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.


peaches galore


Peaches in October — an oddity, unless one lives in Arizona.  Unfortunately, these peaches were nearly on their last legs when I bought them from the grocery store (except for the overpriced ones I got at the orchard, which were green and never ripened).  The fruit flies began an attack, and soon I had dead and dying peaches littering my counters.


Operation Peach Rescue began with triage.  I enlisted the help of an experienced peach surgeon, one Andrea (my MIL), who bravely peeled the best ones, although there were mutterings of “hard rubber” and “not worth your time”.  Those peaches got turned into jam.


Eight jars of peach chai jam and eleven of peach maple, and I tackled the ones that were…more wounded.  I constructed three different peach cakes, all of which went into the oven as a battalion.


Far left: peach pecan


Far right: peach lemon ginger


Center: peach pistachio


All cakes are in the freezer awaiting a some-day party, and the hordes of fruit flies are very nearly vanquished, only lacking a few stragglers.

I wanted to make a peach almond, but it required the springform pan as well, so I didn’t.  I may yet, as I still have about 15 cups of cut-up peaches (this is after several small peach crisps had been manufactured and eaten over the weekend).

However, Operation Peach Rescue is (mostly) completed.  Stay tuned for updates on the remmnant, which may involve another cake, as well as a few muffins.

General Kristensen and aide-de-camp Andrea, signing off.


101 things, part deux

Clear strategy and leadership solutions

So last night I got to thinking (well, kept thinking), and decided I’d make a new 101 goals in 1001 days list.  I know I’m crazy, and honestly, the only way I think I’d make all of those goals in the time (or twice the time) is if I quit work.  But it’s not so much a list of what I think I can accomplish in a little less than three years, as a list of what I want to do and who I want to become.

I think the whole point of the 101 goals is to get people out of their comfort zones, to get them thinking of all the things they might do, and to have them be mindful about their lives.  I spend so much time with school, I don’t have a lot of time for my own life.  It isn’t that I come home and watch TV for a few hours before bed; I’m either doing something school-related or trying to snatch a few minutes to take care of things for myself, like laundry, cooking, finances, etc.

It’s too easy to get sucked into work, especially when you’re a teacher, and too easy to become nothing but a worker bee — totally focused on one thing only.  Part of the reason I took this challenge to write every day in October is because I realized that, in becoming a teacher, I have lost the enjoyment in my subject areas (writing and music) and am fast losing touch with the reasons I decided to teach in the first place.  I don’t write at all, unless you count lesson plans, and I rarely play or sing (maybe more if I had a church job, but I don’t).  I hardly even read, and if you know me, that’s nearly beyond belief!  I’ve been trying to be more mindful lately about just sitting down at the piano (when I don’t feel like school is pushing at me to Get This Done Tonight!!) and playing or singing, and now I’m trying to blog every day.

I think it’s important to get out of my own head, and to get my head out of school, rediscover who I am, and find my voice.  I have plenty to say; I just don’t tend to say it, or maybe say it only to family and friends.

The 101 goals list has several sections — mental, spiritual, social, hobbies, financial, charity, travel, etc.  I found the hardest ones to fill were mental, social, and spiritual.  It’s like I’ve become a human “doing” instead of a human “being.”  My husband complains I don’t just sit and be with him, and maybe I just need to find things that help me tap into my inner self.  Not to be such a whirlwind, mentally and physically.  I’ve never sat still well, unless my hands are occupied, and that’s not a bad thing, particularly, but I need to be more present in the moment when I’m with people, and right now it’s very hard for me to do that at all.

The more I think about us and how we react to the pressures of life, the more I realize that God knew what our bodies needed.  Technology, from electricity and cars to our so-addictive smartphones, keeps us awake at odd hours, has us far from extended family support, and ties our eyes and brains to small devices that we are discovering are more and more akin to drugs in the way they impact our brains.  I can’t go off the grid, but I can do things that require more from me than a swipe or a tap.  Writing, cooking, music, exercise, finding time to sit, chat, and just be with a friend or loved one can counteract the negative effects of many of our technological devices. No need to go off-grid.

So — mindfulness.  Quiet in my mind.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).  Find myself within the crazy teacher mind I usually channel and love myself.  Go beyond reacting to tiredness and be proactive in choosing what I will do because I want to be someone different.  I want to grow.


ragamuffin child


“…my thoughts are scattered and they’re  cloudy.

They have no borders, no boundaries. 

They echo and they swell,

From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell,

Down from Berkeley to Carmel…”

Cloudy” by Paul Simon


I have a lot of things on my mind today — not unusual for me, but normally they’re all about school.  Tonight is my first night of fall break and my mind is all over the place.  Mostly, they’re topics worth exploring (says me), so I feel like I should write them down and come back to them later.  This is why my blog is named what it is!

A by no means exhaustive list:

  • women’s ordination (still a biggie, and more things coming to light)
  • the election of course — no clue whom to vote for
  • organizing my crafting supplies
  • what I still have to do at school (yes, during break)
  • what I want to cook for our friends who come to visit from MN on Tuesday
  • what I should play for my next (infrequent) church service — infrequent in playing the organ, not in attending — don’t get me started on church music!
  • grades and grading and the testing culture
  • why the above grade issues really have nothing to do with teaching and more to do with parenting
  • the going-out-of-business sale at the piano store in town (and whether I should even bother going there since I can’t afford anything I’d like)
  • what I want to cross-stitch
  • the cross-stitch stand I’d like
  • what kitchen tools are broken and need replacing
  • why I feel like I HAVE to cook (is it creativity, relaxation, food snobbery, or all three?)
  • whether my constant exhaustion after work is due to not sleeping or shows I’m more introverted than I thought I was
  • what that weird beeping is in the car and why a “smart” car has so many stupid features
  • whether I should exercise or stitch tomorrow — not sure I can do both — should I try?
  • what to do for the Christmas concert I want to organize
  • whether I should quit teaching, just as I feel like I might be getting a handle on it, and start a bakery
  • how to organize my schedule and centers at school
  • why my district is still recommending a basal reader
  • what to do with all my music, since it’s in boxes in the guest room and I have nowhere real to put it
  • how to use my time most wisely this weekend to get both cooking and cleaning done, as well as some school-related work
  • the hurricane on the East Coast
  • whether to try to start 101 things in 1001 days again or not (probably not…)

Most of what’s been on my mind this evening is revolving around the continually-evolving women’s ordination issue that’s gained a lot of “airtime” among Seventh-day Adventists this last week.  And then having gotten on Facebook to see if I could find a particular quote I thought might be helpful to link to in my previous post on this issue, I see a particular presidential candidate all over the news for a recorded conversation in which he seems to be bragging about sexually assaulting random women.  That brings to my mind a whole other list of political topics, like sexual assault and harassment, gun control, the Wall, Obamacare, refugees, what (ON EARTH) to do about the whole cops-shooting people-shooting cops mess, power-hungry people trying to control others (that’s both church and secular politics), and…maybe I should just go to sleep, shut my mind off, and let everything gel.

It’s not that I have no opinions, it’s that I have too many tonight.


“…my mind’s distracted and diffused; my thoughts are many miles away…”

Kathy’s Song” by Paul Simon



Autumn Pond from docbert

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983. Reprinted with permission.

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