Category Archives: Animals

Adventures in Writing

Hi!  Lots has changed over the last month.  I’ve moved states, bought a house, started a new job, started coaching 3 volleyball teams, started teaching a youth creative writing class and…found a little sister – 2 months old/2 lbs – for my Oscar (cat) who lost his brother one month ago. PHEW!

I am loving Sacramento.  It is not how I remembered it.  It has such diversity here.  From ethnicity to neighborhood vibes, a wonderful mixture – I just love it.

Yesterday I finally ventured out to explore the Artists Open Studios.  Very creative people here.  Driving through the neighborhoods – full of big trees and quaint houses – made me smile and think about how lucky I am.

I ended my wanderings along the American River.  There are paths for miles along the two rivers here.  So fun to think of great hikes after school once my schedule calms down a bit.

My school, Sacramento Country Day, is great.  The 5th graders I am teaching are so excited to learn and embrace new ideas.  My 5th/6th grade volleyball teams are doing really well.  Last Friday, one team had a game and they really played well together – and won!

img_5642My ‘Adventures in Writing’ after-school class is full of kids that love to write.  I am having fun challenging their minds to explore broader possible paths for their characters and settings, and to create tension and drama – it is all great practice for me as well.

Home life:  I bought a bit of a fixer-upper – and it will be a fun work-in-progress.  Sophie – the newest addition to my little family is so tiny and adds lots of springy, impetuous energy to our house.

So all is good in my world.  I hope it is in yours as well.

Have a great end to your September!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Education, Introspection

Its a New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

As I did not win the big Powerball, I’m still teaching in Gallup, NM. 🙂 My kids and I have finally moved into a rhythm that seems to mostly work for all of us.  My sixth graders are just about through a unit on Malala Yousafzai, the young girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head (but survived and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize) by the Taliban for speaking out and demanding that girls be able to go to school.  We watched the documentary on her that was excellent – I highly recommend to all and you can rent it from Amazon here: He Called Me Malala.

My seventh and eighth graders have been working on the global health unit I created in grad school.  It has been an eye-opener.  Mostly due to the fact that I assumed, when writing the curriculum, that students would have some knowledge of geography tools, maps etc.  My students do not.  One of my 7th graders thought Greenland was the continent of Africa and even after pointing out the facts on a world map to her, she swore that Africa was “above” the USA.  But other than basic geographic skills the unit has been going well.  They are now researching their individual diseases and will present next week.

Then, I am excited to say that I am turning my humanities class into a geography class.  We will be exploring all aspects of the five themes through the lens of a zombie apocalypse.  This crazy and fun curriculum called Zombie Based Learning was designed by a geography teacher that wanted to make a project-based geography class that kids could relate too.  All year I have heard this and that about zombies from my students so I am hoping this will be a big hit.

As to my writing book 2 of the Treasure Chest Mysteries – well, I am working on it.  The first one came so easily and now I think the pressure (me putting on myself) to write another just as quickly has stymied my imagination.  So I have spent more time learning the basics to illustration which I am finding I really love, no matter how rudimentary my drawings/paintings are.

Drawings CollageI just started taking an online class (as there aren’t any classes in Gallup) through the site CraftsyLynne Chapman is the illustrator/instructor and she is simply amazing.  I love her style of drawing and her wonderful personality makes it so enjoyable to spend time watching her videos and trying out her suggestions.

I have also started working on getting myself back into shape.  Oh how easy it was to just hunker down when the weather dipped into the teens and yet still continue to consume the same calories.  Bad Gretchen.  So I am working on the slow return to a healthier me.  I have signed up for the Moab Spring Trail Run (8k) in early March. Last weekend I purchased a pair of rather bright running shoes (can’t fail to see them waiting for me by the door!) and I am now attempting to figure out where all the oxygen went.  I swear my extreme huffing and puffing is due to elevation!  Really! 🙂

Running ShoeThat just about wraps it all up here in Gallup.  My cats are wondering what to do with themselves with all the snow and frozen ground.  They have grown thick fur coats and are quite lazy…and cuddly.  Here is a parting shot of Albert – checking out my phone.  Have a great New Year!  GretchenAlbert

 

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Filed under Animals, Education, Global Health, Middle School

My First Book, The Launch

Hi All,

A few months ago my mom found a really fun, wooden chest.  It was covered in a circus motif and painted by a local artist in her town.  With my nephew’s baby on the way, she snatched it up and sent me a picture of it.  Seeing the chest sparked an idea and I started writing a story with the thought of giving it to the parents, my nephew and his wife, at Christmas.  So I have been working on the story and attempting my first illustrations.  With the great encouragement of friends, family and my current 6th graders that I am teaching, I decided to not only give it to my nephew, but to publish it.

I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s Create Space.  It was a fairly painless experience and now my book is listed on Amazon!  I am beyond excited.  I am finally coming down from my initial high and working on promoting the book, as well as writing the next one, as it is to be a series.  But I have to be careful not to over publicize right now as my nephew might see the PR blitz!  That would ruin the fun for Christmas.

So as soon as my nephew has the book in hand, I’ll launch my Facebook page etc. and let you know.  I did take the plunge and set up a Twitter account as well.  I have also created a website for the book which you can view here.  But for now, if you know of anyone that has a child reading at the 1st – 3rd grade level – I would really appreciate it if you would pass the word on about my book – it ships internationally!

You can see one of the main characters on the side bar to the right with a light blue background – Titanus McDuff.  Below is the cover of the book.

Cover Trade

Thanks and have a happy, creative day!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Fourth Grade, Third Grade, Writing

Coconut Oil Addiction

I have become an addict.  I admit it, but I won’t be engaging in any 12 step programs.  I love my addiction and I keep learning more and more about how great it is.  As you know, I normally do not re-post articles on this blog, but today I came across this great run-down of what this seemingly wondrous oil can do on the Greatist website and I just had to share.  Its kind of a ridiculously long list (76 suggestions!) but, for me, the more ideas the better.  Here’s to your health!

76 Genius Coconut Oil Uses For Everyday Life

We’re going a little nuts for coconuts—or its oil, at least. But can you blame us? It turns out that this miracle oil is the solution to many of life’s little (or big!) problems. Whether it’s dry skin, lackluster hair, digestive problems, or athlete’s foot, this smooth, slick, tropical-smelling elixir will help get you and your body back on track to healthy town. And it’s all thanks to its stellar all-natural makeup. Coconut oil’s main fat is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that positively impacts cholesterol levels. It also contains vitamins E and K, and iron, and has both antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

What really takes the (coconut) cake is that it’s super affordable—a 14-ounce jar can cost as little as $7, making it the most wallet-friendly all-in-one product yet. Seriously, it’s a beauty product, household cleaner, and more. Check out these 76 ways to use coconut oil in your day-to-day life.

1. Care for our cuticles.

Treat dry, flaky cuticles by rubbing coconut oil into your nail beds. Use your fingers to massage some oil into the area—it’ll moisturize your hands in the process!

2. Treat your tresses to some TLC.

Store-bought hair conditioning treatments can get pretty pricy and are often made with some sketchy toxic ingredients. Enter: coconut oil. Beauty experts say the fatty acids in coconut oil will soften your strands. One way to use it: Whip up an at-home hair mask, like this coconut oil and honey concoction, coat your hair, throw it up into a bun, let it sit for up to 40 minutes, and then rinse it out in the shower.

Bonus: You can also use coconut oil on its own to prevent the ends of your hair from drying out. Just rub some onto the tips of your hair, and then shampoo as you regularly would to keep your strands shiny, healthy, and hydrated.

3. Use it as a frizz-fighter and flyaway-tamer.

Spread a tiny bit (apply sparingly—unless, of course, you dig greasy-looking hair) of coconut oil into trouble areas. The natural oils actually repel moisture, which is the culprit behind misbehaving hair.

4. Go for the glow.

To brighten up lackluster skin, combine coconut oil with baking soda, which is a superstar exfoliant. Just mix a little bit of the two together, gently rub into your skin in circular motions, and then rinse.

5. Whip up an at-home face mask.

Another combo for a better complexion? Coconut oil and honey. Mix the two for a hydrating, antibacterial face mask. Leave it on for about 15 minutes, and then rinse.

6. Nourish your lips.

Thanks to extreme weather, our lips sometimes need a little extra TLC to keep them soft and smooth. Slough off any dry, flaky skin with a DIY coconut-oil-and-brown-sugar lip scrub. Plus, who needs Chapstick when you’ve got coconut oil on hand? Just smooth some on your lips for instant hydration. It’ll look a little glossy, so let it sink in for a few minutes if you want a more matte look.

7. Buff your skin.

Speaking of scrubs, coconut oil is a fantastic ingredient for DIY body scrub. Just mix it up with brown sugar or salt, and add a drop or two of the essential oil of your choice for a gentle but effective exfoliating scrub.

8. Make bath time better.

Add a generous scoop of coconut oil to a bath to (literally) soak in its moisturizing benefits. Make bath time even better by throwing in some Epsom salts (they help soothe muscles and beat bloating) and your favorite essential oils.

9. Tint your lips.

Anyone who’s ever used lipstick is familiar with how frustrating it is when you’re down to that last, hard-to-access bit of lip color left in the applicator. Instead of tossing the tube, scoop out the remaining product and melt it together with coconut oil for a homemade tinted lip balm.

10. Remove your makeup.

One beauty editor’s secret: Use coconut oil to remove heavy makeup. Just rub a scoop of the stuff into your skin, leave it on for a few minutes, and wipe it all off with a warm cloth. Plus, this trick works on even the most stubborn eye makeup (we’re looking at you, waterproof mascara). Just apply some coconut oil to a cotton makeup pad and gently wipe off any product.

11. Moisturize your skin.

To keep your skin soft and supple, swap out your regular moisturizer for coconut oil. Don’t worry—it sinks in pretty quickly and will leave your skin feeling baby-soft.

12. Swap out your shaving cream.

Coconut oil is actually a great way to get a close shave and hydrate your skin in the process. Plus, it’s especially good for people with sensitive skin. If you’re in a DIY mood, you can even make your own shaving cream with it.

13. Clean your makeup brushes.

Just about every beauty and skincare expert stresses how important it is to keep your makeup brushes as bacteria-free as possible—for the ones you use daily, that means cleaning them once a week. Mix antibacterial dish soap with coconut oil (which also has antibacterial properties and will help condition the bristles) and give your brushes a good cleaning. Check out this guide for the step-by-step.

14. Improve your acne.

Real talk: Breakouts are always a bummer. To help minimize acne-related inflammation, experts recommend using coconut oil, which will also combat redness and irritation. Cleanse your face as you regularly would, and then apply a thin layer of oil (which will also moisturize your skin—see No. 11) to your skin. (Protip: If you’re doing this before bed, let it sink in so that excess oil doesn’t mess with your bedding.)

15. Smooth your skin.

Creams that boast anti-aging properties usually come with a pretty shocking price tag. Luckily, coconut oil can minimize the appearance of wrinkles. This totally works for the delicate skin around your eyes, too. Feel free to gently pat some coconut oil onto the area with your ring finger.

16. Improve scalp health.

Massage coconut oil into your scalp to fight dandruff. Get ready to bid adieu to those pesky flakes!

17. Soothe sunburns.

If you’ve spent too much time in the sun (and have the lobster-like appearance to prove it), use coconut oil for burn relief. It’ll calm your skin and moisturize it to help minimize peeling.

18. Quiet down eczema flare-ups.

Because it’s both a moisturizer and an anti-inflammatory, coconut oil can help calm itchy and irritated skin related to eczema.

19. Make your own massage oil.

It’s no secret that massages in the spa feel awesome. The ambience, the pampering, and the oils, oh my! Though it might be hard to set up the same Zen-like atmosphere at home, you can definitely get in on the massage oils, no appointment necessary. Just warm up some coconut oil (and maybe add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil) and get massaging.

20. Banish B.O.

Smooth some coconut oil on your armpits. The lauric acid can help kill the bacteria that causes stinky sweat. But be warned: Some experts believe it may not be powerful enough to be your sole method for deodorizing your pits.

21. Polish your pearly whites.

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to regular toothpaste, try going the DIY route. Your plan: Mix coconut oil with baking soda until it’s pasty enough to spread on a toothbrush.

22. Soften and deodorize your feet.

Between working out and running around, our feet get a beating on a day-to-day basis. Before bed, soften cracked, rough skin and calluses by exfoliating your feet and then applying a generous layer of coconut oil. Since it has natural antibacterial properties, it’ll deodorize as it softens. Then slip on some socks to wake up with much smoother, better smelling soles.

Bonus: To enhance its benefits, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to the mix and apply both before bed and throughout the day. Treating your feet to this combo not only keeps stinky smells at bay, but may also help treat athlete’s foot.

23. Enhance your eyelashes.

Similar to the way it can help strengthen your head of hair, coconut oil can also help strengthen lashes—and that’s especially good news considering it’s all too easy to damage those short hairs. Just apply some oil to a cotton swab and spread it onto your lashes before going to bed.

24. Wax on, wax off!

If your hair removal routine involves at-home waxing, use coconut oil to remove excess wax from your skin—or from any surfaces in your waxing workspace. Just smooth some of the oil onto any area that’s still sticky, and then wipe it off with a warm washcloth.

25. Make patent leather shine.

By definition, patent leather should be shiny and sleek. The next time yours is lacking in the gloss department, wipe some coconut oil onto its surface to return it to its high-shine finish.

26. Get rid of gum residue.

Chewed gum any place besides inside a mouth is generally a good cause for despair—until now. Use coconut oil to remove any tacky gum residue from the surface in question. It even works on hair and carpet!

27. Keep your shower squeaky clean.

To avoid using harsh chemicals to clean your tub, douse a rag with coconut oil and watch the shower scum wipe away.

28. Condition wooden flatware and furniture.

Keep your wooden spoons, cutting boards, and any other wooden utensils in top shape by conditioning them with coconut oil. To keep wooden furniture looking good, it’s important to clean and treat the wood. Enter coconut oil. Just like you would with your wooden utensils, apply generously and letting it seep into the furniture. Consider buying in bulk if you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

29. Clean metal items.

Metal that’s gotten lackluster is just another material that can benefit from a layer of coconut oil—it’ll clean bronze and help deepen its color, and remove rust from steel.

30. Fix squeaky hinges.

Is anything more annoying (or potentially creepy, depending on the time of night) than a squeaky hinge? To silence the squeak, use coconut oil to lubricate the hinge in question.

31. Care for your guitar.

For the more musically-talented among us, consider using coconut oil to condition and lubricate guitar strings.

32. Unstick a stuck zipper.

Whether a broken zipper is holding you hostage inside your own jacket or preventing you from opening a bag, coconut oil can save the day. Restore stubborn zippers to working order by coating them in coconut oil.

33. Treat leather.

If you’re rocking a leather coat or some sweet leather pants, give leather apparel new life by rubbing them down with coconut oil to clean and condition and restore lost sheen.

34. Start a campfire—safely.

If there’s one item on this list that deserves a merit badge, this is it. Instead of depending on lighter fluid, soak cotton balls in coconut oil and use them to start your campfire. To get a good fire going, add them to the kindling you’ve assembled and give the mixture a light.

35. Keep motors in working order.

If any of your electronics or kitchen appliances have motors, they could benefit from coconut oil. Use it as a lubricant to keep the motors running and humming at peak performance.

36. Season cast iron cookware.

Because cast iron pots, pans, and skillets don’t have a nonstick surface, they require a prep step before you can actually use them. Though you can season them with vegetable oil and shortening, you can also coat them in coconut oil. Take a look at this step-by-step on how to season your cast iron pans.

37. Cut down on hairballs.

Coconut oil is good for our furry friends, too! To help keep your cat from hacking up hairballs, coat your kitty’s paws with a bit of the oil.

38. Condition your pet’s fur.

Just like you would condition your own human hair with coconut oil, rubbing some through your cat’s or dog’s coat will keep it healthy and shiny.

39. Supplement your pet’s diet and health.

Introducing a little bit of coconut oil to your dog or cat’s diet may boost their overall health—just be sure to check with your vet before you make any changes. Doing so may help with everything from weight management, to protection against arthritis and ligament problems, and can even help eliminate bag doggie breath.

40. Relieve your pet’s itchiness.

If you notice your pooch scratching a specific spot more than usual, rub some coconut oil into the area to help relieve any itchiness or irritation. This one’s another remedy to run by your vet before you test it on your pet.

41. Add it to coffee or tea.

The next time you’re readying your morning drink, ditch the sugar and honey, and flavor your beverage with a drizzle of coconut oil instead.

42. Make your own nut butter.

Who needs store-bought nut butters when you’ve got fresh nuts, coconut oil, a food processor, and some key flavoring ingredients? That’s seriously all you need to whip up the nut butter of your choice.

43. Cook up a storm.

If a recipe calls for cooking at high heat—like a stir fry, for example—consider using coconut oil. It’s got a high smoke point, meaning it won’t emit harmful free radicals as readily as other oils.

Coconut oil is also an awesome option when you’re roasting vegetables—especially winter veggies like sweet potatoes (it can pump up the flavor). Throw in some herbs and a splash of lemon juice, and you’ve got a scrumptious side dish.

And whether you enjoy them sunny side up, scrambled, or over easy, eggs are yet another food that are perfect candidates to be cooked in coconut oil. The options in the kitchen are really endless!

44. Dress your salads.

Olive oil is a gold standard in many salad dressings. To give your salads a different kind of flavor, try using coconut oil as the base of the dressing. Try this simple recipe with a subtle flavor.

45. Make your own granola.

Okay, homemade anything is generally better than store-bought, but there’s something about making your granola at home that makes it particularly special and tasty. Use coconut oil to whip up an oaty, nutty mixture.

46. Top your toast.

Swap out butter for coconut oil the next time you make toast. You might also want to add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top—delicious!

47. Eat it up.

Scoop up a spoonful and eat it as is for a bunch of healthy fats—seriously. Ingesting coconut oil is linked to a slew of health benefits, so feel free to swallow it.

48. Upgrade your smoothie.

Oil may not seem like a natural choice for a smoothie ingredient, but a tablespoon of the stuff can give you an energy boost—the body uses its medium-chain fatty acids as an energy source instead of storing it away.

49. Change up your baking game.

The next time you’re channeling Betty Crocker, add some coconut oil to the mix. If you’re whipping up a pie (mmm, pie!) or biscuits, consider using coconut oil instead of shortening or butter for a light consistency. The same goes for baked goods that call for a good amount of vegetable oil. In most cases, you can substitute it one-for-one.

50. Pop it like it’s hot.

We’re big fans of popcorn, particularly the homemade kind. The next time you reach for the kernels, opt for cooking them in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. You’ll get a hint of sweetness with every bite.

51. Switch up your topping.

You’ve popped your corn, now top it off! Coconut oil is a great substitute for a buttery topping, especially when topped off with a sprinkle of salt. A little sweet, a little salty…what more could you want in a snack?

52. Grease cookware and bakeware.

Use coconut oil to grease pans and trays while you’re baking. Just scoop some out and smooth it onto the sides and bottoms of your pan to keep food from sticking to it.

53. Level up your oral hygiene.

Oil pulling is an Ayurveda practice that’s all the rage at the moment, is believed to help your wellbeing in tons of different ways: it whitens your teeth, improves your skin, gets rid of toxins, and more. To give it a go with coconut oil, swish about two tablespoons of it around your mouth for three to 10 minutes a day (though some recommend pulling for up to 20 minutes). Think of it as a sweeter, (slimier?) mouthwash.

54. Fight colds and the flu.

Eating coconut oil can help boost your immune system (by improving your white blood cell count). (White blood cells are the little guys that fight viruses and bacteria in your bloodstream. The more white blood cells, the more infection-fighting power is streaming through your system!)

55. Prevent chafing.

Not only can coconut oil stop chafing from actually happening, it can also treat an area that’s already been rubbed raw (just mix with calendula for a soothing ointment). Bonus for anyone who has a little bundle of joy: Coconut oil can help your baby, too. If your little one is suffering from diaper rash, try mixing up a diaper cream to soothe irritated skin.

56. Say goodbye to scratchy throats.

Forget cough drops the next time your throat’s killing you! Soothe a sore throat by swallowing a bit of coconut oil on its own or adding it to your tea.

57. Lube up.

Proof positive that coconut oil has endless possible uses? It can make its way into your sex life. Though there hasn’t been research that focuses on the safety of coconut oil as a lubricant, it seems to work just fine, according to some experts. One caveat: Coconut oil can weaken latex condoms, so if you do want to use coconut oil between the sheets, opt for a polyurethane condom instead.

58. Relax.

It’s hard not to envision a tropical beach on a sunny day when you get a whiff of coconut—and what’s more relaxing than that? With that in mind, use coconut oil as aromatherapy. Try massaging some into your scalp and temples to relieve stress.

59. Get rid of lice.

Some believe that coconut oil is an all-natural remedy for lice. Test it out by using coconut oil as part of a two-step process. To start, rinse your hair in apple cider vinegar, let it dry, and then smooth coconut oil through your strands. You’ll have to let it sink in for up to 24 hours (sleep with a shower cap on to avoid ruining your bedding). Comb it out in the morning and then rinse your hair.

60. Treat cold sores.

The second you start to feel the telltale tingle of a cold sore on or around your lips, rub some coconut oil on the spot—the oil’s antiviral properties may help treat unsightly fever blisters.

61. Protect scrapes and scratches.

To help keep superficial cuts and scrapes clean (this isn’t for deep wounds!), apply a thin layer of coconut oil—it’ll work as a barrier, keeping out dust and harmful bacteria.

62. Heal bug bites.

Bzzz, bzzz… you’ve been bitten by a bug! Apply a drop or two of coconut oil to the area to relieve itching.

63. Calm bruises.

While it’s unclear as to whether or not coconut oil actually heals bruises, some suggest applying it to your black-and-blues can help calm the area.

64. Treat yeast infections.

Now, this is definitely one to take to your doctor before you testing it out, but some have found that coconut oil may help treat yeast infections when ingested and applied topically.

65. Improve your cholesterol.

Coconut oil’s star component, lauric acid, can boost your levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good kind) to help keep your heart healthy.

66. Keep your stomach happy.

Stomach issues—whether the occasional ailment or a more chronic condition—can really hinder your lifestyle. Ingesting coconut oil may help soothe your stomach and is even thought to ease symptoms from serious disorders like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another healthy-stomach benefit: Adding coconut oil to your diet—even just one tablespoon per day—can help treat ulcers. That said, stomach problems can be pretty serious, so it’s best to consult a doc before you self-diagnose with coconut oil.

67. Clear up congestion.

One of the worst parts about having a cold (and one of the hardest side effects to kick) is congestion. To help clear things out, try mixing up a homemade vapor rub. All it takes is coconut oil, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil. Rub this trio of ingredients on your chest and underneath your nose to breathe easier.

68. Repel insects.

Not only can it help soothe itchiness from insect bites, coconut oil can also be used in a DIY insect repellent. The ingredients you’ll need: coconut oil and essential oils like peppermint, catnip, rosemary, or tea tree.

69. Treat the aches and pains of an ear infection.

After checking with your doctor to make sure this remedy’s for you, mix up a solution that can be applied behind your ear.

70. Prevent nosebleeds.

One of the biggest culprits behind nosebleeds is dry, irritated nostrils. To keep them from drying out, dip your finger in coconut oil and gently apply it to the inside of your nose to coat as much of each interior as you can.

71. Breastfeed more comfortably.

Another tip for new moms: Keep coconut oil handy to prevent your nipples from becoming cracked or painful due to breastfeeding.

72. Boost your metabolism.

While adding oil to your diet may sound counterintuitive, the fats in coconut oil—medium-chain saturated fats—are easy to digest, can be used directly by the liver for energy, and encourage fat burning.

73. Clean your dental accessories.

If you use a mouth guard or retainer (hey, you have to keep those pearly whites in place!), use coconut oil to sanitize them during the day.

74. Clean your ears.

Dip a cotton swab into coconut oil (but just for a second—you don’t want it to be soaked), and gently clean earwax out of your ears.

75. Boost your bone health.

Not only is coconut oil a stellar ingredient in its own right, but it also helps calcium and magnesium absorption in your body, which can make for healthy bones and teeth.

76. Tip the scale in your favor.

Eating coconut oil may also keep your weight in check. Research suggests that consuming the slick stuff may help reduce waist circumference and abdominal obesity . Plus, coconut oil has fewer calories than other dietary fats—a serious bonus when it comes to weight management.

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Filed under Animals, Food, Gardening / Outdoors, Super Creative

Mexican Birds

I swear Mexican birds cheep louder than any where else.  I am sitting here at my expansive living room window, where my desk faces out onto tall trees and trying to read the latest chapters for one of the grad classes I am taking and I can’t concentrate.

Trees from My WindowThe birds are so happy in these trees.  The birds are just plain happy here in Mexico.  Occasionally I get a hummingbird to come visit me at my window.  I finally discovered that right next to my office window, on the balcony next door is a plant full of blossoms.  So it wasn’t me my little friend was visiting at all.  But glorious to hear and see anyway.

On my roof top I see these guys in swarms: Inca doves, cooing and pacing and fluffing just as they should.

Inca Dove

These guys are everywhere making a racket.  Maybe they are the ones bringing me out of my books: Grackles.  What a perfect name.

Large tailed Grackle (Zanate)

 

These beauties I have yet to see, but now that I know they are here in quantity, I will keep a look out: Cardinal Flycatchers.

Vermillion Flycatcher (Cardenalito)Ok – back to studying.  Enjoy your afternoon and listing to the real, live tweets!

Gretchen

(all the bird photos are by:  http://delta.cs.cinvestav.mx/~debrup/mexicoBirds.htm)

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Mexico

Nigeria is Wonderful

One week left of my fun adventures in Nigeria.  Since my last post, life has found a lovely rhythm.  Working out, watching a friends choir perform, eating good food, HASHing etc…it has been nice.  Work remains good, even though the kids are getting so excited for the last day of school it is hard to keep them focused on learning.

Since our grades are already done and turned in (but the students do not know that!), I have been having them do projects that they think are just fun and silly, but they are actually learning too.

We started making paper mâché globes – this next week we’ll paint them:

IMG_2232

And on Monday they will be performing their rap songs.  We are finishing up a unit on the Heroes Journey in Language Arts so they are creating a rap about a chosen hero.  They had a choice between Greek, Literary, Historical or Unsung heroes.  Here is what the groups chose:  Spiderman, Robin Hood, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Abigail Adams.  As of their last rehearsal they were starting to sound pretty good.  It is really fun to see who has a beat and those that don’t.  I’ll try to video tape them and share with you next week.

I finally caught a photo of one of the myriad of lizards that are constantly darting across my footsteps, bobbing their heads up and down.  They are literally everywhere and some have the coolest color combos, but as they are so skittish, it is really hard to get a photo – here is my best one so far:

IMG_2216And I was thrilled to finally be up close and see this magnificent bird:

red_bishop

Photo by yebomama.com

This of course is not my photo, but I have been seeing flits of red flying by and wondered what it could be.  A couple days ago on a back road driving to drop off a friend’s son, we spotted one sitting right next to the road.  S/he graciously did not fly off for quite some time as we marveled at the bright little creature.  This is a Red Bishop.  There have been so many colorful birds here – gorgeous sky blue, little tiny birds  (think size of a Mouse Tit) and large, golden browns and oranges the size of a large Robin.  I definitely needed a bird book for this part of the world.

I also took my students on a field trip to the Children’s Zoo. IMG_2158

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Me and my TA; Lucia.

It was a pretty sad place.  Obviously very little funding and it was a massive zoo.  We saw ostrich, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, crocodiles, gazelle, African golden eagle, tortoise, goats (originally there to feed the lions but the lions died, so now the goats are on display).IMG_2178IMG_2195And lots of monkeys.  Here is one in particular I found fascinating – look for blue.  It wasn’t an anomaly, they all had them!

IMG_2201   On that note… I’ll try to post one more time before I fly back to the USA.

Have a great week!  Gretchen

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Crafts, Education, Fourth Grade, Nigeria, Photography

Abuja Color

Another fun week in Abuja, Nigeria.  My fourth graders are simply wonderful.  They are so kind, polite, funny, talkative, inquisitive… I love them.

The week just flew by with major wind and hurricane rains three of the evenings.  One of which I went to a great Indian restaurant and sat up on the top floor and looked out as the sky lit up with streaks of lightning, howling winds and sideways rain.  The storms here are intense to say the least.

Last night we had another pool party in celebration of the Thai (really SE Asia) Water Festival.  It was really fun, excellent BBQ, silliness with water, great dancing…  This group of teachers, administrators and friends from embassies, Medicine San Frontier and other NGOs is full of energy and interesting.  It will be sad to say goodbye.  I can only hope that I have such a great group to join in China next year.

Next weekend we have four days off, so I am hoping to go hike Aso Rock or Zuma Rock – both famous here in Nigeria, do another HASH and visit a handcraft market.  Thus I will hopefully have a lot more photos to share.

But for now I will leave you with a few new ones.  Have a great week!  Gretchen

Palm base 2

Palm fronds – just loved the feel they exude.

Painter in Abuja

An artist painting by the side of the road to the grocery story. I am so excited to see more art.

Flame Tree at school

Everywhere are flame trees (I have yet to find out the real name for these but they are everywhere in SE Asia and I think I remember seeing them in Guatemala years back!).

Cows at school 3

Cow crossing. Heading home on Friday afternoon – we had to wait for the cows. I just love this. Check out those horns!

Cows at school 2

Cows at school 1

4 Blue

My cuties hard at work.

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Filed under Animals, Crafts, Education, Fourth Grade, Nigeria, Photography, Travel

70 hours of Flying: Rescue Mission

September just whizzed by mostly due to preparing to head back to the USA for a quick rescue mission: flights booked, extra detailed lesson plans for my Assistant Teacher, organizing the troops on US soil…

Back in August the gal that was supposed to care for my cats and my belongings through July 2014 decided that taking care of two cats that already mostly lived outdoors and my stuff that was stored in the corner of the basement, was just too overwhelming of a burden for her.  So she told me flatly in a one liner email via her iPhone that my cats and stuff had to be moved out by October. Period.  Yay, love the rich and deep communication.

Since I had a mandatory visa run in mid-September, I began planning my rescue mission.  I began by secretly contacting neighbors to update me with the status of the house, how my cats were fairing and what the difficulties would be in extracting said cats and boxes.  My neighbors were wonderful, as usual.

Then I contacted friends to help me remove the items as quickly as possible – I love my friends!

Then my brother was contacted for a quick airport extraction, a little dabbling of wine and family bonding and then a sneaky drop-off at the Budget Rental truck office the next day – this was to ultimately be my escape vehicle.

We all rendezvoused at the house at 0-10:30 and after a bit of hugging we got right down to our mission – full extraction: leave no cat or box behind.  Within 30 minutes we had completed our task and were on our way to a great lunch at Breakside Brewery in NE Portland.  Mission accomplished without me verbally or physically harming the “caretaker.”  Success.

I could not have done it without my friends and brother.  Seriously great help!

After a much needed update from friends over a delicious salad of fresh spinach, beets, bleu cheese and walnuts (unheard of here in Myanmar) I sadly waved goodbye to my buddies and started the drive south to my mom.  My wonderful furry friends were in a state of shock, but soon warmed up and got snugly.

Cats

Mom graciously took in my sweet cats and accommodated all my stuff in her basement – on very short notice!  My mom is unprecedented in her abundance of love and support.

I had a short five days getting my stuff and cats settled, eating delicious food and hanging out with my great mom and dad.  Then Friday hit and I was on my way back up to Portland at 5am to start my 35 hour transit back to Mandalay.

Exhausted and ready to be horizontal, I walked off the plane and was kissed by the warm air of Myanmar.

Upon return to the classroom the next day, my kiddos were full of energy and excitement.  Happy smiles and good workers.  ClassA new quarter has just begun and now I can sleep nights knowing that my furry friends are lovingly cared for.  Phew!

Thank you to my wonderful friends and family!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Education, Photography, Travel

Paw Prints

If the cat walks across
your manuscript when you weren’t there,
does it leave prints?

If you could tell the tale about what happened in this picture, what would it say?

Cat paws in a fifteenth-century manuscript (photo taken at the Dubrovnik archives by @EmirOFilipovic) – taken from the blog: http://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/paws-pee-and-mice-cats-among-medieval-manuscripts/

Cairo purred his deep, undulating rhythm.  As he unfurled his long, ringed tail and stretched out revealing the star on his belly, the Master turned and gave a moments notice.

Forgotten again, Cairo paced.  He didn’t like being down from the pedestal.  He preferred worship.  It was his right.

A moment of startle as the Master rose and stridently walked from the room, slamming the door.

Locked in, unloved, un, un…

He would show the Master he was entitled to more.  More love, more caresses, more devotion to the god he was.

After peeing on the binding he purposefully spilled the ink and walked across the pages…

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Filed under Animals, Writing

Animal Symbolism

As I was sick in bed all last week, I had to post-pone the Vision-Action Board (and dancing) get together last night until next Saturday.

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Henry, my sweet boy.

But when I wasn’t sleeping last week  I continued to read a variety of books, one of which is The Happiness Project that I mentioned in the last post.    In one short section the author writes about symoblism and animal totems.  And that got me thinking about what animals I am drawn to.  Besides my wonderful cats and my recently passed dog, what types of animals draw my attention more than others and why.

Although as a child when asked what animal you’d like to be I would always say either a Cheetah or a Falcon.  But reflecting on their qualities and passions, they didn’t seem to fit me today.  Both of those animals are a bit more solitary than I like to be.

So I googled some keywords and found a few sites that offer quizzes indicating your animal totem.  The animal that I had the most likeness to is the Wolf.  It is a social, caring, protective animal that according to Native American Legends is considered to be loyal, has perseverance, is successful, has intuition and spirit.

wolf-color-photo

Photo Credit: http://wolfweb.com/

That sounds nice.  Although I love furry creatures and wolves are majestic, proud and strong, I don’t feel a strong connection to them.

So then I started thinking about animals that I have seen in the wild that draw my attention more than others, which ones give me a thrill every time I see them, and those that I seek out.

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Me feeding baby Cha’im, infant Howler Monkey, Guatemala

After going through the exotic animals, monkeys in particular, as I have had some lovely experiences with them in the wild, I looked closer to home, to the exotic (at least to me) in my area of the world.

And I have to say, as I did so my animal flashed before my eyes.  In my mind, but it was there hovering quietly and I could see it as clear as day.  It was thrilling.

Every time I see them I get a tingling, a jolt of happiness, a must-stop-and-stare moment of pure pleasure.  I just knew this had to be my animal.  So I immediately got back online and looked up Hummingbirds.

And to my happy surprise they hold wonderful meanings – depending on which site and which culture you read through – but the general, over-arching belief is that they bring, offer, exude the following:

Joy

Happiness

Timelessness

Energy

Vitality

Playfulness

Sincerity

Their wings beat in a figure 8 motion – or the symbol for eternity.  They are very social, strong minded, independent, work hard… and they build the cutest little nests that they camouflage with lichen or moss.

Hummingbird-Nest1

Photo Credit: birdsandbloomsblog.com
Hum Nest 3

Photo Credit: http://www.komar.org

So I feel good about my totem.  The symbolism surrounding Hummingbirds resonates with me.  So with that I decided that I would start to bring hummingbird images into my life.  Slowly, choosing only the ones that I simply can’t resist.  I’m not into clutter, so a collection over a long period of time, that adds rather than fills up.

It just so happens that my first piece came to me yesterday.  I was out, feeling a tiny bit more energy for the first time, and was early to meet a friend for a movie so decided to wander through some shops.  I am attracted to beautiful, rich colors ( I really should live in Mexico) and was looking through some fun dishes and couldn’t believe it, but I found this:

Hummingbird PlateSo my collection and devotion has begun.

Every thought about what animal is your symbol, your totem, your guide?  I would love to hear.  Write a comment and let me know.

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Filed under Animals, Gardening / Outdoors, Introspection, Uncategorized

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