30 June, 2007

A day on the [flooded] lake

Picnic area above. Camping cabins below. Anybody for an underwater picnic? This is not good news for the fourth of July crowds or the corps of engineers, who take care of our lakes.

Below is a photo from May for comparison's sake. These below are the same ones as in the photo above, but taken just five weeks ago.

We went to the lake today with my brothers, their wives and some of our kids. Keep in mind that we've had so much rain the whole month of June. Lakes that were 11 feet low in April are now 8.6 feet above normal now.

They say our park hasn't been this flooded since '91 or '92. That is the year we moved out here, but we had two toddlers at the time, and we spent less time at the lake when they were so small. I do remember those being very rainy spring seasons.

This is where we have invited our CM homeschooling friends to come on nature walks or to pick blackberries with us. Our favorite campsites are under water right now. It was shocking to see (or not see) our landmarks anymore.
Our daughter recognized the area and the subsequent top of the tree where she parks her bike when she rides.

The boys thought they'd go swing on the playground after we spent several relaxing hours on the lake on my brother's boat. Yes, that's a picnic area under water. There are probably 40 or more of these on the beaches that are under water, grills, picnic tables, and all!

The fire ants are bad, too...after all, their homes have flooded, as well. This part of the beach is closed because of debris in the water and because of the fire ant problem.

29 June, 2007

Big Sky ~ Here's another round

These photos are not doctored, by the way!

But aren't the clouds awesome looking this evening? We were simply watching another episode of Monarch of the Glen when we heard the thunder in the distance.

We actually saw a rainbow over the northern suburbs (only briefly) on our way to school early this morning as the sun was first rising.

I've become rather used to the weather. I postulated earlier this week as to why it is not getting me down, as it is some. My thoughts are that when one is 'submerged' in whatever work one is doing, then the goings-on around don't affect one's joy or moods much. The focus is on the task at hand and doing one's best, instead of being so easily swayed by the weather and such.

I've also found countless opportunities to photograph our surroundings in a completely different light (grin).


Moros y Cristianos

Donna-Jean lives in Jersey and probably has not seen or tried this dish before, so she requested that I post the recipe. Happily I do so, along with a little history of the dish! It's so very simple and humble, yet so very healthy.

Interestingly, whilst Hubster and I ventured over to Half-Price Bookstore today after teaching summer school, Hubs noticed a recipe for said favorite dish in a Spanish cookbook, with the name of Moros y Cristianos(!) - harkening back to the days when Spain was freed from the clutches of the Moors. ¡Es muy interesante! I never knew this before.

Hubster and I first tried this dish when eating with a favorite set of mentors whom we knew back in Oklahoma City. We used to go long-distance cycling with them. He worked for the FAA and she was an art teacher in the local school district. Their home was multi-level and incredibly artsy, complete with African art and a propped-up wooden door with stuffed socks sticking out of it. After one of our long rides with them, they fed us "Cuban Black Beans and Rice" for dinner.

We were more into vegetarian food at the time, and this dish appealed to us, as it made a complete protein when combined with cheese, avocado, tomato, onions, salsa and sour cream.

Black beans and rice is a popular Cuban dish said to bring good luck when eaten on New Year's Day. This reminds me of the Southern tradition I grew up with: eating black-eyed peas every New Year's Day.

In Spanish, the dish is called Moros y Cristianos or Moors & Christians (amazing, eh?), with the black beans representing the Moors and the white rice representing the Christians.

Our kids grew up calling it "Black Bean Mountain!"

I prefer short grain brown rice, but hubby prefers Uncle Ben's "converted" (notice the pun ;) rice (aka parboiled rice) in the orange bag, dontcha know! It is a very consistent rice, and is less sticky.

Here is one fast and easy recipe that we use most often.

Pick out any rocks from the dried bean package and rinse beans well. Soak and cook the black beans as per the package directions. There is less staining if you pour off the soaking water and add fresh water for cooking the next day. I like to add chicken or beef bouillon as a stock (traditional is pork broth), to make it richer, plus onion and/or garlic powder. If you have soaked the beans overnight, they will cook in a stock pot in 1 1/2 hours time.

Cook your favorite rice of choice separately. At serving time, have nice bowls of individually chopped tomatoes, onions; shredded colby-jack, cheddar, or mexican cheese; sour cream, guacamole or just plain avocado slices, cilantro, and salsa on the table for family and guests to add what they choose.

Supply ample tortilla chips or fresh tortillas to eat along with this dish.

Here's another recipe ~


1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (optional--we prefer hotter peppers most of the time)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup rice
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can (15 ounces) black beans or 1-1/2 cups cooked dry-packaged black beans rinsed, drained
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Saute onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, thyme, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf in olive oil until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.


Señora Javamom

27 June, 2007

Family Favorite

I prepared black beans in the crockpot yesterday knowing that I didn't have a lot of time for meal prep this week. When our flooding scare had passed, we were able to sit calmly and enjoy a colorful, delicious, and filling meal. I left the sour creme off this time, but the salsa is homemade and fresh, and our daughter made the guacamole. The avocados were beautiful!

26 June, 2007

On the edge of flood stage

A little too close for comfort...just about a half inch below the foundation line.

It smells like a lake outside...

could be because it is a lake outside.
I am *thankful* it is not inside.

The "spring peeper" frogs are happily singing in my front and back yards. It's a good thing I find their song comforting, as they are right outside my windows.


Aren't these fun?

25 June, 2007

How to change a tire

Now that our second teen in line has joined her big brother by earning her driver's license, Dread Pirate Sparsebeard decided that part of her training would be to walk her through changing a "flat" tire. She did great, but at this point, became frustrated with trying to get the tire back on. She turned around to try for a better angle for hoisting said tire back onto the axle! She came out of the whole adventure completely unscathed.

23 June, 2007

New to me Camera

This is the new camera and accessories! I am taking more photos than before; every day, now. I find it very relaxing as I refamiliarize myself with this camera. This is like the one I borrowed from the photography teacher on our Photo Safari to the Yucatán two years ago.

"Taking ten" (minutes) in the morning or the evening to go outside and take photos is a nice "mini-vacation" from my high-paced daily work this summer. In fact, it amazes me how much relaxation and joy I get out of those few minutes of exploring and photographing things just outside my doorstep. It's such a treat.

Mi clase de Español éste verano

This is my Spanish classroom this summer - a view of my desk area...

...and views from my desks. You can imagine how much my students enjoy taking notes from the board...especially all the verb conjugation charts I have them copy onto card stock for their notebooks ;-).

22 June, 2007

Around the Yard

This one is pretty, but I had a difficult time balancing the contrast in the actual flower.

So a tighter crop is better

Awesome green spider, missing one leg...

These rose of Sharon buds are on a bush that has been here since we bought our house. This has been a very good year for the bush.

Around the yard with my new camera

Enjoying the view of the tiny world that exists there!

singing cardinal on a wire (taken with telephoto, at the wrong speed :-)

...about to burst

drooping sunflower


I hope you enjoyed this chronicle of a couple of my nature photography walks. This is therapy...a nice diversion from all my Spanish homework grading!

Señora Javamom

birthday surprise

My birthday started off wonderfully, just knowing that I'd completed my student evaluations and submitted them on Wednesday before leaving the school. I had to flunk one student, as there was no way he could continue on in his habits and poor choices and learn a language. Dealing with that in the best way consumed my time.

Hubster and I stopped on the way out of town to buy a couple of donuts for breakfast. He brought me my favorite: a maple bar.

After arriving at the school, my best friend (who happens to teach here in 1st-2nd grade) brought me a reproduction antique Pepsi-Cola box filled with goodies. I gave up soda two years ago, now, but she brought me six cans of Wild-Cherry Pepsi. She also gave me a beautiful art and inspirational watercolor book, some small children's Spanish vocabulary books, and a Birthday Bundt cake (which always reminds me of "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding" now). On the underside of the lid of the box is a bottle-cap checkers board.

The photography teacher printed up a beautiful card for me then went shopping after school to bring me a surprise this morning...I'll write more about that in a minute!

We got to leave the school early and I had planned on grading quizzes quickly when we arrived home at 3:00. Instead, I was in the mood to tidy, as the kids had VBS all week and didn't pitch in on chores as much as we would have liked. It was actually relaxing to get to clean and wash up my kitchen and throw out some junk mail/papers. This would be a very insiteful thing for me to do because...

One of my three best girl-friends dropped by with a Starbucks coffee for me:
A grande non-fat, no-whip, peppermint mocha. We got to visit for a solid hour! THAT was a treat, as I hadn't gotten to spend any time with her since our boys graduated a month ago.

My third best friend called me up to wish me happy birthday...we'll get together soon.

Finally, hubster surprised me last night with a party. I was NOT expecting this! We have been so very swamped with summer school paperwork. Wednesday night, I was so sleepy that I wanted to go to bed at 8 p.m., but we watched a movie instead (Jane Eyre with George C. Scott).

Two of my brothers, their wives, one niece and one nephew showed up to have grilled salmon and asparagus dinner with us last night. My cake of choice was not a cake at all, but THICK, fudgy and chunky brownies!

There was much laughter and a little bit of sentinentality, as we recalled events and shared our feelings about watching our parents age.

I received some *sweet* presents of little thoughtful goodies. the highlight of my presents:

Our photography teacher friend (one of our kids' mentors) found me a rare black Canon Digital Rebel EOS, two lenses (one zoom - 75-300 mm), with an attached extra battery pack, and battery charger. It came with an awesome case that can be attached to a backpack and has a waterproof cover that attaches, if needed. It came with a one gig memory card. Yes we will pay him for it, but he swung QUITE a big deal for the whole outfit.

I am so blessed.

Our oldest son was supposed to go sky diving with his best buddies yesterday. I told him if he died on my birthday, I'd have to kill him (LOL). They got rained out, so no airplane adventures for him as of yet.

THAT was a splendid birthday!!

Javamom who shared the rest of my birthday brownies with my Spanish class today!

21 June, 2007

Birthday Today

¡Feliz Cumpleaños a mi!

AND it's the first day of summer :-)

Spanish Curriculum

De vez en cuando, I look over various Spanish websites. Here is a fun link, for those curious about Spanish idioms.

Idiom generator

It is just one page from "Learn Spanish," a pretty thorough site that I need to go to more often and recommend to my students! The site has a complete Spanish Tutorial.

I am loving the curriculum the school has, which I am using with my summer school students.
It is Ven Conmigo, put out by Holt, Rineheart & Winston. I like it better than anything I've used in any teaching setting, be it tutoring, homeschooling, or classroom setting. It incorporates some of the newer research integrating TPR (total physical response) methodology for language teaching into the lessons. TPR is something I've been studying since earlier this spring. It teaches more practical phrases and is lighter on the grammar emphasis of drill and kill. It includes grammar, but it is not overkill. It presents far more practical daily usable phrases and context, then integrates the grammar of conjugation, adjectives, direct objects gently throughout.

Maybe it will be possible to switch from Bob Jones Spanish to Ven Conmigo for our co-op within a year or so. The fewer number of chapters are certainly more conducive to our co-op semester breakdown.

We shall see!

Señora Javamom, Birthday Gal

16 June, 2007

Update on the bus incident-sort-of-wreck

Well, the boys called back twice now. The bus was too tall for a bridge and scraped along underneath it at about 35 mph. Some kids were bumped from their seats and all the speakers above them popped loose.I don't think anyone was hit by them, though. They said the sound was horrible.

The bus company put them all up in a hotel, which was difficult to arrange for a group on the weekend, in the middle of the night. They got almost no sleep. Breakfast this morning was very bad and most of the boys "lost" their breakfast. The company is flying the group home then shuttling them back to the church.

Our 14 yo said there are many things to talk about this whole week of camp. I hope they are not all bad things!


Parenting is NOT for WIMPS.

Happenings at Home

Our daughter made it back safely from her trip to California. She loved it there...so much prettier and drier than it is here.

Dd also obtained her driver's license this week--now she can drive herself to work!

Next, two of our three sons have been at summer camp in Colorado this week. Their bus had a mishap/wreck of sorts last night on the way home. Our 18yo son called to say that no one was hurt (thank the Lord!) but that they had to wait for another bus to come out and get them. Evidently the bus was too tall for a bridge and hit it while they were passing another car. The mental image I have of what that must have been like for all the kids is frightening.

We haven't heard back from them again, so their wait must have been a safe one, as well. You never know these days--the roadside is just not a safe place with all the irresponsible drivers out there. Hopefully they were able to get to a gas station parking lot or roadside park to wait for the new bus. We should be hearing from them any time, now.

This is our newest couch! Hubster and I went on a brief shopping trip this week and stumbled onto this perfect-for-us couch for which we paid only $75! We have been watching movies from chairs in our family room...all six of us. The chairs had their benefits, one of which was less TV watching. As you can see, Tigger has already claimed his spot!

Dh and I have been reading Charlotte Mason aloud together. He is enjoying it and wants to use some of it in his High School Psychology class this fall. So much of her information on the processes in the brain and how learning happens really was right on with the most current scientific studies, so he wants to couple her writing with modern proofs and teaching.

Cool, eh?

15 June, 2007

In the mood for something humorous from the UK

Summer School is a lot of work, but I'm still enjoying it, in spite of a couple of students really testing the limits of the school attendance and homework policy. I'm teaching to a lot of LD students, most of whom should NOT be attempting to take the summer school route unless they are willing to put in the time to WORK at learning a foreign language. AHHH, but somehow they thought it was going to be easier because it's a summer course -- "complete your Spanish class credit in five weeks." But they weren't counting on the fact that nine months of a book course packed into five weeks will be very tough (DOABLE) but rigorous going. ESPECIALLY if they have learning differences or other ((((shhh, behavioral))) issues.


The first semester is over on Tuesday and second semester begins on Wednesday. I am gaining one student, will have a student returning to class who was sent to rehab after the first week, hopefully losing another student whom I caught cheating twice, the second time in front of the summer school principal!! I called one of the parents and said parent wants a conference next week. Hopefully it will be this student's final day at ss. Bring it on, I have my file ready with signed notes in it.

Yes, the admin does everything it can to "make allowances" for all sorts of struggles. As long as the students are showing up and working with the format, I will juggle and give grace, too. BUT if they just come and go with an attitude of "I don't have to show up" or "I don't have to actually complete my homework assignments to get my credit, do I?" then I want them out of my classroom.

So you see, I need a dose of humor tonight! Tomorrow I'll face the bulk of grading and averaging.


p.s. we borrowed a friend's Wodehouse Playhouse set and watched them again the week that Hubster had his knee surgery.

09 June, 2007


This came in my inbox today from Christianity Today's online e-zine issue of "Christian History and Biography."
This issue highlights the book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Looks like a great book to read and share with our teens.


"The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man."

—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (1812–1881)

08 June, 2007


The week flew by while teaching summer school Spanish. I have eleven students, and it's going pretty well, actually. I've had to call two parents already, but all responded well. I've relaxed into the early morning schedule of getting up just before six and leaving for the school by 6:35 with hubby. Most of the students are early, but class technically begins at 8:15 and ends at 12:30. I have some stay later if they are finishing up a test or incomplete homework.

Hubby is recuperating very well, ten days past knee surgery. Still hobbling somewhat, but physical therapy is helping him to become more flexible with less pain once again.

We sent our 16 yo daughter off to California (by plane) tonight for five days with a good friend. They are staying with her brother and his wife and kids.

14 yo son leaves for Senior High camp in Colorado on Sunday. Wish I was going! I will miss not taking a trip this summer. Then again, maybe we will drive over to see family in New Mexico...

I have a lot of paperwork to grade still...4 more sets of student homework (17 pages each?) and 11 tests (ten pages, mostly short, quick exercises). It will take me probably six hours to accomplish all that. I'm going to split it up over the weekend and chip away at it. When the kids ask "Why is there so much homework?" I smile and say, "Because you are covering a schoolyear's worth of Spanish I material in five weeks!"

I truly am enjoying it...why?? I really like Spanish and teaching it helps it stay fresh in my mind and strengthens my skills. It's so easy to get rusty -- more quickly than people realize.

I met a neat lady from Cuba today (been a citizen here for decades, now) that was visiting the school with a retiring teacher. I asked her about Fidel Castro making an appearance in public this week finally...and what may happen when he dies. That was an interesting conversation!! Can't wait to talk to her about immigration issues!

On the practical side of things: I've gotten to bed early so I can still get enough sleep. I am so thankful for this summer teaching opportunity. I never thought I would teach in a classroom setting, but it turns out that I really like it!

Riding to work and working in a classroom next to Sparsebeard has been pretty cool, too!

'Night, friends


04 June, 2007

End of Day One - Summer School

The eastern sky at sunset: a process...

photo two - eastern sky at sunset, about fifteen minutes later in the process.

We witnessed the most beautiful sunrise early this morning that I've seen in a very long time.
Wait...it's the only sunrise I've seen since....March (Huge Grin). I should have taken photos. REALLY. Since I don't have photos of the incredibly pink and orange light-up-the-whole-northeasterly sky-sunrise, I will include tonight's incredible sky after a small shower came through at dinner time...though it really does not compare with today's sunrise.

Hubby is recovering pretty well from last Wednesday's knee surgery. Being up and walking more in the last 24 hours in prep for Summer school and our first day was a good test for the repairs in his right knee.

We were up at the school for four or five hours yesterday to get hubster's vocab program updated and for me to make all the copies I need for Spanish one for one week. The day went well, and we seem to have some decent students who are at least a little willing to try. Most of them seem very easy to motivate....SO far :-).

I have to cover two parts of each chapter each day so that we can cover 11 or 12 chapters in five weeks. I'm making the kids responsible for much of their own work, but we are also doing all the language lab work together in class. Throwing in some games here and there should help fill out our time with productive learning, instead of just busy work.

We had a nice family dinner and a lot of laughs, now I'm going to glance at the possible activities for tomorrow then go to bed early (9 ish).

Night, all! Thanks for asking about the Dread Pirate Sparsebeard! His humor in intact, even as we take the elevator together to get to our classrooms upstairs!

Señora Javamom

02 June, 2007

Great Egret-aka White Heron

Guess who came to dinner yesterday? He was eating some crawfish at one point :-)