just happiness

So my school is doing something to boost attendance, and every month the 3-5 class that has the best attendance gets to do a scooter race. My class won for September (there’s only 10 of us, so it wasn’t TOO hard…).  Here’s a few pics and videos from yesterday’s race.  You can hear me cheering; one of my kiddos was using my camera since he couldn’t race.



A few years ago (five, I guess!) when Kent and I were driving from Minneapolis to Banff to go hiking before my brother’s wedding in Kelowna, we brainstormed a list of “The World’s Most Beautiful Music”.  This was, of course, before we had smartphones, so this was totally out of our own heads, late at night, with a little help from the songs I had on my computer.  We ended up with 75 songs, and I’ve added to it.  I was hoping to get 100, but I seem to not be able to narrow it down; rather, I keep adding more (I have 115 at this moment).  Our initial criteria were haunting, often melancholy, and phrases that pull at your heart.  There are other wonderful songs we didn’t put on there, and probably some on there now that Kent would disagree with.  I thought it might be interesting to see what everyone thought.

I’ve separated the list into types of music (roughly, as some cross genres).  Maybe in the comments, put your favorite song from each genre?  I’ll try to add links to videos as I can.  If you have one you think should be on the list, tell me that too.  Of course I’m sure it’s by no means exhaustive, and I have my personal top five or so.   I have to admit, there’s a lot of choral music on there.  I am more familiar with that genre, and keyboard, than with orchestra or opera.


  • Adoramus te Christe
  • Bach Jesu Priceless Treasure
  • Bach-Gounod Ave Maria
  • Beautiful Savior (F. Melius Christiansen)
  • Biebl Ave Maria
  • Cantique de Jean Racine
  • Chichester Psalm 2nd mvt
  • Creator of the Stars of Night
  • Dante’s Prayer
  • Duet from the Pearl Fishers
  • E’en So Lord Jesus
  • Faure Pie Jesu
  • How Deep the Father’s Love
  • Jesus I Adore Thee
  • Lauridsen O magnum mysterium
  • Mozart Ave verum corpus
  • Mozart Lacrimosa
  • My Lord, What a Morning
  • My Song in the Night
  • Prayer of the Children
  • Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  • Queen My Bijou
  • Rachmaninoff Vespers Bogoroditse Devo
  • Rachmaninoff Vespers Six Psalms
  • Rachmaninoff Vocalise
  • Rodrigo En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor
  • Rusalka Song to the Moon
  • Rutter Requiem Agnus Dei
  • Rutter Requiem Out of the Deep
  • Rutter Requiem Psalm 23
  • Rutter What Sweeter Music
  • Stay With Us
  • Steal Away
  • The Blue Bird
  • The King Shall Come
  • The Lord Bless You and Keep You with long Amen
  • The Prayer
  • Villa-Lobos Bachianas brasilieras
  • Webber Pie Jesu


  • Bach Wachet Auf
  • Bethlehem Down
  • In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Jul, Jul
  • little tree
  • Lute Caroll
  • Lux Aurumque
  • O Day Full of Grace
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten
  • Silent Night (with Night of Silence)
  • Stanford Scriven’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
  • Victoria O magnum mysterium


  • Carrickfergus
  • Greensleeves
  • Kathleen Mavourneen
  • Londonderry Air
  • Myfanwy
  • Shenandoah
  • The Water is Wide
  • To a Wild Rose
  • Wayfaring Stranger


  • Bach Alle Menschen
  • Beethoven Emperor Concerto
  • Beethoven Moonlight Sonata 2nd mvt
  • Beethoven Sonata Pathetique 2nd mvt
  • Chopin Fantasie Impromptu
  • Chopin Nocturne in Eb
  • Debussy Cathedrale engloutie
  • Debussy Clair de Lune
  • Glencoe by NEYEII
  • Granados Asturiana
  • Highland Cathedral
  • Mendelssohn Organ Symphony #6
  • Rachmaninoff Elegie
  • Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme from Paganini, var. 18
  • Saint-Saens Organ Symphony last mvt.
  • Satie Gymnopedie No. 1
  • Schumann Piano Concerto
  • Saint-saens The Swan
  • Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony
  • The Lark Ascending


  • Band arrangement of Battle Hymn with Taps
  • Dvorak Symphony 9
  • Faure Pavane
  • Gabriel’s Oboe
  • Grieg Solveig’s Song
  • Holst Jupiter
  • Intermezzo from Cavilliera Rusticana
  • Meditation from Thais
  • Mendelssohn Hebrides
  • Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony
  • Nimrod from Enigma Variations
  • None but the lonely heart
  • Ravel Pavane pour une infant defunte
  • This is My Will by NEYEII

Popular (including movie soundtracks)

  • Ashokan Farewell
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Braveheart Gift of a Thistle
  • Dead Poets’ Society Keating’s Triumph
  • Far and Away
  • Far Over the Misty Mountains
  • Fields of Gold
  • For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her
  • Henry V Non Nobis Domine
  • James Galway Concerning Hobbits
  • James Galway playing Annie’s Song
  • Hymn to the Fallen
  • Last of the Mohicans, Main Theme
  • Legends of the Fall, The Ludlows
  • Rocketeer theme
  • Schindler’s List
  • Somewhere My Love from Dr. Zhivago
  • Suo Gan
  • The Abyss
  • Time… from Romeo and Juliet
  • Trombone Amazing Grace from Gettysburg

Tonight, my favorite piece of music is Barber’s Adagio for Strings, as conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Enjoy, with your heart.

when in doubt, punt

Supper tonight.

Chicken enchiladas (with Gardein chik’n) and calabacitas.  I’d planned to make these before our company came a week ago, so no problem, right?


Enchiladas, in a manner quite peculiar to themselves, require enchilada sauce.  Surprising, I admit, but there it is.

I did not remember to buy enchilada sauce.  I confess.  Also, I did not get the half-and-half for the calabacitas, nor yet the Anaheim pepper I like to use instead of green.

We continue to the tale.


Two cans of tomato puree, a half packet of taco seasoning, white pepper (enough to make me sneeze), dried cilantro, dehydrated garlic, and a bit of salt =/not = enchilada sauce.  It didn’t taste Italian, so I think that passes.

The calabacitas though…I had a small can of chopped jalapenos and put that in in place of the missing anaheim pepper.  Anaheim peppers are not really hot.  Why I always forget that jalapenos are, I will never know.

I put in some cream and almond milk in place of the half-and-half, and plenty of cheese.  I tasted the calabacitas.  Oops.

In order to eat them, I required large dollops of sour cream.  Still made my nose run and my stomach hot (I’m not THAT bad, stop laughing!).  So I, of course, had recourse to a small bowl of chocolate brownie ice cream.

All better. *bliss*

Tea bathing

So evidently the ancient Middle-Easterners weren’t the only ones to bathe in odd (to us) fluids.  They, as I’ve read in various places, bathed in camel urinemilk, oil and ashes, or just didn’t wash at all.


In our (relatively) clean modern times, we bathe or shower at least once a day, use smelly soaps and body washes, put on deodorant, and basically try to eradicate our own smell.  Supposedly if we didn’t wash *at all*, after a month our own bacteria would neutralize any body odor. Not going to try it.

But some trends might be worth considering.  In Japan, there’s evidently a spa that lets people bathe in wine, coffee, sake, ramen broth, or green tea.  Not sure what I think of ramen broth, wine, or coffee, though I might be willing to try a chocolate massage.  Green tea would be nice to relax in, I think, although the thought of how many people came before me would deter me from drinking.


My computer, on the other hand (or mouse), has no such compunctions.  In attempting to save myself from my sinking desk chair, I knocked over my tea onto my keyboard last night.  Fortunately, my lesson plans had just been finished and turned in, and no sparks greeted the advent of the tea to my laptop’s innards.

Tonight, it appears that the bathing trend agrees with my laptop.  I will endeavor, however, not to allow my computer the decadence of bathing in anything else (or indeed, any more tea).

One must uphold standards — we might be sending out for camel urine next…

Trigger warning: this post is all (mostly) about wonderful food.  Back. away. from. the. fridge.

I made peach muffins for breakfast (sorry, no picture) that were appreciated even by the non-fruit-lover in our midst (looking at you, Todd!).  Then Kent and Todd rushed off to the Pima Air and Space Museum to geek out over the planes while Iryna and I got down to business (or up to mischief?) in the kitchen.

Iryna concocted dark chocolate-almond meringue torte, while I attacked the butternut squash with wild rice and cranberries.  I had gathered the ingredients beforehand, since it’s quite far to the stores here, but realized in the wee hours of the morning that I had neglected to buy a butternut squash.  Only a main ingredient, no problem.  So I’d gotten up early (pre-muffins) and acquired a squash from the nearest venue. Eleven miles away. Sigh.

Iryna was meticulous with the meringue, and I took a break from squash to melt the chocolate and help dot with almonds.


Yes, it was a decadent as it looks! *swoons*

I finished up the butternut-wild rice-cranberry combo — it made a LOT! and we headed off to meet our starving geeky boys.


We had heard there was an exhibit of Frida Kahlo art at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, so we thought we’d check that out.  It turned out to be only biographical art by other people (though it was still interesting), so not the absolute win we’d hoped for.  But, not having been to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, we didn’t know about the butterfly house.


Black butterfly open…


…and closed.



I thought this one looked like an old colorized photo.


Blue poison arrow frog


Three kinds: blue morpho (closed) on the left, don’t know the center, and owl butterfly on the right.



Kent kept having them land on him because of his yellow shirt

We couldn’t get good pictures of the blue morphos’ open wings because they Don’t. Sit. Still.  Rather, when they’re still, their wings are closed.  And when they’re in motion, they are In Motion! Sort of like putting a bunch of preteen girls on sugar and crack and letting them loose in a Justin Bieber concert.  Like that.  Gorgeous, but we couldn’t even video them!

In the garden proper, there were cacti, of course, various exhibits relating to Frida Kahlo, and some surprises for us non-native Arizonans.

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Afterwards, we got the obligatory kombucha for Kent and Iryna, and rattled around down in Old Tucson.  I hadn’t seen all the neighborhoods around, and a lot of the houses were really cute and inviting.  Not the more warehouse-y style I usually see.

We met Kent’s mom at El Charro for gorgeous Mexican food: tamales, chimichanga burritos, and enchiladas.


Again, we were too tired to do anything but fall into bed when we left the restaurant.  Day Two: Achievement Unlocked.


Girl with a Pearl Earring-esque?


welcome to the desert

One of the nice things about moving to a new and (potentially) interesting area is that our friends come to visit! We’ve had visits from my parents and three friends since Kent moved down here in November.  With our October break (one week! yay!) on us, two other friends from the Twin Cities made their way down for a last taste of warm weather before the polar vortex descended on them.

Once Todd and Iryna landed in Phoenix, we swept them across the desert and deposited them first at the fine establishment of Nico’s Taco Shop (a great local fast-food Mexican chain).


With burritos in hand (stomach?), we were ready to take on Tucson.  Our first stop was San Xavier Mission, south of the city, and a 300-year-old Catholic mission currently undergoing reconstruction.  It is called the “White Dove of the Desert”, for good reason.


It has no air conditioning, but is surprisingly cool inside the traditional adobe walls.  Todd was excited about the frescoes inside the church, and we all enjoyed looking at the different cacti in the gardens outside.

We started feeling very hot, so we postponed  our hike to go find some hats.  Several stops for drinks (and motorcycle goggling) later, we acquired breathable hats to protect us from the sun, which was by that time no longer beating down on our heads.

Nothing daunted, we drove west of town to the Tucson Mountains.  Kent veered off the trail, causing a certain amount of scrambling to be necessary to achieve the top.  Once there, we lingered through sunset.


On the way down, we saw someone flying a drone, and got to chat with him about the drone and what he did with it professionally.  The drone looked quite sci-fi and the videos were amazing.


We stumbled in to the house to eat supper, but somehow my “space-age” stove hadn’t cooked the food, and our wonderful tomato-onion bread was not available to us until much later than we wanted.  It was still wonderful, but we immediately tucked ourselves into bed, there to dream of drones and oddly frightening bathrooms.


There, I fixed it! — Nico’s bathroom

aim for the brass ring


Today, technically the first day of my fall break, I went to school.  This is the first time I’ve actually gone to school on a break.  I’m supposed to be “sharpening my saw” — Habit #7 from the 7 Habits, but the custodian said he’d be at the school from 12-4, so off I went.

This may require some explanation.  I have complained long and loudly about TUSD’s habit of giving teachers only three days to get ready for the first day of school, and then taking half or more of those first days up with required meetings, trainings, what have you.  I worked very hard during summer school to get a lot of things organized, and so was not…completely…lost these first two months.  Last year; wow.  We won’t talk about last year.

I’ve enlisted the help of students after school (you can Tom Sawyer them at this age), and even come in on an odd weekend day, but the organization was not in place, and I keep making piles of papers.

I finally got to the bottom of the pile of things to be filed.  Not everything is filed, but I know where everything is and will be able to file it, little by little, over the next week after school (I hope).

My core library was leveled before school started, but I still have not gotten to that.  I would much rather have piles of books around than piles of papers, however, so I will continue to work on that as time allows.


not this bad, I promise!

I brought home “teacher crafty” things to do this week (I’m NOT going back in again, so I did a lot of laminating today), and everything I might need for “Fall” centers.  Haven’t touched Halloween yet, and I may only have a couple of things on the day itself, rather than a couple weeks of spooky activities.

The fun thing about teaching elementary is the chance to be creative with assignments, to make centers that fit a theme while still aligning with current standards.  The tough thing about teaching elementary is to keep up with making the centers fun and cute, while not tearing one’s hair out.  I try to keep an even keel between the two, because I am short on time (especially now that after-school tutoring has started).  So some of my centers are not cute and some are.  We try our best.

And sometimes, sharpening the saw means having things ready to walk in on the Monday after a break, so I can sleep Sunday night.


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