. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

A clown, a cat, and a barfing pumpkin!

I think I'm all partied out! This morning started with a 2nd grade Halloween Extravaganza performance followed by a party. Then after lunch I had to hit all of the 5th and 6th grade classrooms to see everyone's costumes. Of course, I had to sample the treats that were brought: caramel apples, cupcakes, pizza, donuts, and Pop Rocks.  I did pass up the pickles and flan.  Anyway, it was a great Halloween day around the school and the kids were in great spirits (and some were literal spirits!).  

Tonight I hope to watch the Halloween classic:  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown after all the trick-or-treaters come to the house.  Hope your Halloween is spooky and scary and that you have leftover candy to enjoy!

11/1/08 Edit:  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is always enjoyable even after all these years.  I just love Snoopy and the way Linus is oblivious to Sally's admiration always gives me a chuckle.  A true classic!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Get Out the Vote"

I read this extremely touching post in a friend's Journal today.  She writes about volunteering with Obama's campaign and her first time canvassing the neighborhood and talking to people about voting.  She had a list in hand and a serious duty to perform.  I admire her for it since I know I could never get out and do some "door knocking" to talk politics with voters, even if they were Obama supporters.  

She included a story that made me think about how ground-breaking this vote will be.  In the primaries, we had our first African-American and our first woman running for president.  For me and my generation, this is nothing really to think over.  It seems natural for us who have grown up in a world mixed all up and with opportunities offered for everyone regardless of sex or color.

But for our older generations, this is still a problem in some cases.  Some people refuse to vote for a person of color or for the "lesser sex".  In the journal article, my friend writes that she encountered a man who told her, “I’ll be voting for McCain,” he said, “and my wife won’t be voting.”  Can you imagine that?  It breaks my heart.  She follows the story with another one of a woman from the older generation who gives hope to the campaign:

Hillary Clinton was her first choice so she did not mind telling you that she had her doubts about the new fellow. Funny name Barack Obama …who names a child something like that? She was disappointed when he won. Like many women of a certain age, she was thrilled by the notion of seeing a female elected president in her lifetime. Hillary’s defeat hurt her heart, but Libba was not one to hold a grudge and then her children thought the world of the fellow and that meant something. She decided she would hear him out.

When the Democratic Convention aired on television she sat up in her bed and watched night after night. What she saw moved her in ways she had not anticipated. It was quite a sight … 100,000 Americans of every age race and creed gathered together for that great crazy spectacle of American democracy. Libba had seen her share of history in the making but this felt personal. This was the America she had always believed in and had worked so hard to bring about.

Michelle Obama was as smart as she was lovely and the little girls adorable and perfectly mannered. This spoke well for Obama, must be a feminist to have a family like that. The speeches were all great and the moment that Hillary handed over her delegates was so thrilling that Libba forgot to be sad about it. Joe Biden is everything she loves about a Democrat, scrappy and earnest and a little bit unpredictable, not a lock-stepper … “good choice” she thought. Then, the new fellow Obama appeared at last before a hushed audience under the dark Denver sky. . She studied the crowd which was pin-drop quiet as he spoke of the challenges we face. She felt for the broad shouldered black men, whose eyes were wet with pride and smiled at the little old white ladies, their hands folded as if in prayer. She worried for the young people with the tattoos and the piercings, so hard looking until you peered into their wide innocent eyes.

Mr. Obama’s words fell around them as thoughtful as they were heated as grounded as they were inspiring … he seemed honest, a rare thing in a politician, but there was something more … something she could not put her finger on. Then it hit her and she filled with feeling. “He is the future plain and simple” she thought and Libba understood that she would soon be the past. She would not live to see the first African American sworn into office, but he would win and by God she would have her say in the matter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

WebExhibits Presents Daylight Savings Time Nodes

I found this really cool web site called "WebExhibits" about Daylight Savings when I was looking at a Geology News blog.

Did you know one reason for extending Daylight Savings to the 1st of November was because of Trick-or-Treating children?

Safer trick-or-treaters
Through 2006, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. ended a few days before Halloween -- October 31. Children's pedestrian deaths are four times higher on Halloween than on any other night of the year. A new law to extend DST to the first Sunday in November took effect in 2007, with the purpose of providing trick-or-treaters more light and therefore more safety from traffic accidents. For decades, candy manufacturers lobbied for a Daylight Saving Time extension to Halloween, as many of the young trick-or-treaters gathering candy are not allowed out after dark, and thus an added hour of light means a big holiday treat for the candy industry. Anecdotally, the 2007 switch may not have had much effect, as it appeared that children simply waited until dark to go trick-or-treating. 
The web site has a lot of really neat tidbits about calendars, poetry, and art that they present in a "Node" format or as text.  They advertise themselves as "An Interactive Museum".  There is a link to older exhibits also.

Here's another interesting fact about DST:  Severity of auto accidentsThere is evidence that the severity of auto accidents increases as people adjust to the time change. 

"What is That Green Goop?!!!"

Well, it is a delicious creation made from an October 2000 Southern Living magazine recipe posted on myrecipes.com that was sent to me by my sister last week.  That "green goop" is called Cream of Cilantro Soup.  

My sister remembered that I had raved about a bowl of Cream of Cilantro Soup that I had over 14 years ago at a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico.  When she saw the recipe on the website, she thought of me and sent it to me for me to try.

Now I'm not one to really go out of my way to make something new.  I tend to stick to my tried-and-true recipes and like the comfort of cooking what I already know how to cook. But this looked too good to pass up and so I wrote out the ingredients I'd need and went shopping.  (The last two times I tried something new was when I cooked my sister's "Black Bean Soup" and "Bleu Cheese Potato Salad" recipes--she's a good influence on me!).

I did do a couple of things differently when I made the soup yesterday:
  1. Made a double batch
  2. Used light cream cheese instead of fat-free cream cheese
  3. Forgot to save some sour cream and cilantro sprigs for garnishing
Now was the soup as good as the one from Cozumel?  No.  But it was really good in its own right.  Cozumel's soup had a more subtle flavor and was not spicy.  The Southern Living recipe had a robust flavor and a "kick" to it because of the bit of ground red pepper and cumin.  So if you don't like a touch of spice, leave those out.  I think that the Cozumel recipe probably used real cream instead of cream cheese since it did not have the flavor of cream cheese in the background like the SL recipe.  Probably because they weren't trying to make a healthy version for the tourists!

So if you like cilantro, this is a recipe to try.  And a double batch probably wasn't necessary.  It made more than it looked like it was going to make.  But it will get eaten!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Since it's Tuesday.....

My sister has this on her website, a link to Should be Reading's Teaser Tuesdays.  Here's the directions:

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

  • Here's mine......

    "Again we were not alone, and again I was miserably disappointed that this was the case.  Three men and one woman -- the salt-and-pepper braid -- were filling buckets with water from the smallest stream."

    This is from page 234 of Stephenie Meyer's adult novel, "The Host".  Not all that grabbing, mind you, but makes you wonder who the character is with.

    I've only gotten through the first 5 chapters since I started the book last night.  It has really been captivating and I can't wait to read more but I just get so tired at night that I can't keep my eyes open long enough to get really deep into it yet.  But I'm intrigued and look forward to reading more!

    Cubism in Art

    As I mentioned in this Previous Post, part of my job at the elementary school involves working with two special needs 6th grade students while they attend their "specials" classes.  I enjoy attending all three:  Music, PE, and Art, but have learned the most from the Art class.  That's probably because I play clarinet, can sing, and can read music so what we do in Music class isn't all that new for me. And in PE I get to be a cheerleader for the kids while watching my special ones have a lot of fun, which doesn't require any amount of technical knowledge.  But Art is one of those subjects that I always kind of viewed as someone who appreciates the work but who never really got into it much.  I can say, "Hey, I like that painting." or "Well, that's one that looks like a chimpanzee painted it."  (Believe me, I know about chimp art:  there was an old chimp named Bill that painted lovely works of art that were sold by the northern California zoo he lived in--$60 bucks a pop!--see photo on above right).  

    At the beginning of the school year the 6th graders learned about Impressionism and were taught how to make their own Impressionistic art by using their fingertips dipped in paint and dabbing them on paper, making "dots" that when viewed from a distance looked like a wonderful Impressionist painting.  This one here on the left was painted by the master himself, Claude Monet, and is called "Soleil Levant", or "Sunrise".

    The next theme in Art has been Cubism, which I never had heard of until now but have seen works by artists known to the genre such as Picasso and Braque.  In this unit, our Art teacher has taught us that Cubism involves angles and lines to define an abstract scene and that the color scheme is "monochromatic" or in one color.  For example, this painting by Picasso is in shades of brown.  It is titled, "Le Guitariste" which I can probably safely assume has something to do with a guitarist.

    Now the kids aren't painting sophisticated works such as guitarists, but I've been watching some great paintings of turtles, fish, and bowls of fruit develop.  Since my two students weren't able to draw their own cubic art, their art teacher asked me to help.  So I asked each one what they'd like to paint.  My girl wanted a bunny and my boy wanted a gorilla.  I think I drew pretty good cubic representations of those two animals and we're in process of painting them now.  I've never seen such a pretty red gorilla, or a perfect green bunny before!

    I can't wait until Friday to see how they all finish up!  

    I now leave you with one last cubist painting by Braque:  "Woman With a Guitar"  I believe that this may have been a "copycat" on Picasso's theme since Picasso painted his guitarist in 1910 and Braque painted his in 1913 in roughly the same color scheme.  What do you think?

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    My First Suduku

    I don't know how I've managed it, but I have stayed away from the Sudoku craze up until today.  I picked up a book full of them while in the waiting room and turned to the directions.  The whole procedure sounded easy enough but after selecting one from the "Easy" page, I realized that it wasn't!  After about 45 minutes of trying to solve the puzzle, I still hadn't gotten very far so I ripped the page out and took it with me.  At that point I realized that Sudoku is not for those, like me, with a touch of obsessiveness!  Later on in the day I tried to work it for another hour but failed at the last square of 9.  So I took a break and made dinner before trying again.  This third and last attempt had me erasing the whole thing (Yes, definitely do this in pencil!) but after only 30 minutes I was able to solve it!

    So here it is reproduced for you.  I'm sure you'll be able to complete the puzzle in far shorter time than I did.

    The goal is to fill in the empty cells, one numeral in each, so that each column, row, and region (each 3x3 block) contains the numerals 1–9 exactly once. Each numeral in the solution therefore occurs only once in each of three "directions"

    Friday, October 17, 2008


    I was born and raised in northern California (as I've mentioned in my profile) and moved to the Land of Enchantment 9 years ago this week.  When we first visited here on a house hunting trip in September 1999, it was a beautiful town with mountains covered in evergreen pinon and ponderosa pine trees and gorgeous quaking aspen.  I always thought it looked like Lake Tahoe without the lake!  When we came to our new home a month later, we were told that we should have come a couple of weeks earlier so that we could have seen the fall colors with the aspens and oaks turning orange to yellow on the mountains.

    About 6 months after we moved here a great fire burned through our mountains and our town.  We never did see the orange hills in the fall.  Four hundred homes were lost and the beautiful green hills were gone forever.  We were evacuated from town on May 5, 2000 when the fires were said to have "hopped the canyon" and were headed for the homes in what was called "the western area".  We scrambled to get our most valuable belongings together and packed into the cars and joined the other vehicles that were on the road evacuating town.  As I sat there in the car at a standstill I was pointed toward the hills and watched in horror as the flames burned right in front of me.  Sure, it was about 50 feet up the hill but it was in my direct view and really was frightening.  We learned later that the homes directly below where the fires were seen on the mountain and in between the main road were lost.

    When I was looking at various website's Week in Pictures links as I like to do each week, I was struck by this photo below from Yahoo!'s Week in Photos:
    This photo was taken in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley area and reminded me of what the view was as we evacuated town all those years ago, only with the cars facing the opposite direction and it being later in the day in the above photo.  We evacuated town in early afternoon so it was still pretty light.  When I saw the photo I felt a hard pang in my stomach, even after all these years.  Hy heart goes out to everyone affected by the fires.

    Now, over 8 years later, the aspen trees are filling the mountain areas little by little.  Each year is better and this year in the spring and summer, there was green "up there in them-thar hills".  And this fall we've seen some oranges and yellows from the new stands of aspens in the brown hills.  They say the pines won't come back for at least 30 years but at least we're seeing recovery (this photo taken this spring and the first two photos at the beginning of this blog via The WoodsWanderer).
    Our town is still beautiful but scarred.  It doesn't look like I remember Lake Tahoe looking anymore, but is fantastic regardless.  If you ask me, it is the people who make this town beautiful!

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Why I Ban Anything Denis Leary....

    The whole quote can be found here on 
    this page, which has gotten me so ticked off that I could just puke.  Here's what Mr. Leary said in his new book:  Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid.
    "There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."
    This reminds me of the radio host Michael Savage, who said that autism is a fraud and a racket last summer.  He also said, "I'll tell you what autism is.  In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."  Any parent, teacher, or adult who knows a child with autism will definitely tell you otherwise!

    Speaking of autism, it really irked me last night while listening to the debate that McCain brought up the subject of special needs children, specifically those with autism.  And saying that Sarah Palin is qualified to be his running mate because she identifies with parents of children with autism.  But her special needs child does not have autism--he has Down's Syndrome! One site I've been reading blogs on lately is Science Blogs.  There's an article HERE about the whole debate and autism reference.  I'm sorry, but America needs someone with quite a few more qualifications than what she has.

    Okay.  That's my soap box speech....I'm getting off both the soap box and the computer for the day.

    Obama or McCain?

    Here at the website, The Buzz Log, they surveyed people about how they felt the debate went last night between McCain and Obama.  Here's the first paragraph:
    The experts said this was John McCain's last best chance to turn the tide. The election has been going Barack Obama's way, and his republican rival needed a big win in the third and final debate. Did Sen. McCain get it? The polls say one thing, but do the pundits agree?
    Most of the polls believe that
    Obama won overall even though McCain had his best debate of the three.  All I can say is that I felt Obama did a great job of staying calm even though many mocking comments, lies, and misconceptions were flung at him.  That, and I wished that I could have wiped that smirky look off of McCain's face everytime Obama spoke.  CNN had a split screen feature that was truly revealing of each candidate's facial expressions as the other spoke.

    I know who I"m voting for and will be doing so at the early voting place tomorrow!

    A Bit About 6th Graders

    One thing I really enjoy about my job working as an instructional assistant in the 5th and 6th grades is the kids' humor.  I laugh and have a good time each day because the kids are so great.  Today two fun things happened.  

    The first was in PE.  For the first part of my day (45 minutes) I get to follow two 6th grade special education kids that need a little extra help.  One has Down's Syndrome and the other is Mentally Retarded.  These first 45 minutes are when they go to "Specials" like Music, Computers,  Art, PE, and Library.  Thursday is PE day and always a lot of fun.  Not only do I get to work with my special kids, but I get to watch the other members of the class be accepting, gentle, and kind to the two with special needs.  Anyway, today was Physical Fitness Test day where the kids had to run between two lines back and forth to a set time that got faster and faster every set of 10 lengths.  The PE teacher asked me to help our two special kids by running with them.  So here I am, in between my kiddos sprinting along the lengths to each side, being silly and goofy, while laughing  and hollering, "Let's go....faster!" and such as we went.  I sure got my exercise with them!

    Then in 6th grade Language Arts I get to wander around the whole class while keeping alert to two kids with learning disabilities who might need extra help.  Today they were doing something called "Teen Biz" which is a reading comprehension program where kids go onto a website, read emails, read articles and respond to questions, and can email responses back.  One other part of the website is the ability to email classmates just for fun and their teacher encourages this activity for when they're done with their article.  So today the kids were emailing riddles back and forth to each other.  Here are a few:

      How many 3-cent stamps are in a dozen?

    You throw away the outside and eat the inside, and eat the outside and throw away the inside.  What is it?

    What is green when you buy it, red when you eat it, and black when you throw it away?

    I know the answer to the first two but still haven't gotten the third one.  So let me know when you do!

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Should Be Reading

    My sister has this on her website, a link to Teaser Tuesdays (Oct. 14).  Here's the directions:

    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

  • Here's mine......

    I'm reading a book about small towns in America called Way off the Road by Bill Geist, a book that our dad told me about and that my sister read already. 

    There's yam music and yam poetry, too. Queen Paige, in her crown and long, sequined, yam-bedecked train, delivers a dramatic reading of one poem that ends "...as an abundance of sweet potatoes falls to the ground; amazed at his magnificent yield, the farmer calls them his...jewels...of the field."

    I get the feeling that this small town is well known for its 
    yams and I bet they all overdose on carbs often.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    What's Your Fetish?

    I was emailing with an old friend yesterday and the subject of fetishes came up.  No, not as in foot fetish, but as in Native American Fetishes, specifically from the Zuni Pueblo of New Mexico.  I had to Google my friend's fetish and its meaning, since I was only familiar with my own and some family member's.  I found a really great website with a section on Zuni Fetishes that states:  
    Zuni Fetishes are an animal, bird or figure hand carved from stone, shell, antler, wood or other natural materials...The Zuni fetishes are carved to represent the animals which the Zuni people feel are the "mediators" between themselves and a higher power...Zuni Fetishes were first carved as "hunting" fetishes. When taken on a hunting expedition they would ensure a plentiful and successful hunt. Each fetish is believed to have a spirit within. If treated and taken care of properly Zuni Fetishes will help guide you on the right path of life.
    Every person should have a fetish such as this.  You can choose your own fetish or have one assigned to you by a loved one.  Mine is a turtle which is a symbol for a long and meaningful life.  I picked it myself because I like turtles, nothing more than that, but I do strive for a meaningful life and try to live as healthy as I can so that I'll live a long time.

    Others in my family have chosen or been assigned an eagle, a soaring spirit that transcends personal problems and is a connection to the Divine, a buffalo, a symbol of steadfast endurance to rise above their weaknesses, and a dolphin, who is known for gentleness and playfulness.

    So what's your fetish?  On the website I mentioned above, they list animal fetishes and their symbols.  They also sell them on their website if you feel tempted.  
    Let me know when you pick yours!!!

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    The Land of Enchantment

    As I mention in the "About Me" section of the sidebar here I moved from northern California about 9 years ago almost to the date.  I now live in the "Land of Enchantment".  Other nicknames for my state are "The Cactus State", "The Land of the Delight Makers", and "The Land of the Heart's Desire".  Pretty descriptive and pleasant names for a state that is supposed to be the desert southwest of ugly brown landscapes and flat topography.  As a California-centric person, that is what I believed until I first came out here.  Those who created the nicknames did get it right--New Mexico is definitely enchanting, decorated with flowering cactii, delightful, and desirable.  There may not be a lot of green here, but there is beauty all around.

    I live in the northern part of the state in the area called the Upper Rio Grande Valley.  Now, when I first came to this area on a house hunting weekend, I was totally unimpressed by the Rio Grande.  "Is that it?!!" I wondered?  It was not as grande as I thought it would be.  I was imagining something along the lines of the Mississippi, but it was more like the Sacramento River, only shallower and browner.  But it is like a lifeline in the region, providing communities with water and recreation.

    I am up on a beautiful plateau at 7,200 feet in the shadow of an ancient collapsed volcano and have incredible views of the Rio Grande Valley.  Not from my house, of course (I only see neighbors) but just a short walk out of my subdivision are awesome scenes.  The air is clean up here and the skies are absolutely blue because there is no pollution.  At night, the stars are so bright and you can see the Milky Way.  There's not a lot of traffic, either and it is pretty quiet.  There are well-maintained trails to walk on amidst the pine trees and small-town parades and events happening at least monthly.  

    Although I might miss a lot of my home state sometimes, my new adopted state and town has become a home that I don't ever want to leave.

    <3 Neat

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    What's on My Italian Charm Bracelets

    • "California"
    • "Daughter"
    • "Diet Pepsi"
    • "Hawaii"
    • "High Maintenance"
    • "I Love Clarinet"
    • "I Love Hiking"
    • "I Love to Read"
    • "I Love Wine"
    • "Little Sister"
    • "M & M's"
    • "Mocha" coffee
    • "Monterey"
    • "Moulin Rouge"
    • "Route 66"
    • "Sister"
    • "U C Davis"
    • American Sign Language "I Love You" symbol
    • Apatosaurus
    • Autism Ribbon
    • Beagle
    • Democrat Donkey
    • Earth
    • Gecko
    • Hawaii
    • Heart
    • Kokopelli
    • Letter "D"
    • Mickey Mouse
    • New Mexico Flag
    • Number "40"
    • Peace sign (red, white, blue)
    • Peridot Birthstone
    • Pink iPod
    • Smiley
    • Starbucks
    • Turtle
    • Two "Quilting" charms
    • Virgo Symbol
    • Woman on a Treadmill