Monday, June 24, 2013

The Zen and Art of Salad Making

I am not a gourmet chef by any means. I do not read recipe books like romance novel. I know some people who do. I'm a mad pinner over at Pinterest, but only a smidgen of my pins are ever recipes.

But for me, salads = summer.

It was through summer salad making after my first year at Eagle Cove School when it first happened. That was the summer I began composting. At Eagle Cove, every classroom composts daily. After a school year of teaching about composting, and daily reminding what goes into the class bin that's destined for the campus compost, I started to feel a li'l guilty in my house when making a simple salad. It seemed a shame for all those pepper cores and celery leaves to go in the trash, then ultimately the landfill. A-composting they would go!

Summer salad making goes beyond my compost though. Summer is the time where we step away from the soccer (or other sport) field. Likewise, its the time we step away from the fast food that too often accompanies the sports. Time (& therefore meals) opens up, becoming a more savory event.

So the chopping begins, and the cutting board gets a workout. In the rhythm of radishes, the cubing of cucumbers, the sprinkling of spices, you become very "in the moment"... which I think becomes harder and harder to do in this overly-connected, technology and time-crunched world in which we live.

It is through the Summer of Salads that a little bit of health, relaxation, and true self-restoration return--at least for this girl! Healthy for me AND my planet.

Speaking of's that time! Lunchtime. My compost bucket awaits! I'm off to go Zen me a salad.

Image from

Friday, June 21, 2013

Getting into the Great Outdoors

Ahhh....the Great Outdoors!  A great place to find yourself and reconnect--whether you go near or far.  In the article posted below, Heather Burton Boughey does a great job of channeling one of my favorite modern day environmentalists, Richard Louv (author of Last Child In the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder).

A bit of a modern-day environmentalist herself (as you'll soon see), Heather is an avid camper and a lover of outdoor adventures such as Maryland Park Quest.  I've done both with her, as we're about as good of buddies as our two daughters are. Here you'll find Heather's article (that is hot off the presses just today) from the Annapolis/Chesapeake Bay area's independent newspaper, The Bay Weekly.  Join in as Heather cheer-leads everyone, encouraging all to get outside this weekend to take advantage of "The Great American Backyard Camp-out," an environmental "holiday" held annually the 4th Saturday every June. What are you doing this Saturday night?
"Getting into the Great Outdoors" by Heather Burton Boughey
Copied with the Author's permission from the 6/20/2013 issue of The Bay Weekly
Whether you’re roughing it at a primitive camp site or pitching a tent in your own back yard, any time spent outdoors with family is the best.
Writer Heather Boughey, about 5 years old and second from right, and brother Joel Burton, second from left, making s'mores with friends, circa 1976.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.–John Muir

The father of our National Parks was definitely on to something. A century before the age of instant connectivity, John Muir
already knew we’d be ready to get back to nature and relax. 
Adults spend 89.3 percent of their time inside buildings or cars. Kids spend almost seven hours a day on electronic media. Only one-quarter of kids play outside every day.
You don’t need to travel far to find an outdoors escape. You can start in your own backyard with the kids for The Great American Backyard Camp-out June 22. 
In anticipation of the big day, husband Jon, daughter Mackenzie and I tried backyard camping. We live off Nabbs Creek, and our densely wooded backyard resembled many of the campgrounds we’ve stayed at over the years. Mackenzie picked out the spot for our tent, and we cleared away rocks and sticks that would make sleeping on the ground uncomfortable. Then we set up camp.
We don’t have a fire-pit, so we made our s’mores in the kitchen microwave and sat outside enjoying them, as no camp-out is complete without the chocolate-marshmallow treat. Once darkness fell, we climbed into our tent to sleep. The neighborhood outdoor cat, Bubbles, wandered by to check on our sleeping arrangements but declined to come inside.
There’s something about sleeping in your backyard that gives an entirely new perspective. I never paid full attention to all of the nature sounds right at my back door. We listened to the different animals outside and tried to figure out if they were raccoons, squirrels or cats wandering by. In the darkness, I reminisced with Mackenzie about camping adventures of my childhood.
The Wilder the Better 
My father, Bill Burton, was always up for any adventure in the outdoors, so we went on many camping trips. In the late 1970s, our family and friends would head down to Wachapreague, Virginia, and take a boat ride to Cedar Island, a small and empty barrier island, where we would be dropped off for a week. There was nothing on the island. Everything we needed for our week-long adventure had to be brought by boat to the island. A small two-way radio was our only communication with the mainland. 
This was primitive camping. We had to bring fresh water and all of our rations with us. The privy consisted of finding the right sand-dune to dig a hole behind. Baths consisted of taking soap into the ocean. It was us and nature, with little distraction.
We were seven-, eight-, and nine-year-olds, roaming free. We explored the island. We swam in the ocean. We enjoyed great bonfires. We stayed up late in the tents, giggling and telling stories. We didn’t know we were roughing it.
When I started dating the man I married, I was delighted to learn that he also enjoyed the outdoors and camping. One of our first getaways was a week at Pocomoke State Park on the Eastern Shore. We loaded our tent and supplies in my little two-door car and headed out. We brought a pup tent, a hammock, two chairs and our food. No electronics and no cell-phones. We spent our time kayaking on the river and hiking the park. At night, we sat around the campfire, talking and playing cards.
Civilization Creeps In
Once Mackenzie was born, we upgraded to a five-person tent, in which we could stand up, and we had room for an air-mattress. We now had cell phones with us as we went camping. Civilization was slowing creeping in.
With age, my father couldn’t easily get in and out of a tent on our family camping trips. Many Maryland state parks rent camper-cabins, upgraded wooden tents of one room with a bunk bed and a double bed and an electrical outlet. These were our solution. But we still cooked our meals over the fire ring and used the communal bathhouses.
Modern-day conveniences continued their advance. Instead of waiting for the fire to heat up to make our morning coffee, we brought a coffeemaker to plug in in the cabin. Laptops, with air-cards, started to make appearances on these camping trips. We watched movies on the laptop. To help keep the cabin cool at night, we brought an electric fan.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited Herrington Manor State Park in Western Maryland. This time we upgraded our camping accommodations to a full-service cabin with a wood-burning stove. We had not only two bedrooms but also a complete kitchen with refrigerator, stove and microwave. We had our own bathroom with a shower. We could eat our meals at the picnic table outside or at the large table inside the cabin. 
Even in the great outdoors, everybody had brought their electronics on the trip. My daughter had her iPad to read or play on at night. Others brought Kindles. Every single adult, and a few of the children, had cell-phones. One adult in our group was doing a work project on his laptop, while another was studying for an on-line course. Civilization has fully injected itself into our camping.
As I told Mackenzie these stories, she asked me about my favorite type of camping. Did I prefer the primitive roughing it or the amenities-filled cabins?
Cedar Island was a child’s paradise. We didn’t consider that emergency help would be a radio call and a boat ride away. Cabins are good options, especially in colder weather when the wood-burning stove comes in handy. It was in the upper 20s in Garrett County
over Memorial Day. Still, you lose some of what camping’s about.

I thought about it and gave Mackenzie the best answer I could: Any time spent outdoors with family is the best. It doesn’t need to be survivalist camping, and it doesn’t need to be full-service cabins. You can use modern communications as much or as little as you want.

You can even pitch a tent in your backyard and spend an evening together under the stars. In our busy world, that’s an easy way to get away, and a great way to introduce your child to camping and nature.

Join the National Wildlife Federation and thousands of families across the U.S. on June 22 for the Great American Backyard Campout.

No experience needed. Just pitch a tent in your back yard and enjoy the nature that is right around you It’s a free event, but the Federation also takes donations to help fund programs to get more children involved in nature:

Article and pictures from Heather Burton Boughey's Bay Weekly Article:

Great American Backyard Campout logo pic from

Monday, June 17, 2013

Harvesting Wind Power and Awareness Through Global Wind Day

Saturday was Global Wind Day.  It is every year, annually June 15th.  Yes, I know, here after Father's Day, I'm 2 days late and at least 2 dollars short.  But, that doesn't mean it's too late to learn a little bit about it, and wind power.

Anyone who has experienced a "Bad Hair Day" on account of the wind, knows the power of wind power.  Same holds true for anyone who has set sail in a sailboat, or seen the damage in Oklahoma this past month--wind can do a lot.  This infographic is good for putting it all in layman's terms.  Check it out!

Image from Global Wind Day's FaceBook page.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Happy World Ocean Day

Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink....a saying that sums up this salty, watery planet of ours.  At about 71% of our planet, we're "blue" for a reason--the oceans abound, rich with wildlife.

June 8th annually is World Ocean's Day.
This year's annual theme:  "Together we have the power to protect the ocean!"

Check out some of the many great things you can do to celebrate World Oceans day by way of learning, appreciating, and honoring that 71% that surrounds us over at  It's a super stopping spot for resources!

Then be sure to take part in a World Ocean's Day Scavenger Hunt over at

Find some great oceanic, hands-on, educational activities here.

Take the time to see what you can do!!  Marine animals everywhere will thank you!

Video from

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Graduation Season ~ Commencements Galore & More

Kids Tossing Graduation Caps
Graduation season is upon us, and the season of commmencment speeches.  My daughter, graduating from 5th grade, is even giving one, a few days away.

'Tis the season of reflection, the state of transition and change.

And perhaps even a hanky or 2!

As a teacher, this time of year is always a time of assessment--for students and teacher alike.  Report card season begs the question of where we are, and what we still need to work on.  From the teacher-side, again, it's a question of where we are, what worked, what didn't--both personally and professionally.  These are the times that always get you thinking!

In a way, it's like being "reptilian," this "being a teacher" thing:  As you wind up the year in your class, you also begin wondering how you are doing, which "skins" are worth saving, and which ones you want to shed.  Some things, not all things, are keepers for next year.  The same holds true for personality traits, moods, and habits of behavior:  as a teacher, which ones are worth saving, and which are worth shedding?

It doesn't take much to get me in a wistful and thoughtful mood, especially here at the end of the year.  Especially when you have a graduation speech or 5 on your brain like I do.

  • I have an elementary-aged girl, who is going to middle school in the fall, complete with the presentation of a speech she wrote.  Times 10.  I taught 10 of the 13 students in her class, including my girl herself.  That alone serves as a double-hanky event!
  • This year is the last time my 2 kids will be in the same school at the same time. Ever.  It's all my li'l buddy knows, is to be there with his sister.  In a way, me too, since we started the school the same year, my graduate and I.
  • Lastly, I'm just coming off of a reread of Randy Pauch's "The Last Lecture" book. As a man who was dying of Pancreatic Cancer back in 2008, he has a poigniant he says goodbye to his trio of "under 7" set.  I have decided that "The Last Lecture" should be seen/heard/read--as a COMMAND PERFORMANCE--annually, by everyone! Period. Exclamation Point. No questions.  There are so many pearls of wisdom in there, and it helps to see things well it should be.

So this season, I open up a challenge to you.  Write your own "last lecture," graduation speech, commencement address..whatever you want to call it.  Really look at what you would write--what you feel is important on a human level!  Then reread it...really READ it!  But more importantly "HEAR" it!  Then, live it!!  Insert "Pomp and Circumstance here!"

(And yes, this is a "continuation of a theme for anyone who has been playing along, taking notice, or who is equally wrapped in this graduation season ahead!!) See:  GTG's "Balancing a Life, a Blog, and a 3 Day Weekend".

Images from:
Kids graduating:
Ralph Waldo Emerson quote pic from
Last Lecture book pic from
Last Lecture video from

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Eco News at Schools

Lately, there's been some great eco news in and around Anne Arundel County Maryland--that kind of good news worth sharing.  Some of it has involved "Yours Truly"...other is just plain great things going on in Maryland regarding environmental education.  Check it out!

by Meredith Thompson 5/14/2013
Eagle Cove School’s third grade class recently took a field trip to Sandy Point State Park to paint pictures of the Bay Bridge with watercolors.

Pictures & Mini-Post of "Third Graders Restore Oysters" over on Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Facebook Page (dated Thursday, May 30th)

My iMovie video of the above "Oyster Graduation Day" with Chesapeake Bay Foundation:  Password: Oysters2013

Photo: Don't forget! The Clean Water Concert Series kicks off tomorrow...come join us for a smattering of live music and Bay-themed activities for kids and adults right in downtown Easton, MD!

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Oyster kiss pic by their own Tiffany Granberg & Foster Nost
Maryland Green School from
Clean Water Concert Series from