Monday, July 25, 2005

kitchen flashback

My plumbing project had several people wondering about the rest of the kitchen project. It is far from done, but this is it to date.

Above was partly through getting the plumbing unhooked and the sink and dishwasher out.

By 6 PM the trusty Sawz-all had sliced up that nasty orange top because I couldn't get the darn thing out any other way that I could handle!

I love tearing stuff out. This is what was left by 8:30. The roundy thing is what is inside those corner cupboards that have a pivoting shelf system.

This used to be floor to ceiling magazine library. I took out the shelves on the bottom to get ready for the new sink cabinet.

I really enjoy the one piece stainless top. I can make a mess and it cleans up instantly.

Next....I figure if I cut a hole in the wall of the kitchen into a closet in the den I could put the frig into it and use the space where the frig is for a prep bench. (to be continued)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Author, author!

Another little box from my Gram included a complete pack of Authors. The game is sort of like Go Fish I am told. I felt like an uneducated yahoo as I scanned the cards...who are some of these old white guys?!! Here are some that I knew.

It got me thinking about who played the game besides my grandmother. Regular people I assume....not just trivia fiends or english majors. It was a game you played with 2 to 5 other people so obviously the subset of folks who play card games and would like Authors had to be fairly large or no one would be able to find anyone else to play with! Did people care more about authors then, or care about learning about more authors? This was a very popular game! Maybe parents bought it hoping to sneak a little extra learning into the kids? Maybe as the prohibition on playing games on Sunday eroded a game with some redeeming qualities seemed like a good compromise?

Looked it up on Google to see what surfaced and it turns out the game still exists (I hadn't a it popular?) and it has many variations. One set is "Women Authors". Another similar game is "Notable Black Women In American History Card Game".
Times change and games with them!

Go to if you are curious about the modern variations.

A picture of an old set made Parker Brothers, Salem, Massachusetts (US) in 1897 is at

My set also says copyrighted 1897 but was made by the Cincinatti Game Co. successors to the Fireside Game Co.

BBC 4 and me

I absolutely love BBC radio 4.

I commute a total of two hours a day and if I didn't have something to listen to I'd blow my brains out! To be able to listen to interesting people talk about everything from nanotubes to slime mold during this time is my idea of heaven. I capture the audio as a mp3 using WireTap (super program) and burn it to what I call "BBC Potpourris" on CDs.

For anyone who is a gardener, or likes listening to gardners, I'd say for you to try Gardner's Question Time.
Open Country is very cool if you like to arm chair travel around Great Britain...and Excess Baggage takes you all over. All of the above are in tbe BBC's "Factual" category. Under "Science" there are many to pick from...try The Material World. Unexpected topics delightfully delved into include the following...

"Saving Bagpuss

A recent BBC poll voted Bagpuss the nation's favourite BBC children's TV show of all time.

The saggy old cloth cat is 30 years old and taking part in Southampton University’s Puppet Research Project.

By analysing Bagpuss using infrared spectrometry, researchers are trying to stop him becoming more bag than puss.

On this week’s Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to his creator Peter Firmin and textile conservation expert Dinah Eastop."

It can't get better than this :-)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mod cons!!!!

I am so happy! I now have running water in the kitchen after months of running up and downstairs to the basement to wash dishes. Last winter, when my husband went on a trip, I tore out the kitchen which I had hated since we bought the house. It was bright orange formica and reddish brown was like living in a rotting pumpkin! I figured climbing the stairs is good for me...while living with an aesthetic annoyance probably shortens my life. (Besides, I love tearing stuff up.)

Then I discovered Ikea. (Music, please...)

I love Ikea. I have been trying to get friends to go there so I could go back more often (so far, no takers...sigh). I wasn't allowed to tarry in the children's husband could see the writing on the I haven't been able to explore there yet! We found a kitchen we really like...we bought it..and my sweetie-pie assembled it for me.

But a sink without drains or water is still not quite "the thing". Spring break gave me the time to plumb in the then I could bring up buckets of hot water and do the dishes upstairs. It was so cool. Advancements in technology are truly appreciated when they are on this basic level. I pulled a hose from the garden in through the lavatory window, sawed a hole in the wall over the sink and..voila!..cold, running water. I even bought hose rated for potable water supplies. I felt I had it made!

Summer is here, and with it the time to deal with water like a grown-up should. And I did..sort of. And here it is.
(Music should swell here and fade out....)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

...more treasures...

Both of these collections are inherited from my mother. I grew up in the sort of house where drawers were crammed with the oddest stuff which was too good to throw out... even if no one had a clue what it was, and if they did, what one might need it for. Every jug, vase and decorative box hid a collection like the dice. It was a snoopy child's paradise.

I love them dearly. They are lumps of amber trapping who my mother was.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Gram and Mr. Lindbergh

I blame my grandmother for my tendencies to hoard the little crumbs of history that have come my way. My gram, Emma Ethel Hentschel, was legally blind from the age of 35. Born in 1889, she lived to be 100. Her visits to my house to stay with her daughter, my mother, for a few months each year enriched my life as I unconsciously adopted her memories of the past.

As a kid I just saw her as my Gram, someone who was a nice to have around, someone who was real annoying as she competed with me for my mom's attention, someone who could be counted on to have peppermints in her purse, someone I could read to and know she really enjoyed my efforts, and someone who kept saying to me as she gave me some "treasure" wrapped in newspaper,"Here, this is for you as you are the only one who will appreciate it. If you don't want it, throw it out.".

OK...was I the "only" one...or did she make me the only one?

Here is the story that goes with this beaded necklace...

Jerry Van Wagner was a mechanic for Charles Lindbergh. He worked on the Spirit of St. Louis. Sometime or another Jerry went to Chile and opened the first Ford dealership there! He sent back to Gram this necklace plus a little knit Andean looking doll (which is around here somewhere..).

When I was in my 20s I took drive one day with Gram and Mom which took us through Flemington where the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial was held. My grandmother was very interested as we saw the hotel where the trial was held. I don't know if that information is correct...why would a trial be in a hotel? But that is what I remember.

(photo of Lindbergh with a mechanic: DN-0084856, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society.)

For those of you way to young to know what I am talking about go here.

Here is more info that came from correspondence from this blog.  It may help others, so here it is.
Dear Emma,
I am a genealogist and the great niece of Jerry Van Wagner who was
featured in your blog, "Gram and Lindbergh." Really enjoyed it and your
grandmother sounded like a wonderful lady. But I am very curious as to how
she might have known my Uncle. He was the mechanic who gave Lindbergh the
"go ahead" to leave the field that day--he worked for Curtiss-Wright. Do you
have any clues at all as to how Jerry came to know your grandmother??
Anything would be helpful in piecing together our family history--even as to
when he sent her the Chilean items. I think he is the mechanic pictured on
your site with Lindbergh's plane.
Dear Emma,
Thanks for replying so quickly!!! I have other stories I could tell you about Jerry who was a test pilot as well as mechanic; who almost went on the Titanic; who helped make early films with Hearst. But first--it is so ironic you mention Van Wicklen, my great-great grandmother was a Van Wicklen but this does not help us as it was on my Grandfather Baker's side. He would have been Jerry's brother in law but I don't think Jerry knew him that well. However, both Van Wicklens and Hortons lived in the next town, East Norwich, and some may have lived in Locust Valley where Jerry grew up (I'll try to check on this and will check the genealogy site you mentioned).  Hostetter also sounds a bit familiar. Do you know where your Grandma was born or grew up???? Was it on Long Island, NY?? Perhaps she lived near Roosevelt/or Curtiss Fields? Did she have an interest in aviation in general? I do not really know of the dealership in Chile but I do know that what you stated is true, having heard it in passing. He also ran a factory for Curtiss-Wright airplane manufacturers down in Chile, which is why he went down there. Stayed for years and years and died there in 1964. This gets stranger and stranger as a relative of Jerry's first wife, Greta Peterson, recently contacted me after seeing the Van Wagner genealogy on line. It was he who pointed out your site to me--I hadn't seen it before. My Mom put Jerry on the honor roll of early aviation pioneers at the Cradle of Aviation museum here on Long Island. John Peterson, Greta's relative, says they found an old "altimeter" that is supposed to be from the Spirit of St. Louis in a family trunk. Then the items he sent your Gram show up on your blog!!!  Seems like Jerry left pieces of himself all over. He had a daughter, Little Greta, with his first wife who we know nothing about so John Peterson and I have combined forces to try and find out about her. We believe she passed away in 1991 but think she may have had children with a man named Harrison. Anyway the whole thing is fascinatiing. I'll check out that genealogy site and check some old photos of neighbors to see if any of the names you have are there---let me know where your Gram grew up if you can. Jerry also worked upstate near Buffalo I think for Curtiss-Wright.
L. B.
Oyster Bay, NY

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Gram's attic

My grandmother, Emma Ethel Hentschel, was legally blind from the age of 35. She lived to be 100. Her visits to my home to stay with her daughter, my mother, for a few months each year enriched my life as I unconsciously adopted her years. As a kid I just saw her as my Gram, someone who was a nice to have around, someone who was real annoying as she competed with me for my mom's attention, someone who could be counted on to have peppermints in her purse, someone I could read to and know she really enjoyed my efforts, and someone who kept saying to me as she gave me some "treasure" wrapped in newspaper,"Here, this is for you as you are the only one who will appreciate it. If you don't want it, throw it out.".

OK...was I the "only" one...or did she make me the only one?

Whatever, here I am with six decades under my belt and I still have many of the little treasures she gave me. I also have a thirst for memoirs from the turn of the 20th century. I still love reading aloud, although I have no one to read to anymore...this blog is sort of taking up that slack I think.

Her lasting gift to me was time travel. By identifying with her era it allowed me to move back in time. After that first move it was no problem to move back farther, and farther. I get intense pleasure from reading books written in other centuries that are memoirs of interesting people...shanghaied college men forced to work their way around the horn on a clipper, independently wealthy women traipsing around Hawaii. Richard Dana's Two Years Before the Mast captured my imagination so strongly it has remained in my top reread list for years.

Kindergarten Architecture

I am a firm believer in the power of environment to nurture learning...or to prevent it. Schools are not always "learning friendly" as budget issues and just plain lousy design have shaped what we work with today, no matter how sound the original building plan. For instance, as a light-hungry person, I have always been angered by the blocking of windows to save energy or to save money over maintaining windows.

If you consider a school as a device to promote learning, you also have to consider every design revision from the point of view of whether it promotes learning or retards it. Humans are not troglodytes, we respond to sunlight chemically and it effects our mental activity! Currently I teach 2 days in a windowless basement where the one window is bricked up. Other basement classrooms had windows installed but, for some reason unknown to me, my room and the computer lab for K-2 were bricked up!!
phew...deep breath...relax...

Anyway, there is an excellent book that shows what has been done when designers truly respect learning environments. Good design does NOT necessarily mean higher cost means a reorganizing of thinking and planning around the primary purpose of the school...children learning.

Kindergarten Art

The book is not easy reading, but if you dip in and out as things catch your eye it is cool. It is absolutely worth the trouble of asking inter-library loan for this book as simply looking at the pictures will give you a shot of energy to change things within your power to be changed!'s fun :-)

This next pic is not related to Rietveld, but it is very slick. I can't leave it out...

I bumped into a very nice site aimed at men with new babies. It is an excellent place for lots of stuff.

And very last is THE chair Rietveld is known for that you should know...

Designers from this era (early 1900s) used blocks to play around with as they explored basic shapes. I have found blocks to be EXTREMELY popular with children K through 5 in the one school I am posted where there is enough room to have blocks. With the evolution of kindergarten in the last decade from a time of socialization and exploration of the world and its inevitable causes and effects into a drier academic ABC, 123 curriculum kids are growing up not knowing how to stack blocks. I kid you not. I see it in my classes. It takes about 4 sessions with blocks for an older child to begin to work out the strategies that allow building up with some hope of stability. It takes many more times before I observe the big shift when it starts to really click!

BTW Montesorri schools support and protect this important stage of exploration.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Voldemort's wand...

I was going to title this "Waste not, want not" because I couldn't make myself toss away the yew I cut down. The yew was too close to the house and the moist shade has attracted carpenter ants which are eating my house!
When I looked up "yew" to see if I was going to get sick from handling the wet sappy bark I found that you-know-who had his wand made of yew. I also found that, unless I eat the leaves, seeds, bark or wood, I'm OK.

When the mosquitoes got pushy I brought it in to peel while I watched TV. It's sort of peeling off dead skin from a bad sunburn.

The big hunks of bark from the main trunk I am drying strapped to pumpkin cans so they keep their shape. Left to follow their own inclinations the bark pieces curl tightly as they dry.

I am making the big yew tree for my art room at school...the small one is becoming something for my house as it will stand when upside down...a lamp? a balance point for a balance toy? I'll post a picture as it evolves:-)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Me and the chameleon

One of the last things I did before leaving school for the summer was to plaster this chameleon.

This is at my art room in Nathan Hale School in Manchester CT USA (I am also posted at Waddell School-2 days at NH and 3 at Waddell)

A gift of a roll of burlap and some scrounged free plaster gave me the materials I needed. I ran out of plaster so it isn't done yet. BTW Elementary age children are not allowed by law to use plaster as it can be hazardous. The chicken wire and tubing armature is stuffed with plastic bags...mainly so you could "see" it before the skin was on. I pulled many of the bags out to promote drying.

It SHOULD fit out the door and go up to the library where he will live. My idea is to have it look like he has recently been sitting on a picture on his skin the words "Once upon a time..." will be coming into focus.

I have misplaced/deleted (?) the plaster pics...check back and hopefully they will have shown up.