Monday, November 26, 2007


It's interesting how things just "come together" sometimes! Duane and I just spent an AWESOME long Thanksgiving weekend in Dusseldorf, and it's mainly because of the IB conference that I attended in June (see July 2nd, 2007 entry).

At that conference, I met Susie. We hit it off RIGHT AWAY, and by the end of the two day training, she'd invited Duane and me to stay with her and her partner Daan in Dusseldorf. I'd told her at the conference that we were coming to Germany for the Christmas Markets, and that, at that point, we weren't sure where in Germany we'd be flying to. It turned out that Northwest was JUST starting non-stop service from the Twin Cities to Dusseldorf, AND to make it even MORE "come-together-y", the in-flight magazine had an article entitled "Three Days in Dusseldorf", as we were flying back from the conference. It just seemed "meant to be".

Turns out it WAS! We had SUCH an awesome time! Susie and Daan have become INSTANT dear friends, and we're already talking about meeting up in Paris or London again sometime in the "not too distant future" to hang out again. It was amazing how easily we all hit it off...and how quickly! After we'd been there for a few hours, Duane said that he kept expecting Susie and me to pull out pictures from when we were in high school together, or from the trips our families took together when we were growing up. Certainly not typical of people who met and sat next to each other at a workshop a few months earlier. are the "specifics" of the trip:

We flew BUSINESS CLASS to Amsterdam on Tuesday night after working all day, and arrived Wednesday morning (I think... I totally lost track of was like a 27 hour ordeal to get to them, involving the flight to Amsterdam, a train to Utrect (Netherlands), an express train to Dusseldorf, then the U79 tram to Wittlaer, the suburb in which they live). By the time we got there, I was ready to BURN the clothes that I'd been wearing all that time!!

Daan was waiting for us when we got there, and we went to pick Susie up at school. We drove to Kaiserswerth, the town between their house and Susie's school, and toured their main street. It looked very Dutch to me, and was VERY quaint. There was a cool old castle from the 1100's. We couldn't get onto the grounds, but it was beautiful, even from behind the fence. We had our first authentic German food at a great little pub/restaurant near the tram stop.

Thanksgiving day, we went back to Kaiserswerth in the morning, to see things in the daylight, and eat German pastries (yum!), and then took the tram downtown to the Dusseldorf Christmas Market near the "Ko", which is the main "ritzy" area of the city (designer shops, huge department stores, the "merman" statue, etc.). The Christmas markets were AWESOME, and we found some fun stuff to buy. We also had "gluwein"...a hot, spiced red wine...YUM! Had a late lunch at a pub with a pig on the marquee (no IDEA what it was called, but the food was GREAT!), and then headed back to Wittlaer to regroup.

Friday, we went to an apple farm near their house, shopped at a COOL grocery store (Duane and I LOVE going to grocery stores in different places...I know...kind of odd, but it's COOL to see different products that you can't get here, and check out what they sell in different places...and to compare prices...$12.00/lb. for green peppers??!!).

After errands, Daan drove us all to Valkenburg, the Netherlands, to go to another Christmas market. This one was along the corridors and passageways of an old limestone cave/quarry system that has been there for hundreds of years. It was REALLY cool. As you wound your way down through the tunnels, stalls and booths were set up along the sides selling everything from purses and scarves, to ornaments. There was even a booth that sold trinkets and doo dads from Mexico! In the central part of the caves/tunnels, there was even a multi-level cafe/bar set up. OF COURSE, I had to have more "gluwein"!!

After the underground market, we drove to Maastricht, which is Daans hometown. It's a REALLY cool old city (I think one of the oldest in the Netherlands). We had dinner at De Lanteern, one of Daan's favorite places to eat, and across the street from an AMAZING old cathedral (one of three that we saw that night as we walked around after dinner). We're going to try to get back there again someday so that Daan can show us around.

They were setting up for THEIR Christmas market while we were walking around, and had a HUGE ferris wheel in the middle of all of it...MANY stories tall. It reminded me of the London Eye, but not QUITE so gigantic. One of the things I REALLY want to go back and see is an old church that had been converted into a HUGE bookstore. The tombs and headstones are still in the floor, and the pulpit area has been converted into a coffee shop! We could only look in the window, but it looked AMAZING! The main streets were also FULL of cool stores that we want to check out (although we'll skip the Claire's Boutique (just like the ones we have in the malls here), and other American imports!)(although the "croquette sandwiches" at THEIR McDonald's looked QUITE intriguing!).

We flew out the next day (BUSINESS CLASS again!), and, after RUNNING to get through customs and re-entering security and RUNNING through the Detroit airport, JUST made our connecting flight (actually the one BEFORE the one we planned to take, saving us an hour of sitting around in Detroit, hoping to get back to the cities)(since the flight was full).

AWESOME trip...AMAZING new friends...FABULOUS memories! Germany (and Daan and Susie!) rock! Having people who KNOW the area, and how things work, makes travelling SO much more fun. We saw and did things that we wouldn't even have known about, had we not had Susie and Daan to show them to us.

Hope YOUR Thanksgiving weekend was amazing as well!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bad People!'s official...PEOPLE SUCK...okay...not all people (certainly not the ones I know!), just strangers who break into your sister and brother-in-law's house while they are out running errands and at work, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and steal their computer and television set, and jewelry, and who knows WHAT ELSE??!! Grrrrrrrrrrrr...!

Mom and dad have been here since Wednesday- dad for a conference, and mom to stay with Robin and Dave while dad's here. They went out yesterday afternoon at noon, and dad got there at 3:15, after his conference ended, and the -insert expletive here- LOSER CRIMINALS had already hit. Apparently, they kicked in the back door IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!

So...the tally, as of now, in the 10 years that they've lived there, includes: TWO break-ins (last time they got the video camera and ALL of the videos of the girls, from birth to ages 5 and 7), MY car window being smashed with a rock, and THEIR car being stolen and abandoned somewhere close to downtown. in the city.

At least no one was home at the time, no one was hurt, the kittens were fine, and the "stuff" can be replaced. HORRIBLY inconvenient for Robin, since all of her home business stuff was on the computer that was stolen. It's going to take a TON of work to get copies of all the master files, and to try to get her address book up to speed again. I think they also lost some digital photos that were stored on the hard drive.... -insert expletive here again- ....!!!!

Hope the BAD PEOPLE are staying far away from YOUR lives!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

School Field Trip

I can't believe Thanksgiving is almost here. I looked at my calendar this morning, and the next 6 weeks are going to be a BLUR! Things at school are SUPER busy...LOVE IT, but it's quite crazy, and now the whole "holiday season" thing is about to come CRASHING down upon us! Oy!

As I just said, things at school are REALLY good. I'm just completing a two week unit on "Wonders of the World" (starting with the ancient wonders of the Mediterranean, seguing into the modern wonders, and then going back and looking at "other wonders" like of the middle ages, natural wonders, underwater wonders, etc.). P., the art teacher, and I designed/researched/presented the unit, as an "add on" to the ancient civilizations unit that the 6th grade teachers had just completed, and it was COOL! The kids really seemed to be "in" to it, and it was GREAT that they had that "prior knowledge" to build with while working on this.

We took all of the 6th graders to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (LOVE that place!), and had the docents give tours in the "ancient" section (Greece, Egypt, Rome, etc.). It tied in well with what we'd been talking about. Four of us also took smaller groups around the museum to do VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies), which is a "philosophy" in which you have the participants look at a painting or sculpture, without knowing anything about it, and asking three questions..."What do you see happening in this picture (or sculpture)?" "What do you see that makes you say that"? "Do you see anything else happening?". The "instructor" paraphrases what they say, and there is no value judgement AT ALL as you are doing VTS. It's a REALLY cool way to experience art "personally", and really changes the way that you see a painting or sculpture. I ALWAYS get something new out of a piece of art when I do VTS.

The kids were AWESOME, and I heard lots of them say that they couldn't wait to come back to the museum again. It doesn't get any better than that! I'm finding that I'm REALLY getting to be more and more impressed with our students, which is strange, because I REALLY had a different opinion of them when I first moved up here.

Granted...EVERYTHING about when I first moved up here was strange, and difficult, and FOR THE LONGEST time, I thought I'd made the BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE in moving here, but, as time has gone by, and I've "acclimated" to the twin cities, it's really a great place to be.

As far as being impressed with the students, I watched other groups of kids from other schools, and was APPALLED at their behavior...running around, being sassy, attitude...ick! Our kids were well behaved, respectful, and, although a bit "squirrely" at times, VERY well behaved. Bravo 6th graders!

Now that this unit is drawing to a close (their final project will be to fill in information, and draw/paint/design a picture of their chosen wonder on a paper cube with Pat in art), I launch right into a rock cycle research project with 4th grade, and an animal report/project (also using the cube) with 2nd grade. 2nd graders and also in the media center this week to learn how to use the non-fiction section. I had a class in last week, and the teacher made the comment that SHE learned a lot about the non-fiction section while she was sitting with her doesn't GET any better than that!

Enough about school, I guess...I'm just finding it so STRANGE to be excited about my job again, and this feeling of actually teaching things that are relevant to what's being done in the classroom, as opposed to just having students dropped off in the library for prep (and teaching library skills that aren't linked to anything relevant to what they are doing) is so bizarre! I didn't realize how much I'd "given up" on my position, and in how WORTHLESS I felt my job was. I remember it being REALLY difficult when I started, but I guess I'd just gotten used to being a high paid "babysitter"!

Said I'd stop, and I continued to "job talk". Okay...had drinks with Kate on Friday evening. She the PYP coordinator at our school, and does a FABBO job of making International Baccalaureate a possibility at our school. She and her husband Bill have become friends, and she's a delightful person to spend time with. We shared an office the last several years, but, they took our room to "rehab" into a computer lab, so she moved upstairs and I moved to the TINY office at the other end of the library. We've both missed that "yell across the room when we have something to say" part of sharing an office, and needed a chance to reconnect. It was two for one wine draws at Outback, so life was GOOD!

Yesterday Duane and I spent most of the day just "hanging out". He made sugar cookies and got stuff done at his place, and I spent most of the afternoon watching the Food Network. All I can say is that it's good that I only have basic cable...if I had the Food Network and HGTV, THAT'S ALL I'D DO!!! Every show that came on was an "I've got to watch this" moment.

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner EVERYTHING was about preparing turkey and the fixings, and now I wish I was going to be around for Thanksgiving! The recipes for leftovers alone, makes me want to rush out now and roast a turkey! Oy again!

Okay...rambling now, so will close. Hope things are going well for you, and, as we launch into the holiday season, work HARD to stay mellow, enjoy what the holidays are all about, and remember to take time for YOU during the craziness!