Wake up and scratch?

It's not what you think, but a fortuitous meeting of a classic storybook and enough scratch-art paper left at the end of the school year for a really fun project. Remembering this stash in the middle of the night was great luck.

When I couldn't find The Camel Who Took A Walk at my libraries, I bought a used copy online. Never reading this favorite to Mr. Short Stack was too sad a future for this Grancy.*

Each of the art groups, ages 3-4, 5-6, and 7-9 were captured in the suspense of Jack Tworkov's story and Roger Duvoisin's illustrations. The camel is walking slowly and gracefully on a road that divides the forest in half just as the dark of night is turning the slightest blue and tinges of pink. The camel is walking from the horizon toward the foreground where a tiger, a monkey, yes, a squirrel, and a small bird wait with big plans. The forest is filled with line patterns just made for scratch art drawing. The book is made for teaching art!

What happens? I won't tell what happens in the story, but what happened in the art classes was magical. Entranced by the story and the unusual medium, the students worked almost silently on the drawings. That right there is a miracle. No one poked anybody with the scratch drawing stick. Another miracle.

The younger groups used color scratch art papers. The oldest group concentrated on using pattern in their drawings on black and white scratch art paper. I wish I had photos of the results, but the kids were too excited to take their art home.

Way back when cars had fins, we made our own scratch art paper by coloring a sheet of paper with crayons, and then coloring over that with black crayon. It was slow and messy. You can try coloring a sheet of paper, and then painting it with a couple coats of black acrylic. Toothpicks work okay, but longer canape spears work better as scratch tools.

A pack of scratch art paper is a great purchase for long, hot summer afternoons, with parental rationing. Without rationing, kids can and will destroy every sheet in the package in about three minutes with their fingernails.

Also in the middle of the night I remembered the package of sunprint photo paper my son formerly known as the Woolly Mammoth (SFKWM) gave me for Christmas. How can I make sunprints of the vintage laces and fabrics? Ooh! Sounds like a summer afternoon projects.

Sleep well. Write yourself this note. Put it in the dental floss drawer in your bathroom. Then send your camel to bed:

Dromedary = one hump. Bactrian = two humps. 
Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot  for
 one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.

*A list of books this Grancy absolutely must have a chance to read aloud to Mr. Short Stack and his future cousins. I guess I better take care of myself and stick around for awhile:

  • Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell
  • Caps For Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  • Circle Dogs, by Kevin Henkes and Dan Yaccarino
  • The Color Kittens, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Night Worker, by Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben
  • Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
  • The Camel Who Took A Walk, by Jack Tworkov and Roger Duvoisin
  • The Piggy in the Puddle, by Charlotte Pomerantz
  • Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Burton
  • The Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen
  • Stop That Pickle, by Peter Armour
  • Pierre, by Maurice Sendak
  • Go Dog, Go!, by P. D. Eastman
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss
  • Pussywillow, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Tale of Custard the Dragon, by Ogden Nash
  • Andy and the Lion, by James Daugherty
  • A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer
  • The Monkey and the Crocodile, by Paul Galdone
  • Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies, by Harriet Peck Taylor
  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
  • "What Was I Scared Of?", by Dr. Seuss
  • Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg
  • If I Ran the Circus, by Dr. Seuss
  • The Gifts of Wali Dad, by Aaron Shepard
  • Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling

  • © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

    Assassin bugs

    Assassin is a big word packed into a small pipe:

    assassin (n.) Look up assassin at Dictionary.com

    1530s (in Anglo-Latin from mid-13c.), via French and Italian, from Arabic hashishiyyin "hashish-users," plural of hashishiyy, from hashish (q.v.). A fanatical Ismaili Muslim sect of the time of the Crusades, under leadership of the "Old Man of the Mountains" (translates Arabic shaik-al-jibal, name applied to Hasan ibu-al-Sabbah), with a reputation for murdering opposing leaders after intoxicating themselves by eating hashish. The plural suffix -in was mistaken in Europe for part of the word (cf. Bedouin).

    I'm not able to keep up with the debates about using drone aircraft for the purpose of assassination. On a different note, I am trying to keep up with this season's assassin bugs. These bizarre-looking insects are considered beneficial, although they might cause nightmares. They seemed to be on every plant along the trail.
    They don't look cuddly, and don't try to pick them up. Their bite is worse than their bark.

    What do assassin bugs have to do with breakfast, you ask. They are the preferred subject to ponder while staring through the steam from the coffee cup. I don't want to ponder another day fighting creepy slime mold invaders on the playground woodchips. Or, sadly, why I didn't have my camera while the squirrel was tapdancing on the skylight.

    And now into the shower. Two more days of school.

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Sending the butterflies home

    Such a short time to display the student butterfly art before the end of the semester! We were all pretty pumped about our symmetrical results. Making the left side match the right side takes so much concentration that smoke comes out our ears.


    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    The vintage moth is on the wing

    Oh, the bag-o-shreds was calling out for transformation into a family of papier mache possums, with or without the O. But possums have little to recommend them in the cuteness, talent, or congeniality categories. By comparison, armadillos are Dos Equis spokesmammals. Very interesting!

    Still, there's that bag-o bag-o calling me across recent butterfly symmetry art class projects and the nearing close-out of my duties as estate executor. It is a lightening experience to shred five years of Medicare EOBs*. It made me want to smash coffee cups, teacups, and Corningware on the patio and dance an ancient Greek circle dance with lots of hollering and a bit of vino.

    I love that the shredder has forward and reverse switches for when I sort of overload it while pondering Greek omicron opossums----pi rho sigma tau upsilon.

    Who thinks up clothes for little girls these days?  We've been through blinking shoes that cause epileptic seizures, and shirts that shed sequins. Now, we have girls in white scalloped lace skorts that looks like Grandmother Effa Dale's long-line girdle, but without the hearing aid tucked in her brassiere. This photo is pinched from an adult fashion site, and the style is creepier on a seven-year-old!

    Still, I'm reminded that there are boxes and old luggage filled with vintage clothing and, gasp, undergarments in this condo... gathering dust. No preservationist has come forward to offer me a million bucks to not destroy these 1919 nighties.

    If I can make papier mache possums, I bet I can think of something more marketable involving the vintage clothing, and my loosely defined passions of embroidery, collage, paper-cutting, found materials, textile art, under-appreciated insects, macro photography, and ephemera. That might be beneficial. It might transform me from a suspected depressed hoarder into a savvy collector and artiste!

    *Explanations of Benefits

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Blues Bros.Bees

    While Elwood toasts a piece of bread on a wire over a hot plate, Jake falls asleep to the sounds of elevated trains passing just outside the window. The room shakes constantly. It ain't much, but it's home.
    And so it must be for the bees living at the base of the DART light rail track support structure near Central Expressway and Renner Road just ten feet from the pedestrian trail. The city of Richardson doesn't tout the bee development on its webpage about transit-oriented /mixed use developments, maybe because of the thistles.

    These large bees dig tunnels into the ground, and fly in and out. I see them visit the thistle flowers nearby. They aren't  interested in me, but I am intrigued by their tunnels. My zoom camera function combined with the active bees hasn't led to a good close-up yet.

    This doesn't seem to be a community working together, but a close concentration of solitary tunnels--a condominium complex, not an Anasazi cliff dwelling.

    Don't know diddley about bees, but I did see Bo perform once in a dark and smoky hive. What bees are these? Most ground nesting native bees are solitary, not social. They are important pollinators, but don't make honey. They mind their own buzzness. Maybe miner, maybe digger bees.

    Mark your calendars and plan your parties!  Pollinator Week is coming soon, June 17-23.

    Mesa Verde cliff dwelling--1978 vacation

    All photos and text © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder with rights reserved.


    Dante's broccoli quiche

    In the middle of making quiche

    I came to a place where

    the recipe was lost.

    Juggling as usual a zucchini quiche recipe with refrigerator pie crust, a Joy of Cooking recipe with homemade rich pie dough, and an online one for a frozen crust and broccoli. 

    Not sure just when in my life, but purdy near midway, I first found Dante wandering around in Canto 1, lines 1-3. True, I was supposed to have read some of The Inferno in Mrs. Barry's senior English class, along with Paradise Lost and Spenser's Faerie Queene. I did read all about Pooh and Piglet and the concentric circles of tracking a Woozle more than once, and got stuck with Eddy in the whirlpool Charybdis.

    So, I know a bit about going to hell and back again, or detouring around it on gravel roads. I  get the quiche in to bake, and, presto, it is slopping over and burning onto the oven bottom.

    School was a crazy place yesterday with lots of hyperventilating and overreacting about the destruction of Moore, Oklahoma. Tornadoes don't single out schools the way lone, crazy gunmen do.  Let's all get back to normal and finish the semester.

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Slime fighter decoder ring inside every box

    Decoded not, but possibly identified--our other-worldly red playground invader is a slime mold. Colonies of weird shiny redness appeared today like cheap patent leather purses dropped from high altitudes.

    Like most humans kidnapped by aliens, taken aboard the UFO for bizarre experiments, and then released on a deserted gravel road outside Roswell, I didn't have my camera. No one will ever believe me, but I'm sore from hacking at the playground wood chips with a kiddie-sized hoe.

    Most years we get a different fungus in the wood chips. That one looks like aliens partied hard then blarfed before returning to Zeldron. The spores can cause respiratory issues when someone stomps on the fungus. This is preschool. See something weird. Stomp on it. Release spores! Go back to looking for roly polies.

    Glamour, rescuing the planet, and a silver lame bodysuit are all in my job description as preschool assistant.

    No autographs right now!
    It looks more red in real life.

    Thanks to all my adoring fans. I'm off to save the playground from evil red slime.

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    T is for Yoda

    Try not. 
    Do... or do not. 
    There is no try. 

    Yoda: You must unlearn what you have learned. 

    You did not know there is a Jedi training school for making Chinese tea eggs. I did not either. But now I'm enrolled.  There is no drop/add, no withdrawn passing.

    A electric company representative taught me how to hard-boil eggs in 1980. She dropped by to teach me energy efficient cooking when I was a young first-time homeowner.  Her method:
    1. Place eggs in saucepan.
    2. Cover with water.
    3. Let eggs warm up to room temperature.
    4. Set pan on a wire ring on top of the burner, turn burner to high, and cover pan.
    5. Listen for the rattle that says the water is boiling.
    6. Turn the burner off.
    7. Set a timer for ten minutes.
    8. When timer rings, set the pan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs.
    9. Tap egg on kitchen counter to crack, then remove eggshells under running water.

    Marion Cunningham's directions for hard-boiled eggs in The Breakfast Book involve an egg piercer. Who knew there was such a contraption? 
    So, I pierced the egg shells with a pushpin, then followed her directions. 

    After an outing for lunch and errands, it was time to begin the Chinese Tea Eggs. I'd read fennel seeds could be substituted for star anise.  Into the brew I put four tea bags, a tablespoon of fennel seeds, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a shake of cinnamon, a tablespoon of salt, and some coriander seeds. After rap-a-tap-tapping the eggshells all around with the back of a spoon, I lowered them into the pan.They simmered away for a year and a day to the land where the bong tree grows, and there in a wood a piggy-wig stood...

    No, no, no!

    The eggs simmered in the brew for an hour and a half or two, then cooled in the pan for another half hour. Drained and cooled under cold running water, the eggs declined to be peeled smoothly. The tea dye markings under the shells were nice, but not dramatic. There was an unavoidable grey ring around the yolks, but the one I ate was tasty.

     For other tea egg recipes and directions:

    Appetite For China

    Fat Girls Guide to Life
    I have made it through the trial by fire in Cooked, and am studying the three Ps of braising in the trial by water  with Michael Pollan:




    Not yet a Jedi, I took some photos of surprisingly large fish in a sunny bend of Rowlett Creek this week. More practice is needed with the "underwater" function on my Canon camera.

    And when you come up for air, don't miss Michael Pollan's New York Times essay about germs.

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Tea and griddling

    The annual teacher appreciation lunch was a delightful event with a "High Tea" theme, good quiche, and tea trivia questions to distract us. Our students were eating in the other half of the lunchroom, being tended by parents instead of staff. We each received a lovely bouquet in a tea cup and gifts including a homemade "almond biscotti" soap that smells divine.

    After brainstorming together, I spent last evening creating a thank you card for the appreciation lunch. We had agreed on a mad hatter's tea party concept, after considering some tea kettle nursery rhymes. Trouble is, the famous John Tenniel tea party illustration is an angry picture, the Wonderland story is fairly creepy, and Lewis Carroll may or may not have been a pedophile.

    Load on some other images, quick!  Get the "I'm late, I'm late" pocket watch, and an embroidered tea towel. Since I usually feel I'm jumping up and down on the ball with a cup on my hat and a fish in a pot, add the Cat.Class it up with some Cassatt fine art.  Pull out the sofa to get to the storage under the stairs.  Why? That's where the Trivial Pursuit game is gathering dust.

    What did you call Trivial Pursuit game wedges?  Pies? Pizza? Quiche?

    In the years between "Annie Hall" and "When Harry Met Sally" we played a lot of Trivial Pursuit and ate many quiche wedges. We also ordered seafood crepes, spinach salad, or French onion soup, and drank in fern bars. We took zucchini bread and carrot cake to potlucks, and put alfalfa and mung bean sprouts in sandwiches.

    Stainless steel tea ball

    One of the appreciation tea trivia questions concerned "tea eggs".  I was thinking of "tea balls", but now I've got to make tea eggs!  But first I must find star anise. Why?

    Because the star of this post is trivia coincidence. My son formerly known as the Woolly Mammoth and his fiance sent me The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham for blogging purposes--and maybe some good breakfasts. The Breakfast Book has a recipe for Chinese tea eggs using eggs, black tea, star anise, water, and salt. Other recipes use soy sauce and it all looks as fun as tie-eye, but edible. And I learned griddle could be a verb--We griddle, we griddled, we are griddling. I'm pretty vague on transitive verbs and present participles, so I'll leave you to ponder that over a soothing cup of tea.

    It's time for a timeline:

    Mary Cassatt paints"The Tea"--1880s

    Pierre Bonnard paints "The Breakfast  Room"--1930-1931  

    The Cat In the Hat is published--1957      
    The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour included Leigh French as the title character in "Share a Little Tea with Goldie"--19678-1969

    Actress Marion Ross played character Marion Cunningham on "Happy Days", but did not write a cookbook--1974-1984  

    "Annie Hall"--1977  

    Trivial Pursuit game's heyday--1981-1984

    The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham first published--1987        

     "When Harry Met Sally"--1989          

    The fish should appreciate it didn't get griddled.

    griddle (n.) Look up griddle at Dictionary.com

    shallow frying pan, early 13c., apparently from Anglo-French gridil, Old North French gredil, altered from Old French graille, from Latin craticula (see grill).

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Too many tentacles

    O say  can you say "ah-ah octopus"?

    Feeling overwhelmed, overextended. Endeavors on the web seem to create long-lasting suction cups sticking each extension to the walls of my glass tank in perpetuity. So I pay for Photo Bucket, because my early blogs pull illustrations from that account. I pay for Flickr, which seems pointless. Pinterest is free, but I could just write myself a note the old way. I own domain names I can't even remember. I send links from my blog posts to Facebook, increasing the snarl.

    Hang around a bit with kindergarten students.  Watch them instinctively pull the shoestring that will tighten the knot until no human fingers can pull it apart. Watch the chained dog wrap itself around the tree.

    It's obvious I still want to be online, but can I pare it down? On off. Flick the switch or pull the plug. But which plug? What switch?

     on off
    Short o,short o. Bring me a short stack of those short o words!
    otter olive onside kick
    ostrich obstruction oddity
    off message  Ovid OGLE
    okarina occupant ominous oxidation 
    Oz omelet opera OED

    olly olly oxen free

    optimum m   m    m

    My discount Sperry Topsiders sound like an octopus trying to climb out of a glass silo. Fee fi fo fum, I hear a Rubbermaid Rapunzel.


    Get me a big mug-o-that onomatopoeia...

    Been busy making a slideshow about butterfly symmetry for my art classes.


    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


    Blame it on Prometheus

    Read the nappers to sleep today with Michael Pollan's story of his Manhattan pig, Kosher, who stole steak from a Weber grill. Pollan was expounding on the cooking theory of human evolution and the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus stealing roasted meat from the gods of Olympus. Later Prometheus stole fire from the gods, and was punished by being chained to a rock where an eagle continuously ate his ever-regenerating liver.
    Haul out Edith and Stravinsky!

    Having been forced to eat fried liver and onions with ketchup at Larry's Restaurant in McCook, Nebraska, on visits to my grandparents, I mostly felt sorry for the eagle. But that is beside the point.
    Not liver again!

    What is the point? Did I forget the point? Oh, no, not again!

    Squash bug bacchanal.
    The point is that life imitates myth on the days when it isn't imitating art. Sort of job-sharing, with no health insurance or vacation benefits. I don't want to know what these squash bugs were sharing.

    In the dark and mythical wood with no bread crumbs.

    So I was walking along the Elm Motte Trail at the Oak Point Nature Preserve being ultra-vigilant about snakes. I am not a Minoan snake goddess, (but I play one on t.v.). Must read Pollan's Cooked fast since I'm first on the library reserve list for Riddle of the Labyrinth!
    Coming out of the dark woods the trail became a green close canyon oversaturated with sunlight, and  I surprised a large hawk. It flew off screeching, very annoyed that I might steal the squirrel it had caught for supper. I walked past the partially eaten squirrel very quickly!

    Have tentatively identified this cute camo butterfly as a nymph or a satyr. A satyr is half-goat/half-man according to dear old Edith Hamilton, and not to be confused with a centaur.

    Spotting a satyr butterfly is a rite of spring. I am stunned each year by their fragile ballet camouflage attire and shy demeanor.

    Have out two field guide, three if you count Edith Hamilton's field guide to the gods and heroes, plus Stravinsky and Pollan. Watched the Joffrey Ballet's 1987 reconstruction of Nijinsky's choreography for "Rite of Spring" on YouTube. Might be why I don't accomplish much. Supper will be vegetarian, but nature is full of sex, violence, and raw meat. It must be spring.

    © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder