The Grove

The day was rainy and we knew that no matter what we did that we were going to be crazy busy with a one year old and an almost three-year-old sibling.

We realized that we needed a few things from the store, so at first, I thought the older would accompany me to the store, something she loves to do.

I then thought of the Grove, a place we have grown to love over the years. Our three boys were taken here more than once and when I was taking care of our eight year old granddaughter, she and I went there once for a visit. It was and has been a favorite. It is nearby, it is a hidden gem, it is generally not crowded, and it works on a rainy day. Win and win!

MK and I decided to pack up the kids, in our whirlwind decision, and we went to the Grove. As it happens, our two charges are children of parents even married at the Grove. It seemed like just the right thing to do on a rainy day.

We arrived and the two owls outside the information center were there for us to see. That set the mood for our charges. The beauty of this place is that the set up is such that even a one-year-old toddler can see things and not get into trouble. There are stuffed animals (of the taxidermy variety) of all sorts and types and the turtle set up that you see at toddler level catches the attention right after you enter the building. The main room has beautiful displays of the turtles, snakes, every type of local fish imaginable in lovely aquariums, and even a kestrel. The adjacent room has tadpoles, bullfrogs, toads, kissing cockroaches, mice, snakes, fish, and more.

The staff is wonderful and helpful, and when I was unable to help the almost three-year-old up onto a stool (my one year old charge was frightened for some reason), a staff member did. This was to take us into a room where the resident skunk is kept. That was an extra special treat. Needless to say, said skunk had been treated so she could not spray.

They even opened their gift shop for us early and it is stocked with wonderful items that are educational and meaning filled.

The place is nearby, free, and a place that we need to revisit more often, it is truly a gem on the North Shore of Chicago that many people just seem to ignore.

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Learning from each other

Every once in a while there is an ‘aha’ moment, that moment when the light bulb goes on, or a moment of extreme mini-surprise when one learns something that one thinks could not happen.

Last week, I was tutoring a student in French and the light bulb went on. We were discussing the two tenses in French which can cause confusion: the passé composé (a French past tense) and the Imperfect. I compared the two, giving their attributes and contrasted them. I also went over the translations into English, which although I don’t always like translation, I find to be very helpful.

She said, “Oh my, it finally makes sense!” Things like this have happened before but it always isn’t as serious as this time because she had to go get her textbook and passed by her mom. Her mom quickly came back to me before she returned and said, “I just have to tell you, you really got her to understand the concept!”

That is nice, especially when there is a parent who is spending good money for tutoring. It is nice to see results.

My other moment of total surprise happened during tutoring as well, a moment where I have all of my Technology under my fingertips, the iPad for vocabulary flashcard use, my phone for dictionary, if needed, and my laptop, where I take notes that I then send to my students. My student was fumbling with his laptop. He saw me using a mouse with my Mac, and was amazed that I could ‘right click,’ something that he just didn’t do. I showed him how to do it with his trackpad and he said, “I had no idea you could do that!” I said to him, “I am so surprised that I could teach you something, you who are Technologically way beyond where I shall ever be!”

Moments later, he reminded me to go into my ‘Settings’ and change the speed of my ‘Trackpad,’ which no longer works properly. Although it is really not functioning at full range, I can now use it much more easily, since I changed the speed of tracking. He had told me this before and I finally did it.

It is possible to learn at any time in our lives. Failure to do so is a very bad sign.

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The Ebb and the Flow of Life

I remember, back in the day, when SNL (Saturday Night Live) was one of those things that we really looked forward to. Those were the days of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, and company. Then SNL went through a long period of being something that was totally off our radar.

One might have thought that the concept of SNL was done in.

Leave it to a political crisis to bring it back and make it what it once was, and to enjoy a renewed reputation. The material that the SNL group has to work with is dynamite in more than one way. Now, once again, they are active and something I look forward to.

My television watching has totally changed the way it works. I was not able to watch the News and now I have to, albeit, in a changed way from when I was younger. There are shows and people that I admired and didn’t watch, take Bill Maher, for one. Now, it is a necessity to see what he has to say and to see who his guests are.

I keep wondering where this will all go, and whether or not the wacky situation will turn into a major world crisis and explode into something really awful.

One can only hope that things will get better.

Meanwhile, one has to persist and do what one can to assure that our nation gets back on track. I was pleased to see that one of the guests on Bill Maher’s show the other night stated that despite the darkness of the time, perhaps the silver lining is that we shall find out who we really are and do what we need to do.

Again, one can only hope.

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How to make coffee

Lately, my morning routine has been pretty simple. I come downstairs, put water in the kettle, and begin my coffee preparation.

I noticed that the coffee grinder was getting low on beans, so I filled it. I ground some coffee.

I set the kettle on the stove, boiled the water.

I went about my tasks, headed downstairs with the whimpering canine, filled his bowl with food, and published my blog post.

I came upstairs, poured the water in the French Press, and took Stewart for a walk down the street.

I came back, said I was going to have some coffee, and poured the hot water in my cup. Voilà, a nice cup of hot water. Somehow, that was not going to work!

It is funny how you have a routine down pat and then, all of a sudden; you leave out the one important step, like the ground coffee!

It seems, of late, that I am doing more of this. Maybe I am wrong, but I have some really good ‘routines’ and I just leave one step out.

I have to be very careful when I follow a recipe, sometimes I think that I have put something in (since I have made it so many times), and just leave it out. Then, halfway through, I think, “Wait, did I put the sugar in?”

The bigger issue is that all of this leaves a person second-guessing. Did I forget because I am getting more forgetful or do I just have too much going on in my mind? Do I need a reset? Do I need to take a moment and meditate? Do I need a supplement to aid my memory retention?

I still think that our minds are like computers, at some point in time, we just need to clean out some old files that are taking up too much space. The question is, how does one do that?

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Coffee al fresco

It is not easy for me to have someone do my lawn work. My blue collar roots and being the grandchild of people who have worked in other people’s homes make what they do seem so close to me.

I like yard work, for the most part, but having the grunt aspect of it taken care of is really nice, it allows me to more easily do what MK calls ‘putzing’ around. I dabble in flowers, using my green thumb given to me by my grandmother and mother. I really like to spend as little as possible in the plant arena. So many of my plants are from pieces or plants given to me by my mom and other people. Others are produced by my taking a piece of this or that from elsewhere.

A Chinese evergreen I have from my mom was, as she would say, “too leggy,” and I cut it down and put rooting hormone on pieces and stuck them in perlite. The rooting container soon got filled with pieces of lemon geranium and hibiscus, pieces taken as I trimmed them for summer growth. What I will actually do with the plants if they ‘take’ is another story.

I pride myself on avoiding chemicals, not something I did early on, but to which I have gravitated over the years. Yesterday I attacked some ant issues with cornstarch; I have used borax and sugar water for them as well. My lawn suffers having violets and a bit of Creeping Charlie, but dandelions are not allowed. They are pulled with my ‘Grampa’s Weeder.’

I guess I am getting more ‘Pinterest’ with age, even avoiding personal chemicals by making my own beard oil, beard wash, and now shower ‘gel.’ Essential oils and base oils like fractionated coconut oil and sweet almond oil are taking up a bigger part of my regimen and my skin is appreciating it.

My original thought, with the al fresco, is about the landscapers who just left. I really wish that I could do more for those people who work so hard and get so little for it. Our landscapers were originally working for our older neighbor and we took them on, MK kind of forced me into it. Anyway, I feel bad for them as I see them working like dogs no matter what the weather. We now have an arrangement as I set them up at our patio table and at least give them something to drink. Usually it is coffee but in the serious heat, they really like Coke with lots of ice. At first they balked at the idea of sitting at our patio table (I have offered to have them come inside but that hasn’t worked) but now are even to the point of asking for more sugar (they dislike the brown French sugar we sometimes have periodically from ‘La Perruche’), or more milk.

Today, they even came to the door and asked for coffee as the cool winds brought in the very cold and humid fifty-degree temperatures after several days of having to use the air conditioning. It started raining as we were preparing the coffee press and so I put up the patio umbrella to shelter them and wiped down the table and chairs. It is truthfully such a little gesture but they really appreciate it and it makes me feel minutely better about not doing my own lawn mowing.

Posted in Household and yard tasks, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment