Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Art of Science Learning - First Transportation Workshop

Saturday, the Art of Science Learning Fellows took a field trip into Boston via the commuter rail (train). We did a workshop on the train to get us to think about transportation and how it impacts us (personally, community, city, region).

From the train station, our destination was a short walk to the BSA (Boston Society of Architects) Space to view the exhibit, Rights of Way: Mobility and the City. The exhibit shows how cities are shaped by the people who move through it. We didn't have much time to see the exhibit as we had to move onto the next assignment.

We were sorted into groups and picked a partner. We were given a map and our assignment was to make our way on foot to a building across town. On the way we were to make observations of getting around the city. We were supposed to make drawings to answer questions: what were the difficulties, who had the most difficult time, what was something that brought delight, what was the easiest way to move about the city, what was a moment of discomfort. The discomfort part was easy because it was raining. My partner and I decided to take photographs instead of trying to draw pictures in the rain.

We were told we could follow the map or find our own way as long as we arrived at the next venue in 15 minutes. And we were off, like some sort of reality show as we made our observations and way through the city to Space with a Soul. While we ate our brown bag lunches, we listened to a presentation by Siqi Zhu, an Urban Planner at Utile.

After lunch, the art part of the workshop began. It's not a typical brain-storming session where one or two individuals usually lead a group discussion. Instead, brain-storming involves sculpting ideas with clay, drawing, making rhythmic "music" or "dance" or some other art-related activity. Our assignment was to write a poem about transportation and to share it with our group.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Coffee Table

Sunday morning and Himself and I sitting at the dining room table each on our laptops reading blogs, Facebook, and other items of interest.

Himself: Cool! Look at this coffee table!

I glance at his computer screen.

Me: Kid. No.

If you're interested, you can find other designs for inspiration and stencils so you can DIY: Batman Tables.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grandma's Boyfriend

My grandma was a very devout Catholic. She went to Mass every day of the week, not just on Sunday. She always had her rosary beads in the pocket of her dress as she went about her daily routines. Grandma had two large statues, one of Saint Joseph and the other of the Virgin Mary, in her bedroom. Like a lot of Catholics of her day, she also had a picture of the Pope on her wall. Grandma loved Pope John XXIII. We used to tease Grandma and call the Pope, her boyfriend.

Grandma must be so happy today as her boyfriend was canonized and made a saint. Just as she thought of him while she was alive.

I found this picture of Pope John XXIII on the Internet. It's not the usual portrait of him and not the one Grandma had hanging in her house. This picture of him made me smile and think of her. Grandma made her own macaroni, and she made them in the shape of the broad-brimmed hat the priests in Rome wore. Like the hat the Pope is wearing in the picture. We called the macaroni cappellini, little hats. Grandma must have made tons of cappellini for the celebration in Heaven today.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week

1. Someone paid me a compliment and made my month. My head swells so I have to wear two cowboy hats.

2. Himself gave me a hanging basket of blue and yellow Johnny Jump-Ups (little pansies).

3. My clip on sunglasses flew out of my hands and landed under the driver's side seat of my car. For two months, I couldn't reach them because the seat was too low for me to get my hand under. Finally with wild driving and the help of a long metal ruler (the sunglasses attach to my eyeglass by magnets), I was able to finally pull them from under the seat. Good thing because bright sunlight is one of my migraine triggers.

4. I live in a rural, farm community. People have livestock all over the place. Cows, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys. Driving down the road apiece was a red hen calmly crossing the road. One of the oldest jokes around right in front of me. Why did the chicken cross the road?

5. For her Video Production class, The Young One had to see the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. She needed a lift so we decided to invite The Eldest and make it a girls' night out. I was really dreading the movie about the escapades of a hotel concierge. Not my movie, and I was wishing the professor had assigned the class to go see Captain America, The Winter Soldier instead. But, The Grand Budpest Hotel turned out to be surprisingly funny. Lots of big name actors playing cameo roles so fun to see who was going to pop up. Just wish we had been able to make an early show. Before 6PM tickets are discounted. The movie was entertaining, but not worth full price.

How was your week?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is There A Difference?

I was asked what's the difference between a Zentangle and a Zenspiration.

The black and white image is a Zentangle. The art form was developed by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. The process involves being mindful to reach a meditative state as you draw "one stroke at a time". The tangles (the terms for the patterns) are made on a 3.5 inch square of paper referred to as a tile. The tile begins with a light pencil line called a string randomly drawn on the tile. The string is the framework where you draw the patterns in or outside of the string as the mood strikes. The patterns are drawn with a .01 Micron Pigma pen. You don't pencil your pattern first then go over it with the pen. There is no erasing. The pencil is also used to lightly shade the patterns to create depth. While color can be added, the pure form is black and white. There is also a 12 step philosophy to get into the zone. The process is easy to learn, portable, and addictive. For more information visit Zentangle.com

The second creation comes from the imagination of Joanne Fink and is one of her Zenspirations called Dangles. Dangles remind me of whimsical windchimes or beaded, hippie curtains. There are no special papers or pens to use. The dangles hang from rods (like a curtain) and are filled with doodles which are then colored in using pens, colored pencils or whatever media your heart desires.

Joanne's patterns aren't limited to the dangles. She creates double stroked figures such as birds, bird cages, flowers, and doodles in the spaces created by the double lines. She also created a double stroked alphabet to add words and inspirational messages. The method is easy to learn, less rules to follow, and also addictive. To learn more visit Zenspirations.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Buona Pasqua

I'm baking Italian Easter Egg Breads this morning. The picture is from last year. If you're interested, you can find the recipe here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Superstitious Rituals

Last week, Joan over at A Rolling Crone, wrote a blog post about the full blood moon. I left Joan a comment, a tease really. She had asked if anyone had any mysterious superstitions to share. This is for you, Joan.

All four of my grandparents came to this country from Italy around 1910. My parents were the first generation born here and raised in East Boston, basically "Little Italy". Though my parents moved to the suburbs, my upbringing was very old world.

If you complained to my mother you had a headache, she would say someone was putting the "evil eye" on you. That is, wishing for something bad to happen to you. The cure for the headache wasn't a couple of tablets of aspirin, but a ritual. Hopefully, detailing the ritual won't be breaking some sort of taboo. We never really spoke about it. I'm not sure if this ritual was done in all Italian households or just mine. I assume my mother learned this ritual from her mother.

To begin, Ma would get out a soup bowl, a tablespoon, a knife, and the gallon can of Filipo Berio olive oil. For my mother and my grandmother, Filipo Berio was the de rigueur olive oil. My mother used this brand until she was in her mid-80s and then she complained this brand was too expensive. She would use a cheaper brand, and she would watch the store circulars to see when Filipo would go on sale so she could stock up. I'm not sure if the brand of olive oil makes a difference.

Ma would fill the soup bowl with water and carefully pour the olive oil into the spoon. While holding the spoon over the bowl of water, Ma would dip the index finger of your right hand into the oil and then let the oil drip  from your finger into the bowl. She would repeat the dipping two more times.

If the evil eye was not upon you, the oil would drop into small, neat circles on the surface of the water. If you were under the influence of the evil eye, the oil would spread into huge circles almost the size of a quarter or larger. Ma would then take the knife and cut the water in the shape of a cross. This was also done three times. The water would be disposed of in three different locations: the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the toilet. After the ritual, the spell would be broken.

If you grew up in an Italian household, did your grandmother or mother perform this ritual?

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. Saturday was warm enough to eat lunch outside.

2. With a piece of cardboard and colored Post-It notes, I put together a tentative lesson plan for the Medieval Mania kid's class I hope to teach this Summer in Littleton. Calligraphy, making a small book, coats of arms, medieval games ending with a tournament where "knights" will duck walk through the lists and try to tip each other over.

3. Heavy winds and rain knocked a neighbor's tree into the electric wires. The wire sparked and the top of the tree caught fire. And we lost electricity at 4 pm. Police and the electric company observed the event and then left! The  wind or rain doused the fire. Electric company website stated electricity would be turned on by 9 pm. Tuesday nights we watch Supernatural at 9 pm. and a new episode was to air after a 3 week hiatus. We had cold lamb sandwiches for supper. At 7 pm, some dudes showed up in a bucket truck and cut the tree off the wires. At 8:30 pm, the electric company came back. Didn't think we were going to get our electricity back in time to watch the TV program, but the electricity company came through with 10 minutes to spare.

4. WPI is showing the movie Spartacus (the real one with Kirk Douglas) on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2pm. during Gaming Weekend. The Young One said the school had a copy of the film and was going to show it on a big screen. I oohed and ahhed and told her what a great movie it was. She's only seen the bit (and that might have been a spoof) where every one stands up and claims to be Spartacus. She invited me to go with her. Kind of her, but no 20-something wants their ma hanging around with their friends. Still was nice to be asked.

5. There were several days in the Good Things journal that were blank. Most would have been SSDD as Robin suggested. And there would have been so many of them.  A month or so ago, I came up with a solution to the blank pages. I decided to write out the lyrics to Harry Chapin's All My Life's A Circle Then I add dangles and bits as inspired by Joanne Fink's Zenspirations. Yesterday, I took the day to fill the blank pages and am now caught up.

How was your week?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


The daffodils are in bloom! Last week, barely a green leaf and this week bright yellow, stars of happiness.

This Winter just seemed so very long and cold. Was it or is that just the impression as one gets older? No matter, bring on the hazy, hot, and humid weather.

What's blooming in your neck of the woods?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Not Our Food

The Young One spent the weekend in Boston attending PAX East, a convention focused on games (computer games, board games, hand-held games, console games) As with any convention she picked up schwag (promotional items) Going through her schwag bag when she got home, she said, "Here, you might like this."

This was a packet of flavored oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal. Extreme gaming oatmeal. I love the alien cowboy robot dude which is why she thought I would like the oatmeal. The slogan on the back of the package reads: IT'S NOT GRUEL. IT'S FUEL. :-D Someone should have shouted this to Oliver Twist. Maybe he wouldn't have had to ask for more.

From an  old programmer's point of view, oatmeal isn't neat (as in tidy) to eat around a computer keyboard. And probably less likely with gamers because you need two hands to work the controller. Food for us old programmers had to be neat, portable, and could be eaten with one hand. M&M's, nuts, raisins, chocolate, gorp, crackers, peanut butter or cheese filled crackers would fit the bill. Not too much of a mess and a can of air would take care of any crumbs that occupied the nooks and crannies of the keyboard.

Oatmeal, though more nutritious than M&M's, would have made a horrible mess on the keyboard if some slipped off the spoon. No diehard programmer or gamer would take the time to sit at a table and eat properly. The only way oatmeal would make a superior snack was if it was baked into cookies. With raisins or chocolate chips, or butterscotch chips or M&Ms. A bowl of oatmeal? Not our food.

Are you a fan of oatmeal or oatmeal cookies?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. On my walk around my block, I saw a robin. First sign of Spring and about time, too.

2. Had tea with my friend, Lambie.

3. Lambie gave me a ton of art books, calligraphy books and magazines she hasn't used in several years. Sorting through the bags was like opening gifts on Christmas morning. Some books I'll keep, some books I've found good homes to go to, and a ton will be donated.

4. It is finally warm and dry enough to wear fugly shoes (Crocs).

5. The Young One and her team went to the PAX East Made in Mass(achusetts) Party at Microsoft NERD. They will demonstrate and talk about the game they developed for Disney Interactive.

How was your week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Free Art eBooks

Did you know you can download free art ebooks from the J. Paul Getty Museum Virtual Library? Well, you can. You can download the books to your computer or you can read online. Check it out.
J. Paul Getty Museum Virtual Library

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dear Maytag,

I just want to thank you for the brilliant idea of a textured top and sides on the refrigerator. What a relief I don't have to worry that guests will be able to see any fingerprints that may appear on the top of the refrigerator. If family members or guests happen to trail their fingers or hands on the side of the refrigerator as they make their way down the hallway, I can also breathe a sigh of relief the marks won't show. You have no idea how much sleep I was losing over this fact. I can now rest easy.

The high-gloss finish of the front of the refrigerator is a forensic investigator's dream. Every fingerprint, mark, smudge, and smear shows on the gleaming surface without the use of dusting powder. I only wish my children were small again as the hand and fingerprints on the refrigerator door would have served as a growth record. The glossy finish has given my life new meaning as I constantly buff and polish the surface. Thank you for adding to my chore list. If the front of the refrigerator had been textured and wouldn't show hand and finger prints, I wouldn't have an endless, thankless task to fill my days.

Virtually yours,

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Hic sunt dracones mange pizza
Here there be dragons eating pizza
Five good things that happened this week.

1. I no longer live in the land of Here There Be Dragons. We now have pizza delivery from Uno's . Ah, civilization!

2. Enjoyed another Mary on the Prairie Day. I baked a loaf of honey wheat bread and a loaf of sourdough bread. I made butter. Baked a Depression cake and made whipped cream to top it. Any more rainy or snowy days and I'll be making candles and soap.

3. Called my brother to wish him a happy birthday. Wondered when did he get so old?

4. A situation that was taking forever to resolve itself had me anxious and cranky. Caught a glimpse of the male cardinal through the kitchen window. Dad just stopping by. I miss the Old Dude.

5. Finally getting over a cold.

How was your week?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three Dragons

full globe view from NASA Goddard's Flikr page
So this is why my face feels like it's caving in this morning. Three low pressure areas stretched across the continental USA. According to the National Weather Service it's a rare occurrence for this to happen. Atmospheric spin gives the low pressure areas the appearance of coiled dragons. You can see the original animation put together by the Space Science and Engineering Center at the U. of Madison (Wisconsin) here