Quick plug for Prime Day

Today is prime day at Amazon.com – all sorts of deals for prime members! If you shop from any of the Amazon links on the blog we will earn a small commission which will help with our back to school shopping.

Update coming soon!


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Happy Holidays!

They always get away from me, holidays do. My best intentions are not sufficient to overcome inertia! This year was worse than past years as we didn’t get out of school until just days before Christmas so the few cards I sent out were late.  And I’ve gotten lazy about blogging, instead posting short updates on Facebook. I guess the good part about not having hours to write is that it’s due to being gainfully employed, yes?  At any rate I hope everyone had safe, peaceful and joyful holidays. Many thanks to those of you who reached out to help make ours happy!

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And now, early for once, Happy Chinese New Year! 2017 ushers in the Year of the Rooster beginning January 28 and ending February 15 (that’s a holiday I can get behind – one that gives you ample time to celebrate). One website offered gratitude that the chaos of the Year of the Monkey is now behind us and I concur on a personal level as this was a chaotic year health wise for the family.  We had a broken tooth, an emergency appendectomy, a wisdom tooth that needed to be extracted and finished the year with another visit to the ER as my youngest daughter managed to slice through her left index finger and had to get a dozen stitches. Naturally all these doctor visits created some havoc in my finances as well! This year we had no problem making our very high healthcare deductible!

Apparently we are moving from a year of upheaval to one of confidence and energy (but only if one guards against nonsensical plans and avoids being over domineering). What does the Year of the Rooster portend for you?* In general, from my research, it seems that years of the Rooster are marked by success for those who have invested patience and hard work in their projects and stick to practical and well-proven paths. That sounds like a safe prediction to me – work hard,stay focused and reap rewards!

You can check out more detailed prognostications  specific to your astrological sign at Astrology Club or Sun Signs. As usual with horoscopes the predictions tend to be general and at least moderately positive – mine promises I can get ahead if I work hard and be patient, be sympathetic and keep out of other people’s problems 🙂

I plan to do at least some of that (no promises on the last one). I’m hoping our STEM program will continue to grow in a sustainable and well thought out direction and I’m looking forward to professional development activities in problem based learning and computer sciences. I’ve undertaken to educate myself about engineering as well as computers (who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks) so that I can make sure our curriculum fulfills our new science standards. I’m planning on writing several grants both for basic supplies and for our new aquaponics (fish and plants) center (part of the high school agriculture program).

On the home front I have two projects I would like to complete this summer, one requires an infusion of capital and the other a lot of sweat equity! We really need to get a gravel driveway installed – this has been a very wet year and our soil is a spongy mess of clay that the wheels cut huge ruts into and that sucks your shoes off your feet when you step onto (into) it. Even with 4 wheel drive it’s easy to get stuck. Our estimates for gravel run anywhere from a few thousand to around $6,000.

The other project is putting a porch/deck onto the back of the house. This one we shall attempt to do ourselves which means it won’t cost as much but is likely to resemble Pippi Longstocking’s home when we are finished! If we can at least partially enclose/cover it we will be able to move recycling bins (and cat box) out of the house proper which will give us more room and a nicer interior environment!

My oldest daughter will complete her sophomore year at IU and is hoping to land a summer internship at the Office of Sustainability. Next year she plans on moving out of the dorm – another step towards adulthood, independent living! My middle daughter is gearing up to take the SAT and agonizing about what to be when she grows up. I reassure her that she doesn’t need to have that pinned down just yet. My youngest daughter is wanting to find a job (she’s just turning 14 in February), get to high school and get on with life. She is not one to linger in childhood! And my son continues to be a happy, thoughtful child whose determination to become an engineer hasn’t faltered.

I hope your New Year Resolutions and (positive) horoscopes all work out/come true and that it is a good year for you and your families!



*assuming you have the willing suspension of disbelief that allows you to consider that there’s anything to fortune telling (I don’t but enjoy checking each year anyway).

Posted in astrology, blogging, chickens, Farming, gravel, Happy Holidays, healthcare, Holidays, home repairs, insurance, new year, winter | 1 Comment

What a trip! Part 1

(Note- I started this post awhile ago and the photos were taking forever to load on our slow internet and life got busy. I decided not to change what I’d written but just add to it.)

I’ve now been back from China for a week and I’m just beginning to get a decent night’s sleep! The jet lag is worse on the return as it only took a couple days to get on China time (exactly 12 hours ahead of home).

The trip was fantastic – the smoothest international trip I’ve been on to my recollection – no delays, lost luggage, illness, missed connections. It probably helped that it was a fairly routine business trip, not an adoption trip! The flight is long – approximately 12.5 hours from Chicago to Beijing, several hours in the Beijing airport then another 2.5 hours to Hangzhou. Our smaller group of 5 met up with the travelers who had opted for the extended tour of Beijing at the airport and we all traveled to Hangzhou together. We were all sleep walking when we got to the hotel at approximately 2 AM!

We spent the first day sightseeing and the sights were wonderful. Hangzhou is the most beautiful city I’ve visited in China. It is full of greenery – plants everywhere! It’s like a park with buildings and streets inside of it. Despite the 8.5 million residents and crazy Chinese traffic, I found it quite peaceful.

We spent the first afternoon at West Lake, where we took a boat cruise on the lake (it’s huge, and actually more than one lake).  While the sky was somewhat hazy the weather was veryimg_2155 balmy and pleasant.

The lake is a tourist destination so there were a lot of other boats on the water and we shared our boat with a group of Chinese tourists. Their guide had a microphone, ours didn’t, so it was hard to hear much. Still it was a pleasant ride. At dusk the pagoda on the hill was lit up, making it a beautiful sight.

Froimg_2210m there we went to Qinghefang Street, one of the most famous historic streets in the city and now a tourist shopping area.  Most preserved buildings are from the Ming and Qing dynasties.



According to the guidebook, “Strolling on this street, you will be attracted by the img_2304antique buildings and local crafts, such as silk parasols, brocades, noted Zhang Xiaoquan scissors and Hangzhou fans.” I found the people watching to be more interesting than shopping – and while I didn’t buy any, was especially curious about the snacks for sale like this sugar? syrup? dragon!


On the 2nd day we visited one of the top schools in China – the Hangzhou Foreign Language School. It is very large and prestigious and students come from other countries (we met students from the UK and Germany while there) to study while the Chinese students study English, German, Spanish, and Japanese.

Unlike in the U.S.img_2221 students in China don’t just move from their neighborhood middle school to their neighborhood high school. Instead at the end of middle school (or Junior High) the students take an exam and the results of that exam will dictate which high school they can apply to and even whether they go on to high school.


Hangzhou Foreign Language School has about 2000 students. The blurb on their website says “Every year, 80% of our graduates are admitted to top universities in China and abroad, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.”

After a tour of the school we headed out for more sightseeing – this time to XiXi  National Wetlands Park. It was not at all what I would have thought of as a Wetlands Park – while there was plenty of wetlands I don’t think I saw more than a handful of birds and none were waterbirds.img_2279

We strolled around the trails and took another boat ride, ending up at a shopping street full of stores selling souvenirs (these are ubiquitous).  Hangzhou is known for its silk and everywhere we went there were beautiful, colorful scarves!


Once again there were a lot of other tourists there – and even a model photo shoot!


20161017_145355Then it was off to dinner out as a group. The next day we would all split up and head to the schools we’d been assigned and would see much less of each other.


I will leave it there for now as each photo takes a very long time to load! More on the STEM side of things in the next post.



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