Friday, November 23, 2012

love walked in

vacation is also a great time for giving myself time to read.  not the sneak-in-a-chapter-barely-before-my-eyes-close type reading of the work week, but the sip-slowly-the-entire-french-press-and-read-first-thing-in-the-morning-because-it-doesn't-matter-what-time-it-is kind.  "love walked in" by marisa de los santos is a good read.  the author is smart (an award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing) and peppers the novel with literary allusions.  even though there are a lot of inter-relational dynamics at play, de los santos avoids sappiness, oversentimentality or needless drama and brings the characters together in realistic yet tender ways.  also because it is vacation, i allowed myself to buy a NEW book:  "the snow child" by eowyn ivey.  it looks to be somewhere in the fiction novel fantastical genre.  "set in alaska, 1920 a childless couple builds a child out of snow.  the snow child disappears but a little girl is seen running through the woods 'who could have stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale.' "

cuvee and other word finds

the holidays are upon us, what better time than vacation to break out my complete wordfinder!  i've learned a few new words from reading and from other alert readers lately.  and i've gotta confess, i'm used to being able to figure out a word by context at the very least.  but, with no small amount of excitement, i found myself not having a clue as to some of the words.  (of course, if i don't write them down immediately i forget how cool they are).  here are some i remember.  gimlet 1) a small tool used for boring holes, not to be confused with definition 2) a gin and limejuice cocktail.  fracking:  a hydrolic fracturing technique that the energy industry hopes to use in expansion of natural gas production.  and cuvee:  a blend or batch of wine (from the Latin cupa or french cuve) and an alsace-inspired restaurant in carlton!  but can i use all three in a sentence?  i was waiting for you to ask.  "best not to drink a cuvee or gimlet before going on a fracking expedition".  i'm sure you can do better...

this is a yurt

yurt. yurt. yurt.  you've gotta admit, it's a funny word.  just saying it makes me laugh:  yurt.  they are wonderful to stay in, however, especially in winter because they're like a cozy little hobbit hole complete with electricity and, in our case, an *espresso pot (see also *roughing it).  a yurt is officially defined as a portable bent wood frame traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of central asia.  but, seeing as we're not nomads and we're not in asia, this photo is complete with cooler and nw subaru.  one more time, i can't resist:  yurt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

interruptable creativity

the "adventures to have, what i want to make and why i love where i live so very much" journal.  because life is short and why waste time when you can sketch?  some thing require uninterrupted time, it's true.  but consider monday during parent-teacher conferences...sketching is interruptable.  it's hard for me to read--really read--and be interrupted, but i realized i could sketch.  so, all in all at the end of the day i had talked to parents for about 4 hours and sketched for 2:  six pages worth!  think you haven't "got time" for something?  what about all those little 5 or 12-minute unaccounted-for portions of the day?  they add up.  once i did an entire painting in this fashion...5 minutes here, 10 minutes there...until it was done.  what have you discovered that can be done in small increments?

Friday, November 9, 2012

yes, chef

so, what with all this holocaust study going on (sarah's key, the boy in striped pajamas, anne frank...) i need to take breaks, read about something else, something they ironically starved without:  food.  the book on hold was "yes, chef" by marcus samuelsson and the reason it took two months was because 183 people wanted to read it first.  i have to say, that after only a few chapters, i can see why it is so popular.  marcus is adopted from ethiopia into a swedish family along with his sister linda and given an upbringing in soccer but also ultimately in cooking.  in middle school, he doesn't know it yet but dinners at his grandmother's home and expeditions on the swedish fishing boats will teach him the basics of food texturing and flavor that rival any lessons taught at chef school. "yes chef" is refreshing in the memoir genre because his writing is honest but never self-grandeurizing, bitter or overly dramatic (and he of all people would have reason to be, nearly dying of typhoid and being orphaned at age 3) as he weaves together the history that led him to where he is today:  everything from helping with michelle obama's fresh food campaign to the opening of "the red rooster" restaurant in harlem and many flavorful adventures of friendship in between.

a life of its own

every year when i begin to teach a unit on the holocaust, i prepare for an adventure.  because each time the lessons take on a life of their own, setting off a chain of events that couldn't be mere coincidence.  i swear it's alive.  consider that...in september i put a random book on hold at the library...i forget about the book until a notification comes in november...i check out some holocaust dvds and get a receipt...but i have to go to the back shelf and get in line again to claim the hold item...(stay with me here) because of this i get a new reciept which says "join us for holocaust survivors les and eva aigner this friday night 7-8:30 pm in the community room"...i watch one of the dvds about WWII...i cry while describing the basic plot line to my students...by chance a co-worker has just finished reading the same book...while looking in my files i come across an article i clipped last year from the Oregonian about...les and eva aigner. i've only "met" survivors via YouTube or newspaper, never in person.  and, while i know it may not be the most hip way to spend a friday night, it's always in vogue with me to learn something new.  and what better way to learn history than from real people and the stories that only they can tell!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"accidental" artists

not surprisingly, i am fascinated by a string of french artists including, but not limited to van gogh, cezanne, matisse (in order of how they influenced one another).  i love that henri matisse (1869-1954) was an "accidental" artist, picking up art supplies as a young man only because he was recovering from appendicitis.  this unexpected love for painting led him to give up the study of law and sent him literally into a wild exploration of travel and color (see also Fauves).  what inspires me most about him, however, didn't happen until he was in his eighties when another health problem left him wheelchair-bound.  he could have given up; said he was too old...but it was then that his surge of creativity really began with paper cutouts and his final masterpiece:  the stained glass windows of the rosary chapel in venice.  modern graphic design and everything from posters to textiles have been influenced by his shapes, patterns and lines.  not that anyone would wish for an accident illness or otherwise unfavorable turn of events, but it strikes me how many great writers and artists discovered the depths of their creativity in this way.  (famed author madeleine l'engle was an awkward, lonely only child who turned to writing to keep her company...or consider mexican artist frida kahlo who contracted polio and later picked up a sketchbook while recovering from injuries because a bus she was riding in collided with a trolley...)  i love the spirit in them that didn't give up but rather transformed these life events into visible pieces to share with the world.  no one is too old, too injured...too "anything" not to be creative with what they've been given.  do you know any "accidental" artists?  what's their story?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

plearning=(play + learning)



this is my most recent foray into the world of art play.  i started with photos from france (long live the dream trip!) and isolated colors and shapes before using paper to make an abstract design.  finish by stitching over the top on a sewing machine in contrasting thread and voila:  new art! (top to bottom:  market in aix-en-provence, rousillon street scene, lavender field at abbey senanque)