Sunday, September 26, 2010


"Living a healthy lifestyle will only deprive you of poor health, lethargy, and fat." Jill Johnson~

In a whirlwind trip of several Scandinavian countries my mind is awash in new experiences and impressions which seem worthy of sharing. In the past week Vaughn and I spent three days in Copenhagen, two days in Gothenburg and are now in Stockholm for two days. It is 8:40 a.m., nine hours later than at our home in the Seattle area.

In this blog I want to talk about walking, biking and eating, and how the Scandinavians do it right. But first I have to walk down to the Scandinavian breakfast that is awaiting us, so that I don't miss it. I will return to give you some fascinating insights. . . .

. . . .Back again after a huge Swedish breakfast buffet with all kinds of meats, cheeses, rolls, hard tack, fruit and fruit juices, eggs, bacon, sausage, nuts, cereals, and various beverages. I tried to be weightwatcher restrained, but it’s hard to do. How do the average Swedes and Danes eat like this and not be as overweight as many Americans seem to be? Portion control is a first step. My plate was loaded, but people around me exercised more control. More important, I think, is the lifestyle I see all around me.

In the U.S. everyone from age sixteen on seems to have a car, and seems to want to park the car as close to their destination as possible. Here walking and bicycling are the popular form of transportation, with walks of fifteen minutes or more from where one parks his or her car or bike to the intended destination.

Our hotels in Gothenberg and Stockholm were near the central train station, and people were hoisting their luggage off and on the trains and wheeling them down the street to wherever they were going. Bike racks are filled to overflowing everywhere one looks, and pedestrians seem to walk rapidly and with purpose. Here I should mention that my 82-year-old cousin met us at the train station in Gothenberg after riding fifteen minutes by bike from his home, just to be welcoming and mannerly. He escorted us to our nearby hotel, then rode fifteen minutes back to his home, only to return later by car so that we could go out to dinner. No doubt he would have walked there if it hadn’t been for us. The amount of calories burned and money saved in gasoline is mind boggling.

Today, on the news, we heard again about the obesity problem in the U.S. Perhaps we should take a page from the Scandinavian lifestyle book, and began to ride bikes and walk wherever and whenever it is possible. I remember doing so as a child, and I was skinny and healthy in those days. As the years have gone by I have found that while I live a long but doable walk from the local QFC, I still drive my car. I also get as close to the entrance as possible. The same is true of other errands I run. Walk or ride a bike to the mall, six miles distant? Never! But certainly my cousin would do so carrying a backpack for his purchases.

I wonder how many people here need to join Weightwatchers or Nutri System in order to lose weight. Probably not as many as in the good old U.S. of A. From what I can see, they walk with vigor, ride their bikes when possible, and eat sensible portions. I’m going to pledge to add this kind of discipline to my daily regimen. Hopefully there will be a smaller, healthier mini me in a few months. Care to join me? I’d love some company and moral support. Besides it will be good for us. Right?

Stay tuned for more Scandinavian insights. I’m looking forward to a subway ride to Bromma. After a long walk from the station to visit a place I lived as a student long ago, I’ll find a small restaurant where I can enjoy a nutritious and portion controlled dinner. Ummmm! I feel thinner already.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We already knew that kids learned computer technology more easily than adults, It is as if children were waiting all these centuries for someone to invent their native language." - Jaron Lanier

I bought a Droid 2 cell phone yesterday, and today I am struggling with how to use it. I can’t believe how complicated it is to simply answer a call, find an app, know how to use it, etc. I am, of course, speaking for a generation of adults who grew up with radio as a the main form of entertainment, and test patterns along with Howdy Doody, the main visuals on TV. I finally learned how to text (though slowly), and felt a certain level of smugness at my ability to keep in touch with my kids. I thought I'd come a long way since I wrote an article on texting in April. (Who Said America's Kids Aren't Bilingual?) But there is an old saying that seems to apply: Pride goes before a fall.

Considering myself “with it” in using the computer, surfing the net, and trying to keep up with the latest technology, I now am facing a sad reality. I am falling behind. As a mostly "A" student in all of my past classes, I strongly suspect that I am losing the technology battle when it comes to learning.

Today’s Seattle Times had an article called Clicker Keeping Students On The Ball by Trish Wilson of the Philadelphia Enquirer. It surely takes the educational cake in student accountability and involvement and innovative teaching and learning!

This high tech learning tool forces students to participate in classes where it is a supply list requirement. The cell-phone sized clicker, which costs between $35 and $45 seems best suited to large lecture halls where attendance and student involvement are difficult to monitor. It works like this. Students register their clickers on line so that every click can be traced to them when clicked. In the classroom cited in the article, 7% of the final grade would be based on class participation and grades on clicker quizzes.

The instructor presents content information, poses questions and monitors responses instantly, which are projected so that all students can see the results. It opens up dialogue and can allow inaccuracies or misconceptions to be corrected immediately. As a teacher in the article put it, “If I ask a question and half the classs gets it wrong I can work on that right away instead of waiting for a test.” Forcing everyone to respond is another plus, as very often a large number of students sit silent and uninvolved, not willing to share their answers or ideas.

All I can say is “Wow!!!” It sounds absolutely amazing and a real boon to learning. But, can a lady of indeterminate years, who can’t even program her VCR (which is already obsolete anyway), hope to take future classes in a lecture hall where everyone is happily clicking away to make the grade?

It's a little scary, but, like the Little Engine Who Could, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. However, first I need to master my Droid. It will have to wait, for a couple of weeks though. We're headed for Scandinavia and Iceland tomorrow. I think I'll check out the "clicker" situation in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland while I am there. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Fungi and truffles are neither herbs, nor roots, nor flowers, nor seeds, but merely the superfluous moisture or earth, of trees, or rotten wood, and of other rotting things. This is plain from the fact that all fungi and truffles, especially those that are used for eating, grow most commonly in thundery and wet weather. Jerome Bock (Hieronymus Tragus) 1552

Two Seattle area couples joined Vaughn and me over the weekend at Sandy Point for some late season crabbing, fishing and good conversation. Dave and Betty arrived carrying a large box filled with several kinds of mushrooms and a mushroom soup recipe. We oohed and aahed and set the box aside as the sun was shining and the mission was to fish and crab for our evening dinner. George and Lynn, who were already here, had been shown their quarters in our detached "bunk house."

Soon George emerged in full fishing regalia ready for some serious hunting and gathering on the Strait of Georgia. The men left for the marina to board our 20-foot Trophy, with rods, pots and licenses. The women went beach combing, while I spent some quality time in the kitchen making a gravenstein apple pie.

Vaughn, George and Dave returned a few hours later fishless. However, they did catch three fine crab which we promptly cooked, adding them to our evening menu of steak, twice baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and salad. We sat out on the heated outdoor patio facing the sea, giving thanks for the view, abundance of good food and great fellowship.

We turned in early and awoke the next morning to cloudy weather and drizzle. George and Lynn had to leave early because of a family obligation. With fishing off the agenda the rest of us turned our attention to the box of mushrooms. It contained a pound or more of chanterelles, some puff balls, some shrimp russulas and a lobster mushroom which, because of its reddish color and shape, seemed well named.

My mushroom knowledge was restricted to the button variety found in our local QFC, and I looked skeptically at the various shapes and sizes in the box, not quite sure if they were safe to eat. Dave brushed aside my fears. He explained that he and Betty had gotten into mushroom gathering ten years earlier and were now well informed amateur mycologists. They had their favorite mushroom manuals with them, one of which was called The New Savory Wild Mushroom, by Margaret McKenney and Daniel Stuntz. The pages were filled with descriptions and pictures of every kind of mushroom both edible and non-edible, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I identified the mushrooms in the box as the former.

Dave said that the mushroom season had just started, explaining that they were best found in September, after a stint of cool, wet weather, and lasting until the first freeze. He added that mushroom hunting had so grown in popularity that thousands were now competing for these tasty fungi, and some "pot hunters" kept their favorite sites a closely guarded secret.

After Dave's mushroom mini-workshop, and under Betty's direction, we began the process of making mushroom soup. Cutting the mushrooms in small pieces took the most time. Putting together the ingredients, and cooking the soup took about 20 minutes. A half hour saw us sitting down to a great meal of soup, salad and rolls with more apple pie for dessert. It was a satisfying project for a cloudy and gloomy day, and I thought I just might take up a new hobby - that of amateur mycologist.

Dave turned me on to the Puget Sound Mycological Society Web Site in case I wanted to pursue a new hobby, that of musroom gathering. I checked out the site and found recipes, art projects and contests, identification classes, and more. There is a small annual fee to be a member of the society, and a $40 fee for identification classes, but other than the cost of gas it's a cheap and healthy form of entertainment. In fact, maybe we should just forget crabbing and go looking for edible fungi. Those three crab we caught probably had a value of $200.00 or more

If you are a hunter, or simply do your hunting at your nearby supermarket, here is a tasty mushroom soup recipe that I can guarantee will tantalize your taste buds.


2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
1 lb. sliced mushrooms (chanterelles, button, etc.)
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of dry white wine
3 T. tomato paste
2 cans of Cannelli beans
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter and olive oil in a frying pan and saute the onions until soft, not brown. Add garlic and continue to saute. Add mushrooms. Saute until they begin to soften and release juices. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with fresh parsley.



Wikipedia has an excellent article on mushroom hunting, the contents of which include identification, regional importance, guidelines, safety issues and commonly gathered mushrooms.

An overview of the study of mycology including the history and medicinal aspects.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence ~ Martin Luther King

As I sat relaxed on the Saturday night of the Labor Day weekend, I found myself wondering about how it started. Wondering about these things and finding answers is part of why I love teaching. My best resource, of course, is the internet. I learned that traditionally, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer, and this particular holiday is regarded as a time to rest and party. Seen as a time to honor" the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," it was first celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Other countries celebrate similarly on different days.

Although I am now retired I can't help but remember how stressful this time of year was to me and many of my former colleagues. There was very little time to "rest and party" because we were often spending time at our school still setting up our rooms in readiness for the new students. Of course, these days some districts' schools opened last week, but even teachers there are spending much of the weekend planning and preparing for the weeks ahead.

It' a good time to ponder on the purpose of school and what we should be focusing on. Some time ago I wrote that one of the purposes of school is to expose children to the "world of work." Perhaps the start of school is a good time to talk about community workers and other careers that people have. We can be pointing out that we are learning about the world so that when we go out into that world we will be prepared for a job, and to do our bit for society.

I believe the year-long academic program should have a strong career focus contained within it. The internet is filled with good ideas. I am listing a site below that you can use to promote the concept of school as an introduction to deciding on a career. I can't improve on it, so I leave it to you to use it as you will.

In the meantime, now that I no longer have my own classroom, I am going to enjoy what is left of the Labor Day weekend to "rest and party". As we are appreciating our time off, take a minute to think about teachers, police officers, firemen, nurses and the like. Many of them will be "laboring" on our behalf.

I leave you with this poem by Jenny Whitehead, from her book called "Holiday Stew."


A holiday for hard work?
Yes, grown-ups, you deserve it.
But thank you very kindly
for letting kids observe it.

Our school year's just beginning,
all sumer we've slept late.
The only job we worked at was
playing three months straight.

So to make it fair to you,
we'll work on Labor Day.
Our job? To let you sleep in,
and then make sure you play.



Here are a bunch of lesson plans connected to Labor Day. Enjoy.