. Can we wait two days for a tow-truck? I suppose. My spouse calls the dentist, cancels appointment. No problem, again says the dentist (in TO we would have had to pay for cancelling our appointment - love small town attitudes. Of course your car won't start. It's freaking -20 degrees with another -10 degree windchill with blowing, drifting snow. Totally understandable). Go outside once more. Try car. It starts. Finally! Hurry back inside, tell spouse. EK cancels tow-truck, calls dentist to say we are coming in(it's now 11:30 AM, can we make it?). Dentist says to not bother, appointment times have already been filled. How about in two weeks (another Pay Day Friday)? No problem. There was no point in going back to our classrooms to teach (there were 20 minutes left in the school day), so we headed out to town anyway to do our grocery, library and banking errands (FK opened her own bank account today).

So, lost my two hour "medical" time, looked a little foolish in front of other staff members (though they were very gracious, even offering their own vehicles), and to top it all off, got a parking ticket in town. Sigh.

Oddly enough, no panic, no angry frustration, no freaking out. In fact, calm, cool and collected. That was me yesterday morning. I would not have reacted the same way five years ago. Is it possible that I have matured over the past few years?

The evening was much better. After the Sprouts were tucked away in bed, my spouse and I curled up on the couch and had a "Mentalist" and "Project Runway" viewing marathon. Got to love a long weekend so you can stay up late and sleep in the next day (or at the very least, stay in your jammies and type out blog posts).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wordle Wonder

Today I introduced my students to wordles ("word clouds").  When they came in from morning recess, my students saw a powerpoint slide that read "What is a wordle?"  Interesting answers were given, mostly of the humourous sort.  The next slide explained what wordles were and how they originated. Then I showed the next slide, which was a wordle created from one of the student's stories.  There was a collective intake of breath, and then, "Oh, that's sooo coooool!"  "Who wrote the story?", I asked.  "Alexis!", they exclaimed. (it was a creative story about The Great Marshmallow, which the students recognized right away).  I told them that today they were going to create wordles of their own.  Excitement ensued (the feeling of electricity was palpable).  The previous day they wrote down thirty or so words that described themselves, including characteristics, favourite things, physical descriptions, and so on.  These words were for inserting into the wordle generator, found at  Students who didn't finish their thirty word descriptions frantically completed their assignment.  "Mr. K!  Come here!  What words would you use to describe me?"  To those students I suggested they work with a classmate (I don't like directing writing if I can help it as I want students to come up with their own ideas or collaborate with a partner).  Some students grabbed thesauruses and later even looked online in the computer lab at dictionaries and thesauruses.  After I showed them how to use to greatest advantage (colour schemes, layouts, fonts, etc.), we proceeded to the computer lab where, for forty-five minutes, my students were totally and actively engaged in the assignment.  I haven't had as many of these actively engaged moments as last year teaching the same class (two years with the same group is difficult for both teacher and students).  Those forty five minutes are ones which I will hold on to as a reminder of the good things about teaching when the "no-so-good moments" rear their ugly heads.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


On the way into town we saw this scene, so I made a mental note to stop and take a few pics on the way out of town when there was more light.  I wonder how the operator of the crane felt when this happened?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Snuggled Up

From the photo below, you might assume that the Sprouts were curled up at bedtime reading stories.  Well, this pic was taken this morning, before the normal "get up and get ready for school time".  Usually, it takes a lot of prompting and cajoling to get the Sprouts out of bed (during the week - on the weekends the Sprouts are up far too early for parents who want to sleep in).  Today, however, they were already awake and snuggled in FK's bed reading stories.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Doodles and Darth Vader

By the time you read this post, you will have missed Google's latest interactive logo celebrating Jules Verne's 183rd birthday.  It's a small thing to point out, but during a week of preparation for a teaching evaluation on Friday, it makes you stop your frantic business, smile and take a moment to breathe (especially if you imagine you are in a submarine a la Jules Verne).  I was curious about the logo and googled (naturally) to discover that the specially designed logos are called doodles and that they have quite the history.  Kudos to the designers who can make millions of people smile, even if for a brief moment.

I didn't watch the Super Bowl and missed the much touted adverts, but they were up within minutes on the web.  My favourite is the Volkswagen spot with a pint sized Darth Vader.  My spouse and I both laughed (with a hint of parental tears) when we saw the ending.   

Monday, February 7, 2011


I've been called a few different names as a teacher, but I had a first today. I was called kookum (Ojibway for grandmother), by a grade seven student, no less.  It was a smile and move on moment.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stan Eagerly Awaits Spring

Snow Wash

No Frills Heaven

Our grocery shopping run into Ktown usually involves two or three places to pick up groceries.  The cheapest and first stop is Walmart for milk, boxed and jarred goods, some frozen items and bread.  Then we head to Wholesale for whatever Walmart didn't have in stock, fresh veggies and fruit and meats.  Then, we would head either to Extra Foods or Safeway (the most expensive!) for whatever else was left on the grocery list not found in the first two grocery stores.  To be honest, shopping this way takes the fun out of cooking.  I had always wished that Ktown would get one grocery store that carried everything we needed at reasonable prices.  And that carried flat-leaf Italian parsley (a staple in a lot of my home cooking).  Apparently the palates here in Northern Ontario like curly parsley, but not flat leaf parsley (as I've been told by a number of produce managers over the few years we've been here).  In TO, we could walk (!) to the nearest Food Basics and buy whatever we needed for meals, including flat leaf parsley.  And the variety of fruits and vegetables, wow! 

Then, this weekend, I walked into heaven.  The Extra Foods grocery store had recently been converted into a No Frills store.  Now, you might think that a No Frills store seems to be a low end grocery store, but, compared to where we have had to get our groceries (aside from the extrememly overpriced Safeway), it's not.  In fact, it felt like stepping into a TO grocery store for the first time in three years.  It's brightly lit, well stocked, reasonably priced, carries a multitude of products, and get this: I was able to buy FLAT LEAF PARSLEY for the first time in three years.  So, no more driving all over Ktown for groceries (which the family hated).  We now have a one stop shop.  That means more time for the library, hanging out at the parks, and Tim Horton's, and...