Le Fictitious Local Diner

December Template

December Staples –

If it is December we are smiling our way through Mary Nash’s “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians”.  What about this book makes us eager to read it for the 15th time?

funny ✓  original plot   champions self-reliance   holiday spirit  ✓

Or we might be enjoying “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”, by Julie Lane.  This is our third time through this old fashioned December read. The author has skillfully woven plausible reasons for Santa’s sled, Christmas stockings, Santa’s red suit, etc into the story. 

The best book we’ve read in 2020 – Katherine Applegate’s award-winning “Home of the Brave”:  Kek, a refugee (we discussed differences between immigrant and refugee) from The Sudan (found it on globe, briefly read of its inner turmoil/armed conflict and despaired) has a new home with his aunt and cousin in America.  Every word in this book has been so carefully selected; it is easy to read, calmly poetic, heart-wrenchingly deep, and even funny.  It is about kindness and appreciation.  I was pretty much choked up by the end of every single short chapter.  This is a book that makes us be better people. 

Walruses for the win – We have just finished a unit on pinnipeds (fin footed), using “Scary Creatures:  Pinnipeds” by John Malam as a resource.  We now have the basics on seals, sea lions, and walruses, but seriously, there wasn’t too much that was tremendously interesting except this:

Guess how many clams an adult male walrus can eat at one meal?  6,000.  As in SIX THOUSAND.  How is it that there are any clams left?  My son and I decided that from now on when we see somebody gobbling up way more than their share we are not going to refer to them as a pig or hog, but rather as a walrus.

“American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani – This book presents compelling introductions to 50 Americans who have shaped US history.  Some, my son was familiar with –  Example:  Paul Robeson.  My son loves Robeson’s recording of “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat”, but we had no idea that Robeson was majorly intellectually gifted with a first-rate education (Rutgers University valedictorian in 1919, Columbia Law School graduate in 1923).

Some were new names to my son – Example:  Alexander Calder.  We learned that Sandy Calder (of the fabulous ultra modern mobiles) came from a line of professional sculptors.  His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder constructed the bronze statue of William Penn that stands atop the Philadelphia City Hall.  His father,  Alexander Stirling Calder created a sculpture of George Washington that is part of the Washington Square Arch in New York City.  We had to see photos:

Story Problem Time – Jingling all the way at the Local Diner – Somebody, probably the diner cashier, Miss Fran, decided it would add a lot of holiday cheer if 5 large jingle bells were attached to every chair in the diner.  Chairs pushed in, chairs pulled out:  jingle, jingle, jingle.  

  • If there are usually 32 chairs in the diner, but due to the pandemic, 3/4 of the chairs had to be placed into storage, how many chairs would be adorned with bells?
  • If each bell costs 50 cents, how much would it cost to jingle up the chairs remaining in the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

December Listening – Handbell Choirs! What says HOLIDAYS ARE IN THE AIR more than the ting ting tinging of a handbell choir? –

First, a very cute performance of “Up on the Housetop” by the Raleigh Ringers –  

Next, LeRoy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” – a perfect match with a handbell choir (all that jingling), and the usual shenanigans provided by the Raleigh Ringers – 

And finally, “Patapan” – a superb performance by the Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble.  Adorable ending –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  8 chairs, $20)

 

Brownie Points

smithsonian left

Brownie points for us!  It was LENGTHY, but we have finished The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, compiled by Richard Kurin (currently Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research at the Smithsonian Institution).  And brownie points for this first-rate endeavor, a superior textbook choice for a full semester of American History.  My son’s favorite chapters:

  • Lewis and Clark’s Pocket Compass – we loved our unit on the Lewis and Clark expedition (see “From the Wanderlust Files”, August 27, 2019), and couldn’t believe we were actually viewing an artifact from the journey.
  • Helen Keller’s Watch – first of all, this is a VERY INTERESTING WATCH. Secondly, here is something that cheered us – totally unrelated to the watch – Helen Keller’s tuition to Radcliffe was arranged by Mark Twain!!!
  • The Tsimshian Totem Pole – an utterly elegant piece of art that became more enchanting after we understood the story this totem pole reveals.
  • Marian Anderson’s Mink Coat – a well balanced account of events that prompted an ice cold outdoor concert (Easter Sunday, 1939) given by American treasure, contralto Marian Anderson.  We have now added Ms. Anderson’s  recording of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to our Sunday night listening –
  • The Brownie Camera – the most captivating chapter! We learned about George Eastman and his concept for the Brownie camera (provoking us to read The Brownie Book, Palmer Cox’s mini stories of mini spirits, which inspired Eastman to name his little camera, “The Brownie”) and we were riveted reading the report of the teenage girl, traveling in 1912 aboard the RMS Carpathia, using her Brownie camera to record the rescuing of survivors from the sinking Titanic.

The Photo Ark, by Joel Sartore – a coffee table book with a noble purpose:  to create awareness of extinction possibilities threatening Earth’s current animal kingdom.  Each of the 399 photographs touched our heart.

  • Our favorite chapter – the success stories of species that have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
  • My son’s selection for most beautiful animal photographed in the book –  a three-way tie:  the California Sea Lion, the Pink-Tipped Anemone, and the Bali Mynah.  I would include photos, but the new format options on this blog site have me perplexed.
  • What we learned – most of the monkey-type animals (OK, this is an outrageously incorrect generalization, but this is the easiest way for my son to grasp the idea of the primates-minus-humans group) are in danger of becoming extinct.
  • What we learned – most insects are not in danger of becoming extinct.   (hmmm, drat)
  • What we learned – The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species codes:

EX= Extinct EW= Extinct in the Wild CR= Critically Endangered
EN= Endangered VU= Vulnerable NT= Near Threatened
LC= Least Concern DD= Data Deficient NE= Not Evaluated

Story Problem – Brownies are served! – The local diner is offering adorable after-school snack boxes for $5.  Each box includes 2 of their town-famous peppermint frosted brownies and a small bottle of apple cider.   If there are 500 students in town and every single student purchases a snack box once a week, and each box costs the diner $3, how much will the diner net after a month of after-school treat sales? (answer at bottom of post)

A)  $1,000     B)  $2,500     C)  $4,000     D)  $10,000

Classical Music Listening – we were smiling over the detailed engravings in Palmer Cox’s The Brownie Book, so we put together a program of background music for his merry mischievous brownies – 

  • Badinerie, from JS Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor” (1738). This piece makes us imagine brownies dashing all over the place doing good works for the nice people and tripping things up for the mean people – 
  • Banjoland Buffoonery, by Grant Kirkhope for the 2008 video game, “Banjo-Kazooie:  Nuts & Bolts”.  The brownies are up to no good and having a good laugh at the same time.  You do not want to get on the bad side of the brownies – 
  • The Wild Bears, by Sir Edward Elgar, from his “The Wand of Youth, Suite No. 2” of 1908.  This superb short composition has got everything – speed, originality, hold-your-breath moments, a smashing ending – the brownies are sneaking around and this is easily their theme music –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Farmer Brown’s question: “Yes”. Diner question: C). $4,000).

American Collage

Our focus, these past few weeks, has been directed toward several aspects of the American experience –

Part of the American Collage “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects”, by Richard Kurin.  (We began by learning a bit about the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and 9 research centers sites – mostly located in Washington DC).  So far, our favorite objects in the book’s collection:   

Columbus piombo    washington uniform

  • The well known portrait of Christopher Columbus that may not be a representation of the man at all – it was painted in 1519, more than 10 years after his death 
  • George Washington’s ultra elegant uniform (designed by George Washington!) 
  • The Bible that Thomas Jefferson edited for himself (leaving out parts he did not believe in)(discussion provoking)

It is going to take us months to work through this book.  We’re glad.

Part of the American Collage – “The Amish of Lancaster County” by Donald B. Kraybill.  Easy to read, up to date (published in 2019), with lovely, plentiful photographs.  Emphasized:  COMMUNITY and the hard working, self-sufficiency, graceful, modest, and religion-centered values of the Amish.  Of great fascination to us was the Amish education system:

amish school

  • all grades are taught in a one-room school 
  • science is not taught in school (we discussed)
  • there is no school after age 14 (we discussed)
  • teachers are not certified, college educated, or even high school graduates (we discussed)

Part of the American Collage – “The Blue Angels”, by Keillor and Wheeler.  Descriptive writing and heart-stopping photographs showcase the precision daredevil abilities of the Navy pilots demonstration team, thrilling everyone since 1946.  Most exciting chapter:  THE MANEUVERS! “The Delta Breakout”! “Loop Breaks”! “Six Plane Cross”!  “The Fleur-de-Lis”!  I asked my son if he would like to fly in a Blue Angel formation and the answer was a YES.  Count me out.  Also, you can count out any Amish community members from soaring with the  Blue Angels as they are (1) forbidden from joining the military and (2) forbidden from riding in airplanes of any sort.  CHANGE OF TOPIC: the first female Blue Angel joined the team in 2014 (we discussed).

Part of the American Collage – “The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa”, by Paul Edmund Bierley.  We have never come across a book with its subject so thoroughly documented.  This book catalogs every tour, concert, concert program, musical instrument, and musician of the Sousa Band’s 40 year run.  Take aways, so far –

  • In 1889, Sousa sold the publishing rights to “The Washington Post March” for –  OH DEAR IT HURTS TO EVEN TYPE THIS – $35  
  • Sousa composed over 130 marches.  Most famous: “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, composed in 1896 and declared “Official National March of the USA” by an act of the US Congress in 1987
  • Between 1892 through 1931, the band presented just under 16,000 concerts, zigzagging all over the world.  SIXTEEN THOUSAND.
  • Sousa’s Band was a concert band, marching only eight times during the course of 40 years

Part of the American Collage – “Appleseed, The Life and Legacy of John Chapman”, by Joshua Blair.  We’ve learned:

  • Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) was a real person (1774 – 1845), not a made up legend (although he did travel barefoot, wearing the darnedest clothes, just like the legends proclaim)
  • how he procured the apple seeds (from cider factories!)
  • how and where he set up apple nurseries and the importance of these nurseries
  • of his ability to trusted by westward moving pioneer settlers as well as native Americans
  • how he utterly embodied the spirit of the Swedenborgian religion; the apple tree planting being his ministry
  • in case you are still reading – I painted the “Johnny Appleseed Song” on our kitchen wall (pictured above) in 2003 to celebrate my father’s 82nd birthday because he loved this sung as grace before dinner

apple pie

“As American as Apple Pie” story problem – Of course, Le Fictitious Local Diner sponsors an apple pie baking contest each July 4th.  Last year 40 people entered the contest and there was a three-way tie for best pie:

  • Dr. Susan’s “Doctored-up Super Cinnamon Apple Pie”
  • Tennis Pro Tom’s “What’s Not To Love-Love Apple Lemon Tart”
  • Miss Maddy’s “I-Want-More Burnt Sugar Apple Extravaganza Pie”  

1)  If each pie used an average of 6 apples, how many apples were used to make up all the pies entered into the contest?

2)  If each pie maker practiced on 3 pies before baking their entry pie, how many apples were used to make up all pies (practice and entry pies)?

3)  If the pie bakers bought their apples from Farmer Brown’s fruit stand, did the stand sell more or less than 1,000 apples for the event? 

4)  If the three winning pies were placed on the diner menu for the month of July, and 10 of each were served over the course of the month, how many apples were used to make the menu pies?   (answers at bottom of post)

Look what we made:  our American experience collage (my son’s first collage)

Part of the American Collage – Classical Music:

Amy Beach’s “Fireflies” from “Four Sketches, opus 15”, 1892.  (Amy Beach is noted as being the first female American composer.)  “Fireflies” may just be our favorite summertime classical music selection.  We have probably listened to it 100 times, each time reminding us of firefly magic during sultry summer nights when we lived in Georgia.  The piece sparkles –

Florence Price’s “Silk Hat and Walking Cane” from her “Dances in the Canebrakes”, 1953.   (Florence Price is noted as being the first female African-American composer.)  This delightful short piece provided an opportunity to chat with my son about this well-structured composition’s thematic set-up:  We listened for themes  A – B – A (developed) – C – and finally back to A –  

Charles Ives’ “Country Band March”, composed in 1903.  This is a true musical collage in which Ives has jaggedly juxtaposed fragments from more than 12 recognizable American marches and folk melodies.  When we listen to this, my son and I pretend we are making our way through a crowded carnival midway with American music blaring at us from all sides – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  240 apples,  2)  960 apples,  3)  less, 4) 180 apples)

The Fireproof Safe

safe third

Prologue-
Q: Did my son know what a safe was?
Q: Did my son know what “fireproof” meant?
Those resolved, Q: If my son owned a factory that produced fireproof safes, how would he mark the occasion of the sale of the 20,000th safe?  (Wait, what?)  Would he do what the Wertheim Company of Vienna did in 1869?
The story – I estimate that my son and I have listened to Joseph Strauss’s “Feuerfest Polka” about 240 times.  It is fast-moving, happy, accented with the pinging of a hammer on an anvil, and comes with an adorable story – the polka was commissioned in 1869 by Franz von Wertheim, whose firm produced fireproof safes (feuerfest means fireproof in German).  The music was in celebration of Wertheim’s 20,000th safe! My son and I spent time imagining a company today commissioning a polka for the 20,000th production of anything.  This is SO GOLD.
“Feuerfest Polka”: the story continues – Because of the hammer/anvil pinging, we’ve been referring to Strauss’s piece as the “Blacksmith Polka” for years.  But last week it occurred to me that my son might not know what a blacksmith was.  Did he?  No.  Oh, dear.  Time to find out about blacksmithing.  We chose “History of the Blacksmith in Photographs” by Bryan Crawmer, and “The Backyard Blacksmith” by Lorelei Sims.  Both exceptionally helpful.  To conclude this unit I read aloud (the quite lengthy), “The Village Blacksmith” by Longfellow.

blacksmith books

Epilogue – Because of a very short piece of music, my son now knows about blacksmithing and fireproof safes.  AND BTW, The Wertheim Company is still making safes.

All is calm – We have just finished “The Prairie Builders” a superb book by Sneed B. Collard III, for which he received the American Association for Advancement of Science Award in 2006.  It chronicles the reconstruction of an 8,000+ acre tall grass prairie in Iowa, beginning in 1992 – the site preparation, the reintroduction of native seeds, bison, elk, butterflies. The pureness, calmness of both endeavor and writing reminds us of “The Ox-Cart Man” (Donald Hall/ Barbara Cooney, Caldecott Medal 1980).  Both soothing reads make us appreciate focused, honest work.

“How Trains Work” – a comprehensive, high energy, vibrantly illustrated Lonely Planet Kids Book. Our two favorite takeaways:
– We found out exactly how a funicular works.  We have known about funiculars, but did not have a grasp on the mechanics. (See blog post of November 22, 2014, “Mounting Interest”) (the post is one of my faves)
– We were reading about suspension railways (sort of like an upside-down monorail) and came across this SHOCKINGLY AWFUL YET HILARIOUS account: in 1950, for an ill-thought-out circus publicity stunt, an elephant named Tuffi was traveling on a suspension railway in Germany.  She FREAKED OUT and jumped out of the train (40 feet above ground). LUCKILY she landed in a river and was rescued. Well! This certainly speaks to the sturdiness of that particular suspension railroad.

Reading for great pleasure – We have just started Richard Peck’s book of short stories, “Past Perfect, Present Tense” and it is so A+.  The introduction, an essay on the short story genre, should be required reading. Two points stuck with us –
(semi-direct quote)  “Stories present the metaphor of change, to prepare the readers for changes coming in their lives.  NON-READERS WILL NEVER BE READY” (I added the caps)
(semi-direct quote)  “A short story isn’t easier to write than a novel.  It has less time to plead its case.”
Last night we read the first story in the collection, “Priscilla and the Wimps”, AND LOVED IT.  In the span of 4 pages, the best short story we have ever read.  First of all, THE TITLE.  Second of all, SWEET JUSTICE! Oh my gosh, the ending!  This is re-read worthy.

Story Problem – Le Fictitious Local Diner has an app! (not really)(for story problem purposes only) – And what’s on the app?  Videos of cooking demonstrations from local celebrity/diner chef Jeanette.  The diner is paying Chef Jeanette $50 for each uploaded video and $1 for every view.  Views so far:
– “Bake your own Potato Chips with Chef Jeanette”:  20 views
– “Diner Cherry Pie with Chef Jeanette”:  15 views
– “Diner Healthy Diet Plate with Chef Jeanette”:  0 views
– “Hot Dogs in Pastry Dough with Chef Jeanette”:  25 views
– “Let’s Make Salmon Treats for your Cat with Chef Jeanette”:  500 views
At this point, how much does the diner owe Chef Jeanette?
A) $250    B) $560    C) $810    D) $1,000 (answer at bottom of post)

From our classical music time –
To honor short stories:  the very shortest piece on our iPod – Glenn Gould’s lightning fast interpretation of Bach’s Invention No. 13 in A minor (composed in the early 1700’s).  Usually this piece takes just over a minute, Gould has shaved off 15 seconds –

To honor the Regal Fritillary butterfly, reintroduced to the prairie project:  a composition for piano and two flutes, “Deux Papillons” (Two Butterflies) by Emil Kronke, composed in 1739.  Spritely performance in gorgeous cathedral setting –

And of course, to honor Franz von Wertheim’s 20,000th fireproof safe, Josef Strauss’s “Feuerfest Polka”:  this performance is pretty cute, with conductor and “local blacksmith” fighting for control of the orchestra –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer: C). $810)

In a Happy Place

flags nordic

If you’re happy and you know it (you must be living in one of the Nordic countries) We wanted to learn a bit about Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland when we read through the 2019 survey which ranked these Nordic countries the happiest in the world.  (FYI:  the USA placed 19th out of 156 – not too shabby)

We are using multiple resources, our globe is out, and here’s what has caught our attention: 

  • there are 30 active volcanos on Iceland
  • the only Finnish word in the American language is “sauna”
  • male AND female reindeer have antlers, and their wonky antlers are NOT symmetrical (vocab)
  • we know where to find 5 versions of the Nordic cross (all 5 countries use the Nordic cross on their national flag)
  • the Danish alphabet has three letters not found in the English alphabet
  • in 2019, the Helsinki, Finland public library was awarded Best Public Library in the World!

For those working toward a PhD in Herpetology – “Lizards” by Sneed B. Collard III is probably not the book.  For the rest of us, it IS the book:  organized, written in a casual voice, funny, funny, funny and filled with opinions, pretty good photos, and easy to grasp facts.  I tested my son on his lizard info comprehension by having him take THE LIZ QUIZ.  (A+, of course)(yay!)

Story Problems! 

From Le Fictitious Local Diner –  January is not only CHICKEN POT PIE MONTH at the diner, it is FREE IN-TOWN DELIVERY FOR CHICKEN POT PIES MONTH. Sales are skyrocketing.  Typically, the diner sells 50 pot pies a week.  But during free-delivery month, the diner has been selling 150 weekly.  Each pot pie costs $3 to produce and sells for $8.  How much more per week does the diner PROFIT in chicken pot pies during the free delivery month?
A)  $150     B)  $300     C)  $500     D)  $800  (answer at bottom of post)

From Farmer Brown’s ranch – Every January, Farmer Brown provides each of his 5 farm hands with 2 new pair of fleece lined jeans (at $50 each, including tax) and a heavy-duty waterproof jacket (at $90 each, including tax).  Was Farmer Brown able to spend less than $1,000 for the purchases this year? (answer at bottom of post)

Zigzagging from our solar system to  woodcut prints to Claude Debussy –

planetarium

– It started with “Planetarium”, Raman Prinja’s dazzling book of planets, galaxies, dark matter, etc.  My son and I have read through several excellent outer space books, so we are on the lookout for anything new:  “Planetarium” did not disappoint –   we have now been introduced to THE OORT CLOUD.  But the real story for us:  the imaginative and superbly crafted woodcut print illustrations by Chris Wormell.

– We are now in WOODCUT PRINT APPRECIATION mode:  we are re-reading “The Old Man Mad about Drawing”, about the great Japanese woodcut print master, Hokusai.  We are also working through “Making Woodblock Prints” by Chesterman and Nelson, to understand the skills and tools involved.

– THEN, while listening to the radio show, “Exploring Music with Bill McLaughlin” we learned that Claude Debussy was so intrigued by woodcut prints that he requested that Hokusai’s famed “The Great Wave” be used on the cover of his La Mer sheet music.

Our classical music selections – the focus had to be on Claude Debussy.  As polished and deeply moving as the music is, we do not often select Debussy pieces for our nightly STUDIES AND STORIES conclusion as we are usually looking for something jollier.  However, three pieces that we are familiar with (and like) – 

  • Jeux de Vagues – movement 2 from Debussy’s 1905 orchestral composition, La Mer.  My son and I envision being plopped in the middle of an ocean where the music has no beginning nor end.  That is what we hear in this intuitive piece:

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – this 10+ minute symphonic poem, composed in 1894, is considered to be the beginning of modern music.  Here is what we think:  that flute player, who opens the piece is under ENORMOUS pressure:

  • Clair de Lune – the beloved movement 3 from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque (for piano), of 1905.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Diner – C.  $500, Farmer Brown – Yes)

“D”s Dominated

duncan 2

First, DUNCAN DORFMAN – Meg Wolitzer’s engaging, “The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” transported us into the world of competitive Scrabble.  A member of our family plays competitive chess (a US Chess Federation “National Master” – we are kind of proud), so my son is familiar with the concept of board game competition.  The book mentions scrabble tiles and racks over and over, so I brought some tiles and racks for my son to see, touch, try out (regretfully, NO interest).  My son actually does like filling out book reports, and I was happy to see that he picked up on the main themes of this well structured book (ethics, friendship, the roller-coaster emotions of competition).  

doolittle illustration

Then, DR. DOOLITTLE – My son and I are nearly through Hugh Lofting’s timeless adventure, “The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle”.  Here is what we think:  the pleasures of reading this book double when it is read out loud, allowing reader and listener to savor the poetic preposterousness of Lofting’s relentless imagination – delicious names and places like Popsipetel, Bag-Jagderag, Jip, Dab-Dab, Wiff-Waff, Don Ricky-Ticky.  One more thing – the copy we are reading (a 2012 printing) includes spectacular vintage-style illustrations by Scott McKowen.

indian contributions book

Then, DUCK DECOYS – “Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World”, complied by Emory Sea Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield – a well edited resource we looked forward to opening every night.  A better mom would have read aloud every single entry, but alas, my son had to settle for learning about one topic from each letter of the alphabet.  Adobe, balls, canoes, duck decoys, earache treatments (well, that was gross), fringed clothing, gourds, hominy (I really built this one up with the hope of my son giving hominy a try – GIANT CORN ARE YOU KIDDING????  Who wants to sample some WAY FUN GIANT CORN??? Alas, no luck.  I have no influence.), igloos, jicama, kayaks, lacrosse, maple syrup, nasturtiums, observatories, popcorn, quipus, rafts, salsa, tipis, umbrellas, vanilla, wampum, yams (we skipped X and Z).  

lattice pie

Then, DESSERTS AT THE DINER (a story problem)During summer months, Miss Michelle (famed pastry chef at the diner) bakes pies every morning:  4 apple pies, 2 apricot lattice (vocab) pies, 2 peach pies, 2 cherry lattice pies, 1 blueberry pie, 1 blackberry pie, 1 rhubarb pie, and 2 lemon meringue pies.  Each pie gets sliced into 6 servings.  

  • If a tour bus with 80 passengers stops at the diner for lunch, would all passengers be able to enjoy a serving of pie?
  • How many pie crusts does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, roll out every week?
  • It takes 1 hour to bake a pie.  The diner has 3 ovens and each oven can accommodate 4 pies at a time.  How many hours does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, need to bake every pie? (answers at bottom of post)

dvorak portrait

Finally, DVOŘÁK DAZZLED –  on the classical music front, it was Antonín Dvořák week at the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bedroom):

  • Slavonic Dance No. 1 in C major, composed around 1880.  This is one of our favorites and it gets the performance it deserves by the Vienna Philharmonic.  Side notes:  1)  As per usual, conductor Seiji Ozawa’s hair is too wild to be ignored – we should all be so confident.  2)  If you look closely, you will actually see a woman in the orchestra (back row,  violin section).  This video footage was posted in 2008 (so I don’t know when it was filmed) and I am sure the orchestra is trying to be more with the times, BUT REALLY.

  • Humoresque No. 7, composed in 1894 – we love the way YoYo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and conductor Ozawa transform this carefree little piece into a heartbreaker.

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera, “Rusalka”, premier performance in 1901.  Soprano Susan Karinski and the US Navy Band deliver an exquisite performance.  ATTENTION EVERYBODY:  Susan Karinski.  Whoa.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  yes, 105 pie crusts, 2 hours)

1809: What Went So Right

1809:  Brilliant Work, Moms! 

lincoln    darwin    mendelssohn    poe

Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809
Charles Darwin, born February 12, 1809
Felix Mendelssohn, born February 3, 1809
Edgar Allan Poe, born January 19, 1809

We are currently studying:
Louis Braille, born January 4, 1809

braille bio

My son and I decided to learn about Louis Braille (1809 – 1852) and we struck gold with the extraordinarily well researched book, “Louis Braille – A Touch of Genius”, by C. Michael Mellor.  Almost scrapbook in style and continually captivating: 

  • photographs, vintage illustrations, postage stamps, transcribed letters, sidebars of historical significance, examples of reading systems for the visually impaired
  • Louis Braille’s family and the tragic mishap that left him blind at age 3
  • comprehensive information about the Institute for the Blind in Paris, France – the only school for the blind in all of Europe at the time – where Louis was enrolled at age 10  
    • innovations/controversies of each headmaster 
    • school curriculum – education, job training, and music.  We learned that in addition to being an outstanding student, Louis was a prize winning cello player and also earned a side income by playing the organ   
  • Louis Braille’s contributions:
    • the raised 6-dot cell code (at age 15)(!!!) that is now, worldwide, called “braille”
    • a device that allowed for written communication between the visually impaired and the sighted (the first dot-matrix printer) 
    • a raised dot system for reading music 

Louis Braille passed away at age 43 of tuberculosis.  We finished the book heartened and heartbroken.

More talk about Louis Braille – When I texted superb educator, Jill R.A., that my son and I were in the midst of a study unit on Louis Braille, she texted back:

Oh! I love that! Louis Braille is a hero of mine so I tell everybody about him!  My title is Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI).  I am an itinerant (good vocab word) teacher which means I travel to wherever blind and visually impaired students are, which may be at home, day care, or schools.  Some TVI’s teach in a classroom at a blind school,  but I see students that attend public schools and are attending general ed classes.  I also work with students from birth up to age 21. I generally consult with teachers and help them understand how to best teach the student who is visually Impaired.  However,  I have braille students who I meet with at least 3 times a week for braille lessons. I even have a few babies who will be braille readers and I meet with them and their parents for pre-braille activities to get their little fingers ready and sensitive to feel the dots.  We will play in rice and beans and pick out different things.   We also start “looking” at books really early so that they know to feel for the dots. It’s a fantastic job!”

Look at the variety of braille learning tools that  Jill R.A. sent to augment our unit (I told you she was superb):

braille tools

Poe Poems – my son and I explored two lengthy poems by 1809 birthday boy, Edgar Allan Poe:  his  happiness-to-misery blueprint in “The Bells” (1849) and the tortured loneliness pervasive in “The Raven” (1845).  So gorgeously composed, each word so fastidiously selected, but YIKES.

beatnik style

Poetry Night at Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner recently hosted a 1950’s “Beatnik” style poetry reading night.  Patrons were encouraged to  dress beatnik style (cool, man, cool) and arrive ready to recite a poem.  There were prizes for the best and worst outfits, best and worst poems, and best and worst poem delivery.  Well!  The diner was overwhelmed by the turn out!  150 people showed up and 80% were in costume, and 20% were brave enough to recite a poem.

1- How many patrons arrived in costume?
a).  16     b).  80     c).  100     d).  120

2- How many patrons recited a poem?
a).  20     b).  30     c).  50     d).  75

3- What percentage of the entire attending crowd received a prize?
a).  4%     b).  6%     c).  20%     d).  50%

4- Should poetry night be an annual event at the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

Mendelssohn Music – we celebrated another 1809 birthday boy (this one with a brighter point of view than Poe) by listening to three of our favorite pieces by Felix Mendelssohn – 

  • Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed 1826.  So very clever.  An excellent performance by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (where Mendelssohn served as a very beloved Music Director from 1835 – 1847):

  • Symphony No. 4 (“The Italian”), movement 1, composed in 1833.  Happy, breezy.  A glossy smooth performance under the baton of Metropolitan Orchestra (Sydney, Australia) conductor, Sarah-Grace Williams:

  • Violin Concerto in E minor, finale, composed 1844.  This is the movement that my son and I call “the cat and mouse movement”….lots of brisk “advance/retreat”.  This is an old recording, but we are mesmerized by the precision that Itzhak Perlman brings to this performance:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1) d.  120,  2) b. 30,  3)  a. 4%,  4)  Yes, of course!)

Dear Librarians

newbery award        caldecott award

Pick us!  Pick us!  We are ready to serve!  We’ve just been reading about the Association for Library Service to Children, which annually recognizes book and video excellence with ten different medals and awards.  Would my son and I love find ourselves on any of the award selection committees?  YES!  Pick us!  Pick us!  Once we settled down from our committee responsibilities fantasy, we narrowed our focus to learn everything about two of the ten awards: the Newbery Medal (literature) and the Caldecott Medal (book illustration):

– The Newbery Medal – we read “Balderdash” (Michelle Markel/Nancy Carpenter).  A snappy,  brief look at the life of publisher John Newbery.  Inspired by philosopher John Locke’s quote, “Reading should be a treat for children”, Newbery enjoyed enormous success by printing books that children WANTED to read (prior to this, most reading material for children was designed to put the fear of the afterlife into the reader’s behavior).  The first Newbery Medal was awarded in 1922.  We read through the list of Newbery Medal and Honor Book award winners and notated those books we had read:

  • 2016 – The War that Saved My Life – Important
  • 2013 – The One and Only Ivan – Liked
  • 2011 – Turtle in Paradise – Really liked
  • 2008 – The Wednesday Wars – Really liked
  • 2007 – Penny from Heaven – Really liked
  • 2003 – Hoot – Satisfying
  • 2003 – Surviving the Applewhites – Oh how we LOVE this book, have read 4 times
  • 2002 – Everything on a Waffle – Liked
  • 2001 – A Year Down Yonder – Really liked
  • 2001 – Because of Winn Dixie – Liked
  • 2001 – Hope was Here – Really liked
  • 1999 – A Long Way from Chicago – Really liked
  • 1999 – Holes – Important
  • 1991 – Maniac Magee – Liked
  • 1988 – Hatchet – we’ve read this 3 times
  • 1984 – The Sign of the Beaver – we are currently reading this, like it a LOT
  • 1978 – Ramona and Her Father – Liked
  • 1973 – Frog and Toad Together – Really?
  • 1963 – A Wrinkle in Time – Really liked
  • 1961 – The Cricket in Times Square – Liked
  • 1953 – Charlotte’s Web – The best
  • 1952 – Ginger Pye – Liked
  • 1939 – Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Liked
  • 1923 – The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle – we are currently reading this, LOVE this book

24 down, 74 to go – Question for my son:  shall we read every Newbery Medalist?  YES!  Why not, what else are we doing?  The challenge begins.

– The Caldecott Medal – we read “Randolph Caldecott – The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing” (Leonard S. Marcus) – a most comprehensive biography, filled with Caldecott’s charming, skillful, intuitive drawings.  This book provoked us to order “Old Christmas:  Sketch Book of Washington Irving” (1876) with illustrations by Randolph Caldecott (we are saving this for December reading).  The Association for Library Services to Children began awarding the Caldecott Medal in 1937.

french fries    milkshakes    french fries

Story problem from the local diner – Miss Jeanette (the new diner manager) has an idea to spark positive PR (vocab) for the diner!  She is proposing that for the upcoming summer months, the diner  award “Shake and Fries” vouchers (vocab) to high school students who volunteer during story-time at the local library.  Miss Jeanette is projecting that 50 coupons will be awarded over the summer.  If a “Shake and Fries” voucher costs the diner $3, how much how much will the diner potentially spend supporting the story-time literacy event? 
A.)  $35     B.)  $53     C.)  $150     D.)  $350

Lactose intolerant students earning vouchers can substitute lemonade for the milkshake, and (happy day) the cost for the diner will be reduced by 20%.  If 10% of the students opt for the lemonade, what is the total projected cost of the diners’ voucher program?
A.)  $20     B.)  $45     C.)  $147     D.)  $235 (answers at bottom of post)

A Serendipitous Pairing – Two A+ books that we just happened to be reading at the same time, that SHOULD be read at the same time:

“My Life with the Chimpanzees”, an autobiography (vocab) by Jane Goodall
and
“The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle”, by Hugh Lofting

My son and I were about three chapters into the Dr. Doolittle book (and just loving it) (meaning that my son has a difficult time letting me shut the book at the end of each night’s reading) when we started the Jane Goodall book.  And then, WHAT A SURPRISE!  Jane Goodall mentions several times in her autobiography the impact the Dr. Doolittle books had in shaping her future.   My son and I love thinking that maybe Hugh Lofting (1886 – 1947) might know how much good work his books inspired.

Dr. Doolittle inspires our classical music selections – Right there, in chapter 6, Dr. Doolittle entertains the Stubbins family with his flute playing!  What doesn’t that man know how to do? The book states that the visit took place in 1839, so my son and I put together a little flute recital program, selecting flute pieces that were composed prior to 1839 – pieces that Dr. Doolittle actually could have played – 

  • Francois-Joseph Gossec’s “Tambourin for flute and orchestra”, composed in the early 1790’s.  This is just so darn sweet.  Play, Dr. Doolittle, play!

  • “Badinerie” from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, 1739.  We learned that a badinerie is a brief and lively dance.  We are not sure that anybody could play this piece with greater accuracy and speed than Sir James Galway (except, of course, Dr. Doolittle) –

  • Beethoven’s spritely “Trio for 3 Flutes in G major”, movement III.  The story goes that this piece was composed in 1786 when Beethoven was fifteen.  Whoa.  Vivacious and brisk – the perfect conclusion for our Dr. Doolittle mini concert –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers:  C.)  $150 and C.)  $147)

Not on my watch

Last Tuesday, I was lunching at a neighborhood cafe and felt a magnetic pull to eavesdrop on the two teenagers a few tables down who had obviously cut class.  The theme of their distressing conversation was “I hate school”.  Oh my.  Who or what stomped the life out of their learning adventure?  

grandma watch

Not on my watch.  Every single night it is my pleasure to make sure that the learning adventure for my son (AND myself) is set on FULL BLAST.  One goal is to read something so startling that we stop, reread, and marvel.  A few items that had us marveling this past week:

national parks better

  • From “The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth”, by Rachel Ignotofsky:
    • the one place on earth, that by 1959 international treaty, can only be used for peace and science (with all discoveries shared freely).  Nice.  (Antarctica)
    • while many ecosystems are under threat from unsustainable farming techniques, deforestation, and global warming, the Mongolian Steppe has quite another problem:  GOATS.  One of Mongolia’s successful exports is the fiber from cashmere goats,  so there are a LOT of goats grazing with a vengeance, munching roots as well as the grass,  destroying entire landscapes.
    • the Gouldian finch of the Australian savanna.  Crazy GORGEOUS (see photo below in the music listening section).
  • From the Lonely Planet Kids book, “America’s National Parks”:
    • which state, after California and Alaska, boasts the greatest number of national parks?  (Utah).  We never would have guessed that.
    • there are national parks that exist primarily underwater:  American Samoa National Park, Biscayne National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Everglades National Park.

tide pool 3 tries

More interesting information on the horizon  We have just started the terribly elegant little “Pacific Coast Tide Pools” by Marni Fylling.  So far we have become knowledgeable about low tides, high tides, the splash zone, the challenges of being permanently attached to a rock, and the toxic beauty of sea anemones.  Sponges are on deck.

trivia sign

Story problem:  Trivia Night at Le Fictitious Local Diner – Tuesday nights are slow at the diner, so the new manager, Miss Jeanette, is hosting “Tuesday Twilight Trivia” to bring in more customers.  Admission is the purchase of the “Tuesday Twilight Trivia Dinner Special” for $7.50.  If the first Tuesday there were 20 players and the second Tuesday there were 40 players, by what percentage did the the attendance rise?  
A)   20%      B)  40%       C)    50%     D)  100%

If the diner awards a cash prize of $25 to each evening’s winner, how much did the diner gross on night number two?
A)  $150     B)  $275     C)  $400     D)  $1,000
(answers at bottom of post)

finches

Music to celebrate that ridiculous-yet-gorgeous Gouldian finch –

  • Vivaldi’s “Flute Concerto in D major” (known as “The Goldfinch”), movement 3, published in 1728.  Yay, James Galway –

  • “Dawn” from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe”, which premiered in 1912.  A superb, compact performance by the Berlin Phil, complete with chorus.  We put our full attention to listening for the subtle birdsong theme that runs in the background throughout the piece –

and finally:

tie dyed hippie    finch singular

  • “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers.  The psychedelic colorwork that is the Gouldian finch simply begged for a vintage song from the psychedelic 1960’s.  How can we not smile when we listen to this?  GREAT rhythm.  Peace out –

(for more ’60’s vibe:  the April 29, 2015 post, “Peace, Love, and Tambourines”)

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D)  100%  and  B)  $275)

Referencing Robert Burns

On the grounds that my son has enough to deal with – I do my best to keep themes of MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN* removed from our stories and studies.  However, last night three of our books ambushed us with the ugliness of RACISM:

three books 

  • From Kelly Yang’s novel, “Front Desk”:  racism and racial profiling
  • From Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science”:  we hated learning that brilliant ophthalmologist/inventor Patricia Bath contended with racism throughout her academic career
  • From Kekla Magoon’s novel, “The Season of Styx Malone”:  we are pretty sure that the reluctance of our protagonists’ father to allow his children to venture into the big city is based upon a past trauma rooted in racism

I provided my son with a concise explanation of racism, and followed up with some questions:

  • does it seem smart or ridiculous to assign specific characteristics to an entire group of people based on appearance?
  • do we need to make others look bad to make ourselves feel good?
  • is racism ever acceptable?
  • what letter grade would we give racism?

robert burns

*“Man’s inhumanity to man” – the phrase was first used by Scottish treasure, Robert Burns, in his lengthy poem of 1784, “Man was made to mourn:  A Dirge”.  We carefully examined each line of this stanza (vocab):

Many and sharp the numerous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

natural attraction book

Why can’t we be friends? – My son and I are reading from Iris Gottlieb’s cutie of a book “Natural Attraction”, which is filled with examples of unexpected and beneficial partnerships in nature:  tarantulas/frogs, ants/aphids, whales/barnacles.  (New vocab:  symbiotic and mutualism.)  This book offers an uplifting way to conclude each night’s academic agenda.

scot lion

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – to bring attention to Robert Burns’ 260th birthday, the diner owner was thinking about adding “A Taste of Old Scotland” onto the dinner menu, but there proved to be no interest among the chefs in preparing haggis, so as sort of a second choice, butterscotch sundaes were added onto the dessert menu as a watered down nod to the great poet’s homeland.  I know, so lame.  Over the course of the first month on the menu, 500 butterscotch sundaes were served up, 80% to teenagers.  How many non-teenagers enjoyed a butterscotch sundae during this time?  (answer at bottom of post)

red rose

Music to celebrate Robert Burns – we listened to the well known Burns song, “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, and then selected two pieces that idealize his native Scotland –

  • “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, lyrics by Robert Burns (1794) set to a traditional Scots folk melody.  This is a lovely rendition, but BTW, there is the most adorable performance in the 1999 movie, “My Life So Far” –

  • Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, movement 4 (selected because the dominant melodic theme is based upon a Burns song, “Scots Wha Hae”), composed in 1880.  Interesting note:  Max Bruch’s first visit to Scotland was one year AFTER the premiere of his “Fantasy”.  Another interesting note:  this youtube video indicates that we are listening to movement 5, but we are not.  This is fake news;  there is no movement 5.  This is a clerical error. –

  • Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor (known as “The Scottish”), movement 2, composed in 1842, as he reflected upon his 1829 sojourn to Scotland.  The short movement is full of bounce and spirit and this performance is conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.  Winner, winner! –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  100 non-teenagers)