July 30, 2008


While watching The Phantom of the Opera with Cousin Cool today, I realized something--the phantom is Gerard Butler!
It's the same guy! He sings! He lifts weights!

July 29, 2008

Oooh, that smell .. . that classroom smell

I am up north helping Mama Cool work in her classroom, prior to working in my own next week, and we were studying on ways to improve the learning environment, based on brain research. Accordingly, I have a few tips I am going to be taking to my room:

Step One: Suggest full spectrum lighting to the administration. Apparently, this cuts illness and ups attendance. Fluorescent lights are a negative aspect of most school/work environments.

Step Two: Plants are important in a classroom--they are green, growing, and provide negative ions. I must get one--considering bamboo or peace lilies.

Step Three: Smell is also important, with peppermint, basil, rosemary, and lemon being key smells that stimulate learning. I think I need a new wallflower, with one of those yummy scents.

Step Four: Hang stuff up on the walls. Will do!

How can you help? Tell us what you remember about the classrooms of your past--what stimulated your mind, what drug it down, how do you decorate your classroom?

July 28, 2008

Cleaning Out the Library: The Flashman Series

On NPR this morning, they were talking about the connection between China and the Sudan. Part of it relates to the fact that a British General, "Chinese" Gordon, who burned down the summer palace of the Emperor of China during the Opium Wars in the late 1800s, was killed defending Khartoum from a Sudanese uprising. I turned to Mr. Cool and smiled.
"Oh, no," he said.
"Yes!" I chortled, "I know all about Chinese Gordon from Flashman!"

See, my history knowledge and reading life were changed in 2005-2006, the year I substitute taught. I did a lot of reading, and in searching for more books discovered that one of my favorite authors (George R. R. Martin), had a list on his website of his favorite books. He mentioned the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser, so I looked them up and ordered the first two. I was later able to get almost all of them used, only having to buy a few new. But I do have a complete set of Flashman. I initially read them in the order written, but I'm planning a chronological re-reading this fall.

Who is this marvelous Harry Flashman? Why, only the most decorated and travelled soldier in Her Majesty's Forces from the 1840s to the 1900s! Also, to his faithful readers, a notorious coward, scoundrel, rascal, and rapscallion. The beauty is that within these romps of well-written and hysterical adventures, Flashy (his nickname) manages to be involved with every major (and some minor) military adventure one could in that time period, from accidentally joining the Charge of the Light Brigade, to ending up on John Brown's raid, helping out Otto Von Bismark,the Opium Wars, and everything that happened in India, Afghanistan, and Africa during the true reign of the British Empire. Fraser's works are meticulously researched, and I have been able to converse knowingly about this entire time period thanks to these books.

Fraser died last year, and we Flashy fans are quite sad--sure, we have twelve great books to re-read, but we never found out how he ended up serving with both Lee and Grant.

July 26, 2008

Cleaning out the Library: The Austen Shelf

I love to categorize and organize, and all the -izes, really, so re-doing the library was a ton of fun. I tried to keep things in chunks, by author, genre, or award. My favorite shelf, however, is my Austen Shelf.

The older I grow, the more in love I fall with Jane Austen, and anything related. What a wise and witty woman--I wish I could know her and visit with her. When I have a daughter, her middle name will be Jane for Miss Austen.

On my shelf I have all the Austen books, and then a few select "based on/continuing" Austen books. Here are my top recommendations for the discerning Austen lover.

Re-Dos of Jane: These distinctly chick-lit books take the essential plot of a Jane Austen novel and set in the present. They are fun, frothy, and devoted to Jane.
Pride, Prejudice & Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan
Persuading Annie by Melissa Nathan
Jane Austen in Scarsdale by Paula Marantz Cohen
The Other Side of Pride & Prejudice:
These great books combine to tell the story of everyone's favorite hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The tone is delightful and Austen-esque.
An Assembly Such as This, Duty & Desire, These Three Remain by Pamela Aiden
Fellow Austen Lovers: How do we deal with our love of Jane in the real-world? These books explore combining an Austen world view with real life.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Austenland by Shannon Hale

Side Note: My delightful mother gave me the fabulous Austen action figure pictured above. She is, of course, hanging out on the Austen shelf.

July 25, 2008

Cleaning out the Library: Mysteries

That's right. I'm cleaning out my library. I have decided that the book collection had gotten a bit out of hand, so I'm reorganizing and cleaning it out. I'm up to 4 large-ish boxes of books to trade in at Anthology. I've been a bit rough with myself, looking deeply into the cover of each book and asking myself three simple questions: Will I read this again? Will I read this for the first time? Do I want people to see it on my shelf?

I've been especially rough with my mystery collection. For those of you who don't know, my favorite type of book is the mystery novel. I love 'em to death (hee, hee), and my favorites are British mysteries. So into the box went all my Dead End Job mysteries (quite good, but set in present-day Florida), all my Knitting Mysteries (set in Colorado, which is fun, but not very well written), and many others I'd enjoyed, but which didn't meet my re-read criteria. As I looked at my new mystery shelves, it was limited to just a few authors. There were a few odds and ends, but for the most part, my shelves consist of Jasper Fforde (parallel literary world), CJ Box (Wyoming game warden), Agatha Christie (the Queen), Kate Ross (regency detective), Laurie R. King (Sherlock Holmes alive and married), Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter, the Bertie Wooster/Jeeves of detectives), and Ellis Peters (both her medieval and 1940s detectives).

This may seem a bit limited for someone who can't get enough in the mysteries department, but these are classic, re-readable, absolutely beloved books of mine. To illustrate, I decided to give you the scoop about my favorite works by my Big Four Mystery Authors: Sayers, King, Ross, and Peters.

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night
My Story: I first purchased this book to read on the flight to Washington, D.C. when I was 16. (This same auspicious trip led my to love of the Apollo project, but I digress.) Ostensibly a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, it is really a mystery involving Harriet Vane, the woman Peter loves, and her return to her college at Oxford. It is a feminist novel, revolving around the negative reaction these female scholars receive from "real" women. It is passionate, thrilling, and a delightful puzzle. I have read it dozens of times, and I never skip a page.
First Line: "Harriet Vane sat at her writing table and stared into Mecklenburg Square."

Ellis Peters: A Morbid Taste for Bones
My Story: Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries were my first serious mystery love. Brother Cadfael lives in a Benedictine Abbey in the 1100s, an older man who has chosen to be a monk after a lifetime of adventure. In this story, Shrewsbury Abbey has succumbed to the medieval passion for relics, and is headed to Wales to claim the bones of Saint Winifred. As Cadfael is Welsh, he is sent to help translate. Of course, one of the brothers is a bit too saintly himself, and Cadfael must work with the people to help save their saint from being shipped off to England.
First Line: "On the fine, bright morning in early May when the whole sensational affair of the Gwytherin relics may properly be considered to have begun, Brother Cadfael had been up long before Prime, picking out cabbage seedlings before the day was aired, and his thoughts were all on birth, growth and fertility, not at all on graves and reliquaries and violent deaths, whether of saints, sinners or ordinary decent, fallible men like himself."

Ellis Peters: Fallen Into the Pit
My Thoughts: Yes, Ellis Peters rates two books on my list, because she created two fabulous detectives. Inspector George Felse is the lead detective in Comerford in the 1940s, and what makes him especially interesting is that he is also a caring family man. He doesn't drink or chase women, or seem depressed, unlike many literary detectives. He simply does his job to the best of his ability, and then goes home. His son, Dominic Felse, plays an important role in each book, eventually becoming a bit of a detective himself. I haven't read all of these books, as they are out of print, but I've tracked down quite a few. This, the first in the series, introduced me to a facet of WWII history I was not familiar with--German POWs working on farms in England during the war. Of course, when the war is over and some want to stay, it doesn't end well.
First Line: "'The war ended, and the young men came home, and tried indignantly to fit themselves into old clothes and old habits which proved, on examination, to be both a little threadbare, and on trial to be both cripplingly small for bodies and minds mysteriously grown in absence."

Laurie R. King: O Jerusalem
My Thoughts:
I discovered this fabulous series in high school, and eagerly await each new book. She is the only one of my favorite mystery authors alive and kicking, and for that, I am grateful. She writes a beautifully complex idea--Sherlock Holmes is real, and, in the 1920s, has married a highly intelligent young woman, Mary Russell. They solve crime together. It shouldn't work, but it does. In this novel, they hide out in Palestine, working to solve an issue there. It is an amazing descent into end-of-WWI Palestine, when England controlled it, and the setting and story are linked beautifully together. Of course, Mary dresses up as a bespectacled young man, and as she is a firm feminist, a few hijinks do ensue. She is also Jewish, and a scholar of theology, which leads to many interesting insights.
First Line: "The skiff was black, its gunwales scant inches above the waves."

Kate Ross: Whom the Gods Love
My Thou
ghts: Kate Ross was one of my newest discoveries, and, sadly, has passed away far too soon. She wrote four perfect, exquisite novels about Julian Kestrel, an intelligent young man masquerading as a dandy during the Regency period of English history. (Early 1800s, for the uninformed.) In this, a very popular young man is killed, and the mystery is concerned more with what we don't know about the victim, than the murderer. If you, like me, adore British mystery, please try to find these sadly out-of-print books.
First Line: "Go through the holly archway, Sir Malcolm's letter had said, then take the long straight path past the church."

July 23, 2008

The 100th Post, Or Seriously, I'm Going to Stop

Three photo posts in two days may seem like a cheater's way to reach the 100th post, but I promise more substantial posts are on their way. Meanwhile, I've been spending way to much time at photofunia.com.

If only I wasn't afraid of heights, this might actually happen.

If my school photo is hideous again this year, I'm printing this out and putting it on my badge.

Or maybe this one, if my students need an enforcer.

Anyway, if you like kitschy stuff, head over there and check it out. It was a great way to make my dreams come true. And trust me, the next These Aren't My Pants will be accompanied by a great adapted shot of Mr. Cool.

The Self-Indulgent Gallery

more good times at photofunia.com

July 21, 2008

End of 28

I have finally learned that life is finite.
I am pressed to finish:
books projects painting knitting lesson plans cleaning laundry

I will not be here forever.
I can't take it with me:
books knitting cleaning

I will never finish every book I want to read.
Will there be British mystery novels in heaven?

I will never knit every project I want.
Will we create in heaven?

I am finding it hard to reconcile forever and never.
I like closure. I like knowing how things end. I like being in control.
It is tough to let that go--to not know.

8 is the beginning of knowledge. 18 is clueless invincibility. 28 is a recognition of mortality.
I am getting a bit weird about 29.

July 20, 2008

And So It Begins . . .

In exactly one month, I will be learning 150 new names. Yep, August 20, that's when the English I magic begins. If I didn't have a calender, how would I know?

The Signs
*I visited Wal-Mart and Target today--both had their back-to-school sections set up.
*I received a letter informing me that I have been given the job as Co-Sponsor of Knowledge Bowl. (Yes! Fellow nerds!)
*I am meeting Mama Cool and Alaskan Auntie Cool for teacher shopping this week, hopefully.
*A cold pit of fear and excitement has settled into my stomach.

As Mr. Cool and I walked by the supplies, I informed him I felt ill and tired and had to move away from the binders, paper, and pencils. "You used to get so excited about this," he said. "Geez," I replied, "I guess after 22 years of going back to school, it's started to wear a little thin." I was briefly revived by colorful folders, including one (at Target, if you decide you need it) that had a large O.P.P. on it, with Other People's Paper underneath. (Yeah, you know me!)

I do, however, still have 24 days (I think), before I have to report.

The Last Ditch Summer Tasks

*Read at least three books.
*Knit one more hat, work on Mr. Cool's scarf, and start knitting a sock.
*Shop with Mama Cool.
*Help Papa Cool clean and organize back up in Wyoming.
*Help Sista Cool raise IV funds.
*See at least one more movie in the theater. (Mamma Mia? The Dark Knight? Swing Vote?)
*Paint and organize shared office.

So, all you teachers and non-teachers out there, what emotions does the end of July evoke? What is still on your summer to-do list?

July 16, 2008

2 in 1 Day!

Before rumours start about my knitting prowess, the truth is I just finished both of these today. I started them earlier. Amazingly enough, they are both gift items.

Name: Can You See the Teapot?
Pattern: Janet's Teapot Dishcloth
Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton
Size 7
My Teachers Who Knit Swap Partner

Name: Colorado Springs Cute Attack Team Helmet
Pattern: Football Hat from Itty Bitty Hats
Yarn: Cotton-Ease in Lake, Tope, and White
Needles: Size 7 Circulars & DPNs
Size: Well, I meant it to be 6-9 months, but it looks bigger to me.
Recipient: Um, friends who are expecting a little boy. (I doubt they'll read this, but just in case.)

July 15, 2008

Retirement Ideas

Some day Mr. Cool and I plan to retire. Our current idea involves possibly opening up some sort of combo yarn/guns shop. This is a bit of a joke, allowing us to come up with names for the store. Everybody knows that naming your shop is the best part of the deal. Currently, we have these ideas:


Skeins & Ammo

Knit One, Shoot Two

Help us out! What should we name our yarn & gun shop?

July 14, 2008

Ye Olde Blog Post

Huzzah for the blog reader! Huzzah! These two days hence, on a most lovely Saturday, we four hearty travelers didst venture to the Colorado Renaissance Festival, wherewith we didst enjoy cooling breezes, and many medieval delights. (One couldst argue that it should be a Tudor Festival, but we shall discusseth it later.) Below, thou shalt find many of our merriments. Huzzah!

Mr. Cool, Sista Cool, and Brotha-in-law Cool eateth many turkey legs and roasted corn.

The brave knight Sir Tristan of Ireland didst compete for our cheers.

The joust didst show much skill, but lacked the bloodshed we were promised.

His Royal Highness King Henry and his Queen Anne didst lead us on our festival day.

Many amongst us didst wear the proper clothing, but spoke uponst ye olde cell phones.

Many fine merchants appealed for our business.

Behold, a fine spinner and yarn merchant had set up shop.

A new sort of cap, crafted of chain metal.

A Mistress of the Spinning Wheel showed us her vast skills.

July 13, 2008

A True Friend . . .

Snapshots from my visit in Manitou Springs with my very dear and very cool friend Jennie

. . . lives somewhere beautiful

. . . smilingly destroys you at skee ball

. . . helps you set up the perfect picture

. . . climbs in an old photo booth to take pictures with you

. . . and, of course, talks, and laughs, and shares and hugs. Here's to more visits with Jennie!

July 09, 2008

Ren Faire, Background

Busy recently, working on a baby hat and re-reading my all time favorite mystery book (Gaudy Night By Dorothy Sayers), and tomorrow Mr. Cool and I will be headed to his hometown, Colorado Springs. On Saturday, though, we will be meeting Sista Cool and Brotha-in-law Cool at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. I will have a camera, and Brotha-in-law is eager to mock, so I should have a great post on Sunday.

Youtube, copyright, and the internet have let me down on actual clips and pictures of some classic Ren Faire TV episodes, but here are a few to look for, if you have DVDs, TV, or more access to pirated stuff.

Reno 911--Season 4--I can't quite figure out the episode #, but it's hysterical. Dangle is a member of the Sheriff of Nottingham Department, Jones and Garcia are referred to as a "hearty Moor and Spaniard," and the miscreant has not jousted enough to lose his winter fat.

King of the Hill--Season 6--"Joust Like a Woman"--Famous and fabulous for Alan Rickman's portrayal of King Philip, the ruler of the Ren Faire who treats women as slaves, which leads Peggy to start a feminist revolt, while Hank wants to meet all his propane needs.

Simpsons--Season 6--"Lisa's Wedding"-- The below quote is from The Simpson's Archive.
A pig with an apple in its mouth rotates on a spit over a fire.  Homer,
an apple in _his_ mouth, looks it in the eyes and rotates his head in

Doris: Yon meat, 'tis sweet as summer's wafting breeze.
Homer: Can I have some?
Doris: Mine ears are only open to the pleas of those who speak ye olde
Homer: Sweet maiden of the spit, grant now my boon, that I might sup on
suckling pig this noon.
Doris: Whatever.

July 08, 2008

Hear What You Want to Hear

Stuff Christians Like has a great post today about John Mayer, and it inspired me to write about something I've been discussing with Mr. Cool: my awesome Christian radio station.

See, on my radio station I'd play great secular music--Bruce Cockburn, Sam Phillips, U2 (of course), Alison Krauss & Union Station, Coldplay--and more of my Christian favorites, Sara Groves and Rich Mullins. To be honest, I don't listen to Christian radio--there isn't even one on my van's presets. I do listen to a lot of 97.3 KBCO, and I heard a set yesterday that clarified my opinions about "secular" music. When your heart and mind belong to the Lord, your mindset is geared toward that, so that any music with a message can reach you. More than a praise song, an inspired line from a song not meant for Christians can reach me with that intense longing that every human experiences in life. We are more alike than we think, and we all long for that deeper connection. Mr. Cool always jokes about changing "baby" to "Jesus," thus making love songs into love songs for the Savior, and I think on some level that can be done.

Anyway, here's a spiritual set partially from KBCO, and added to by me. I've included the artist, the song title, and a line that spoke to me.

1. Bruce Cockburn (Wondering Where the Lions Are)--I had another dream about lions at the door/ they weren't half as frightening as they were before,/ But I'm thinking 'bout eternity/ Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

2. Coldplay (Viva la Vida)--One minute I held the key/ Next the walls were closed on me,/ And I discovered that my castles stand/ Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand.

3. Sam Phillips (Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us)--Strange things are happening every day,/ I hear the music above my head/ Though the side of my heart has left me again/ I hear music up above.

4. U2 (I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For)--You broke the bonds/ And you loosened the chains / Carried the cross / of my shame / all my shame/ You know I believe it

5. Paul Simon (Under African Skies)--This is the story of how we begin to remember/ This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein / After the dream of falling and calling your name out / These are the roots of rhythm/ And the roots of rhythm remain.

6. John Hiatt (Have a Little Faith in Me)--Well, I've been loving you for such a long time girl/ Expecting nothing in return/ Just for you to have a little faith in me/ You see, time is our friend/ 'Cause for us there is no end/ And all you gotta do is have a little faith in me.

7. Pete Townshend (Let My Love Open the Door)--Let my love open the door/ It's all I'm living for/ Release yourself from misery/ There's only one thing gonna set you free/ That's my love, that's my love.

So, that's one of my sets for my station. I think I would also have a special hour for country songs, as there are plenty of those. Any other tunes I should play?

July 06, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

We all have different things that make us happy--and I think the founders recognized that. This 4th, Mr. Cool and I each got to enjoy something that makes us happy. For Mr. Cool, that involved setting off fireworks with my cousins. Fireworks are difficult to photograph, but I had a great time playing with my camera. When we returned back from the legal land of fireworks (Wyoming), I discovered a package from my Ravelry Libris swap partner, the fabulous HettyKnits of Canada. That made me pretty happy--and ready to try socks (or at least felted clogs.)

A bottle rocket takes flight. (The poles are a temporary fireworks addition to the yard.)

As my cousins age, we begin to see more fountains at the private show.

It's difficult to see beyond the sparkles, but there are about five other fountain remnants littering the driveway.

My fabulous swap package included three books, a book light, knitting needles and pattern for turning the beautiful Noro Kureyon into Fuzzy Feet, and a delightful owl dishcloth in my favorite shade of green. It will never wash a dish. Swaps are a fabulous part of the knitting world, and I love them so much, as they introduce you to people from around the world. How often will I get a package from New Brunswick, Canada! Thanks, HettyKnits!

Pursuits to Come: My First Baby Hat (not for me, for friends), and a Trip to the Colorado Renaissance Festival!

July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

We're off to celebrate in Wyoming, where fireworks are legal, my uncle grills burgers, and we watch the town fireworks from the alley while listening to patriotic music. Pictures will follow!

And now, your presidential trivia for the day:

Both John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe died on the 4th of July, with Adams and Jefferson dying on the 4th in the same year. John Adams' last words were "Jefferson still lives," which was not quite true, Jefferson having died earlier in the day.

July 03, 2008

I made a hat!

That's right, a hat! Yes! With Owl cables!

I worked with DPNs. (Double Pointed Needles!) It was fun!

Here it is, crammed over my curls. Is it winter yet? I want to wear my owl hat!

Here is my owl hat, soaking in its blocking water! It's a hat!

One last photo of my fabulous owl hat!
Pattern: Owl Hat from RuthieKnits
Mods: I only did five rows of stockinette after the ribbing, and left off about three rows at the end. This moved the owls down, and made it a shorter hat.
Yarn: Cascade 220 in green tweed
Needles: 7 Circulars & DPNs

July 02, 2008


I started an idea at Matt's blog, and then, under the influence of Stuff Christians Like, I am here to propose an idea:

The Teachlete

High school teachers start to lose some zing in their thirties. Technology and pop culture fade further away, and they begin the terrible refrain, "When I was in school no one behaved like this." Suddenly, you find yourself, in your 7th year of teaching, twice the age of your freshmen students. (No, that's not me! I'm only 23. Okay, that's a lie. It is me. This coming year, my freshmen will have been born in 1994-95, the year I was a freshman in high school. This seems wrong.) Now, under our current system, this teacher will have at least twenty more years of teaching ahead of them.

Now, another sector of our culture has a much earlier retirement. I'm talking about sports. This is a fond soapbox of mine, the fact that professional athletes burn out on their careers much faster than teachers. In fact, a favorite of mine, Peyton Manning (Go Colts!), at age 32, already rouses speculation at how much longer he will play quarterback. Brett Farve, only nine years older than, well, our hypothetical teacher, played for a very long time, and just retired. No athlete wants to be in his or her late 40s, competing with early twenty-somethings for playing time.

So here' s my idea--why should athletes be the only segment of the population to exploit their youth and enjoy their age? Youthful high school teachers possess the energy and enthusiasm we aging teachers lack, but our experience should garner us larger salaries. If we make it to 40, we should be venerated, give big press conferences to announce our retirement, and have our room numbers retired. Then, we take our large accumulated wealth and retire to our vacation homes. We could put our names on teacher-supply stores, do ads for rulers and textbooks, and show up at new-teacher orientation to discuss what we did wrong and how to avoid it. With our early retirement free-time, we could finally write that novel/play/textbook, stick to an exercise schedule, travel to all the countries we taught about, and inspire youth to teach.

Perhaps you've noticed the flaw in my plan--salaries. While athletes accumulate enough dough to leave the field/court/ice at the age of 35, teachers do not. Sigh. I only hope I'm still hip enough to teach the kids of my current students.

July 01, 2008

Per Request

There once was a lad in the Ukraine,
An axe left him in quite some pain,
Left to sit on his tuchus,
And to not cause a ruckus,
Let's hope it won't drive him insane.

A Trip to Denver

Last Saturday, I headed to Denver with Hannah, Lynn, Mama Cool, and Sista Cool. We were on a bit of a farewell junket before Hannah heads off to Africa.

We ate mussels and more at the Affordable French Restaurant, Le Central. It was an exotic feast, of the type you don't normally encounter.

Then it was off for some antiquing on Broadway, which generally makes me wish I had more money, or makes me feel old, when I spy some item of mine for sale at an antique shop! Hannah, Sista Cool and I grew up loving the Disney movie Robin Hood, and as you know, I have a weakness for astronauts. At Hooked On Glass, we spied this pair of lunchboxes. The number on the bottom is the price of the lunchbox, so, sadly, we couldn't purchase them for the next school year.

Finally, we ended up in the neighborhood of Murder By the Book, a Denver mystery bookstore. Sadly, they were closed, but I had to photograph the great chalk outline.