Sunday, November 22, 2009

Losing a Loved One

My grandma passed away yesterday. The "Cookie Granny" as she was affectionately called, would have been 92 years old on December 24th. She suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and eventually succumbed to pneumonia and kidney failure. She obviously wasn't her true self for the last five or six years because of the Alzheimer's, but I avoid thinking of her in those terms and try to remember her the way she was when I was a kid. This post is a tribute to my granny. . . Emelia Robinson.

First of all, I was named after her. . . my middle name, that is. I inherited her love of Cubs baseball and playing cards--especially rummy. My sister and I used to play with my grandpa and my cousins, betting everything from jelly beans and Hershey's kisses to packs of baseball cards. She had an infectious laugh that, it seems, my sister, aunts, and cousins have inherited. . . but not me. I laugh like my mom. :)

Granny loved to work in the garden and go on long walks with Grandpa. They used to get up every morning before dawn and walk for miles and miles. She also used to drink that instant coffee stuff, like Cafe Francais and Swiss Mocha. (I can't stand coffee at all, but my sister started drinking that with Granny when she was younger. I used to tell her that it would stunt her growth. . . was I right? I mean she's barely 5'1.)

Granny was a tough woman. Grandpa always told stories about the first time he met her. . . when she was working in the fields or carrying 50 lb sacks of grain to the feed the animals. She grew up just outside of Chicago, Illinois until her family moved to rural Washington state. Granny was the oldest of 11, and really helped raise some of her younger siblings. Her native language was Lithuanian and we always tried to get her to teach us some phrases--although she'd say she lost most of it and could only remember how to count. As the Alzheimer's got bad, some of the Lithuanian language came back to her. She could sing songs that her dad had taught her, that had probably been locked up in the back of her mind for over fifty years.

Finally, I will always remember my granny's cooking, baking and quilting abilities. Nobody could bake a cake, a pie, or a batch of cookies like Grans. Part of that is a granddaughter's bias, but she did win first prize at the county fair for everything from her sheet cake to her "crack cookies." And I also have some blue ribbons she won for quilts over the years. I will treasure the three Granny-Originals that she gave me when I was younger. One of the saddest days was when she had to admit that she couldn't see well enough to continue with the fine quilting detail and "retired" from her sewing machine.

Anyway, it's a sad day for the family, but I will cherish the memories forever.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Fort Hays State University Homecoming!!! WoooHoooo!!

A month or so ago I traveled across Kansas to Hays, America for Homecoming. Actually, I was headed back to Hays to attend a wedding reception for my good friend Stacie. She married this summer in the Pacific Northwest and then held a reception in her hometown over homecoming weekend. Here's the happy couple--now living in Washington state--(I'm so jealous.)

I left after school on a Friday and drove the 4 hours from Olathe to Hays. I drove through a rain storm about 30 miles outside of Salina and took this picture from my car. Thought it was kind of cool.

On Saturday I met up with friends, attended Chris and Stace's reception and then went to the FHSU vs. Emporia game. . . BIG WIN for the TIGERS!!!! Interestingly, one of my former students from ONW is the mascot (Victor E. Tiger) at Fort Hays. Dawna is a great kid and she's doing a wonderful job at my alma mater. If you ever get the chance, you need to check out the Tiger in person! Her mom Debbie was in attendance as well and here's a pic of the two of them as well as the scoreboard as I was leaving the game. (It always feels so great to beat the Hornets. . .YES!!!)

The rest of these pics are shots of friends and my "family" in Hays: basketball buddies, the Nehers, and the Timkens. Hopefully I can get back again soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aussie Party

So, a number of weeks ago, my friend Shannon threw a little "Aussie Party" at her house to celebrate our trip to Australia this summer. In order to show folks what we experienced down under we put together a photo slide show and made some Australian delicacies for all to enjoy.

We decided to present our friends with scones (Rachel), meat pies (Shannon) and pavlova (Me). What follows are just a few of the pics from the party, including my 1st ever real pavlova success. (I even had a little pavola-making lesson this summer.) Oh, and I included the recipe in case any of you want to give it a try. :)

My mom talked me through the process--I called her 3 times in about 2 hours. Turned out better than I could have hoped.

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 cup of Castor sugar, also known as "Berry sugar"
1 tsp of white vinegar
1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch
1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cups of whipping cream
Fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, bananas, blueberries
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice


*Preheat the oven to 275F (140C) and place the rack in middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with foil and draw a 7 inch circle on the foil with the blunt edge of a knife (don't tear the foil). Set aside.
*In a clean, medium-sized metal bowl, beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.
*Gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, one teaspoon at a time. Don't just lump the sugar in the bowl and never stop beating the eggs until you finish the sugar. Your egg whites should now be glossy stiff peaks.
*Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.
*Now gently spread the meringue in the circle on the foil to make a circular base. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher then the center so you have a very slight well in the middle.
*Bake the meringue for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it goes a very pale, pinkish egg shell color.
*Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.
*Just before serving, take the meringue out of the oven and remove it gently from the foil and place on a plate.
*Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it forms peaks. Prepare the fruit by washing and slicing.
*Gently spread the cream to the top of the meringue with a spatula and arrange the fruit on top.

Here are Shannon's meat pies with a little Vegemite as a table decoration (because no American I know will eat the stuff):

And, here's me enjoying my pavlova with ice cream, kiwi fruit and strawberries. Yum.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

So, shouldn't Labor Day be called Un-Labor Day or No Labor Today or NonLabor Day? Just wondering since it is a national holiday and most folks do not work. . . or labor. Just wondering.

I actually did LABOR today. Cleaned house, did yard work, and GRADED PAPERS. Plus, I had to go to school to organize lesson plans for the substitute I have tomorrow. We have a golf tournament tomorrow so, lucky me, I have a sub. Unfortunately, it's always harder to prepare for a sub than it is to just be at school. Those of you who teach know exactly what I'm talking about; it's never easy being absent as a schoolteacher.

(Don't feel too bad for me though. . . I did play a round of golf today as well.)

Anyway, just thought I'd check in with y'all and I wanted to provide you with some info on LABOR DAY. You know, this is a full-service educational blog. :) FYI: Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

This web address will take you to the Department of LABOR website and explains all you could ever want to know about the holiday. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Birthdays. . .Yeah.

So, I'm turning thirty-three this weekend. WooHoo! Nothing too spectacular, but 33 nonetheless. For this post I thought that I would talk a little about my birthday, but then focus on the number thirty-three itself. I've done a little research (okay, I looked it up on Wikipedia too), and found some interesting facts.

First of all, I love birthdays. I just think it's cool to have a day to celebrate the blessings and life that the Lord has provided. Last night my friends from work put together a little last minute party for me. We went out to eat, then some other friends joined us and we spent the evening on my deck just hanging out, chatting, and enjoying a very nice evening. Rachel made cupcakes, Krista brought a cookie-cake, and Shannon provided ice cream WHEW!!! I gained a few pounds on dessert, but I guess it's okay to splurge on your birthday! Mmmm Mmmmm. Anyway, it was a nice way to end a long day at work and celebrate my 33rd. (I'm sorry I didn't take any pics. . .I'll try to remember next time.)

As for the number itself. . .well, check this out:

--In sports 33 was the NBA jersey number of Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
--On most occasions, the traditional number of racers in the Indianapolis 500 is 33.
--33 was the number of innings played in the longest baseball game in history (a 1981 minor league game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox in Pawtucket, Rhode Island).

--33 is a significant number in modern numerology, one of the master numbers along with 11 and 22 (which was my number playing basketball in college).

--For those of you who speak other languages: In French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese, 33 is the word a patient is usually asked to say when a doctor is listening to his or her lungs with a stethoscope (Trente-Trois, Trentatrè, Treizeci şi trei, Treinta y Tres and Trinta e Três) --Why? Well, I have no idea.

--Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in 3 canticas - each consisting of 33 cantos.

--The United Nations symbol has 33 segments.

--And, most important to me, thirty-three was Jesus's age when he was crucified for our sins in 33 A.D. Awesome to ponder what was accomplished in just 33 short years on earth.

So, that's the number 33. . . .and now, I think I'll go eat another cupcake! :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Australian Adventure

WHEW!!! What a summer!

Well, I made it home from Australia about a week ago, and I think I'm finally completely recovered. Jet lag is never any fun, but the problem was compounded for me this year because I had to attend an AP conference every day the week we returned. It wasn't too bad, just tiring. My internal clock was all messed up and I felt like I should be asleep at 1:00pm every afternoon. Adelaide is about 14 hours ahead of us so when it's noon here, it's about 2:00am there.

Mom and Mard at the Sydney Opera House

Anyway, I had a GREAT time Down Under! We started in Sydney, spent a couple nights there then traveled down/across southeastern Australia. We spent nights in the Blue Mountains in a cute little town called Katoomba, then drove through part of the "Outback" to Ballarat. The next day took us to the Great Ocean Road, a viewing of the "12 Apostles," and one night in Warnambool. In the morning we walked around the Griffith Island lighthouse, had breakfast in Port Fairy, and then drove through Coonawarra Wine Country up to Adelaide (our final destination.) Then we spent almost two weeks in my mom's hometown staying with friends, seeing the sites, and visiting relatives. It was FABULOUS. The winter weather was a little chilly, especially at night, but I loved it--around 65 degrees every day--are you kidding. I'd take that any day over the hot, humid summers in Kansas.
Shannon, Rachel and Mardy at the "Three Sisters" in the Blue Mountains. It was beautiful.

The "Twelve Apostles" on the Great Ocean Road. It was a little windy and cold, but a good hug will always warm you up. :)

So, I've included some pictures from the trip. Obviously, my mom went with me since the whole point of going was to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday, but you'll notice my friends Shannon and Rachel in some of the pics as well. It was their first trip to Australia and I think they enjoyed themselves. It was cool to experience Australia with some folks who had never been. Good Times!
Mard and Grandma at her birthday party. Doesn't she look great!

This was the view from the house we stayed at in Semaphore, South Australia. My mom's friend Heather has a great house right on the beach!

Mardy and Auntie Val at the Port Power Aussie Rules Football Game. I love it!

FISH and CHIPS! in Victor Harbour, SA.

You can't go to Australia without holding a Koala--Right!?! Of course, my little cousin Chelsea is so much cuter than a Koala. This is Chelsea, her mom Emma, and myself at Rundle Mall in Adelaide. My family is great!

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to include more pictures in my next post. Hopefully it won't take me forever to make that happen. School starts next week. Summer's over and it's time to gear up for Golf season. Woohoo! Go Ravens!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two Trips Down, One to Go!

Well, as I mentioned before, I'm quite busy this summer. There will be no rest for the weary until August! So far, I've been to Romania, London, and Spearfish, South Dakota. Woo Hoo!!!! I leave tomorrow for Australia for three weeks Down Under, as well as a big birthday celebration for my grandma who will be 90 in a couple of weeks. I just wanted to post some pics from the last month or so to give you an idea of what I've been up to. . . Hope y'all have been having Fun in the Sun! :)

1st trip: ROMANIA
My first shot from St. Gheorghe, Romania
The chapel start in Valea Mare.

Kids LOVE Bubbles!
Ah, the neighbors. . . chatting it up across the fence. Just like home?
Bringing in the Hay. We saw wagons loaded like this one every day. It really is amazing to see the mix of worlds. . . at one moment the people are working the fields with homemade tools, the next they're on their cell phones. Crazy.

A little work on the chapel.
The all-important OUTHOUSE. . . an essential on any job site.
Acting out the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den. . . Kids loved it. . . and me too!
Lots of storks in Romania.
And, the finished Chapel. 5 days of hard work and the finished product--sure gives a sense of accomplishment.

So, on the way home from Romania I stopped in London to see my cousin Tom and his family. They live in a quaint little English village and I had a wonderful time experiencing English life. Tom and I even had the chance to spend a day in Cambridge where the university itself is 800 years old. Pretty cool. Here are a few pictures from my stay.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Well, it's been awhile since I've had time to blog. . . but I had to tell you all about my week of "work." My dad drove to Kansas a little over a week ago and we spent 6 days working tirelessly (okay, so my dad worked a lot harder than I did) on building a deck on my house. There was a small 4x8 porch attached to the house, but it was rotting and not too attractive. So, my pops came in and quickly designed a deck that would give me a little more space, but wouldn't protrude too far out into my yard. Anyway, I won't talk it to death; you can see for yourself the before and after shots.

So, these are the before pics. . . and now, the after. . .

What do you think?

I won't have much time to enjoy it this summer though. . . I'm headed to Romania this week with a brief stop in London on my way home. Then it's South Dakota for FCA basketball camp. And finally, Australia for three weeks in July with my mom and two good friends. I'll try to keep y'all updated with pictures after (or during) each trip. Have a wonderful summer!! Stay cool.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Not Spring Yet. . .

In my last post I believe I mentioned that Spring had arrived. The daffodils were out, the weather was warming, and then. . .well, SNOW!!! This afternoon I went to the movies with some friends. When we walked out of the theatre there was already 3 inches on the ground. I've always loved the snow and it's beautiful, but it's messy. And my biggest gripe. . .couldn't wait 'til a school day?!? :) How do you like the look of my daffodils now?

Last week I went to Arizona to visit my aunt and uncle. It was an awesome few days of golf, spring training baseball, and relaxation. I even got to see the Royals win in a victory over the White Sox. (Which I hope might happen frequently this summer?) Here are just a few pics from my trip.

Here's my aunt, knocking a straight shot right down the middle! SWEET. We both improved with each round during the week and had a fabulous time on the course. I absolutely need to get out and play more often if I'm going to keep up with her.

Go Royals!