Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ringing In, Bringing In 2021


For many, this year has become synonymous with a 4-letter word. 

This week between Christmas and New Years is always the week where we hash over all of the wins and losses, the highs and lows of the year.

We started the year with Australian wildfires of enormous environmental impact. Also in January, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from the royal family and Kobe Bryant died in a tragic car accident. For many of us, that seems like it was eons ago.

Covid has been a defining factor of the year, as the United States saw its growth in February, its ultimate cause for national shutdown in March, and its horrific impact over the summer and growth again this fall. Meanwhile, in the middle of a very contention election season (which led to a controversial new presidency), we also had major racial injustice and strife following the death of George Floyd. On top of all of that, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away mid-September causing a quick replacement of that seat right before the election with Amy Coney Barrett. All the while, more wildfires raged in western United States as did more cases of Covid, which we as a country just could not kick.

When you look at all of this and think of it in terms of a movie plot, it'd all be way too much for one film. It wouldn't be believable. It wouldn't feel realistic. And yet, it has all been our reality.

For many, they were ready to wash their hands of 2020 months ago. 

The start of a new year always holds so much hope and promise. Many of us are a little gun-shy this year, saying silent prayers of "Please dear Lord, don't let it get worse. There are no more shoes to drop! We can't take any more."

In thinking over the passage of the year, I scrolled back to my New Year's 2019 GTG post. I hoped for a year of innovation and excitement. Innovation certainly was necessary as we all moved in and out of remote or hybrid learning; as we quarantined during pandemic and had to creatively stay in touch with loved ones; and as scientists developed Covid vaccines and medical personnel started to administer them.. I've said before, innovation will be the answer to all of our environmental issues. Health and education too, so we've seen. And far more excitement than we ever wanted. Yes, be careful what you ask for.

So 2021, we greet you. You are here. May you be kind to as and help us turn that corner on Covid. We are all collectively crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best. 

Images created by me on

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Simon Beck: Snow Drawings

'Tis the season for wintery wonderlands here in the week between Christmas & New Years, and snowy beauty was calling my name--perhaps because we don't have a lot of snow to show for it right here and now. Maybe soon. Fingers crossed for January.

Simon Beck's Snow Drawings can give you a flavor and feel for snow. He takes a total hands-on approach. Or rather, a feet-on approach. No machinery to make it happen--only rope, an anchor, snow shoes, a ski stick, some markers to organize the space, and probably a good winter coat. Pretty impressive when these snow drawings are the size of soccer fields when finished.. Also, it's no surprise that he's a former engineer with a background in cartography (mapmaking). I think you'd have to be in order to think of something on that grand of a scale and to have the vision of how to do it with such a precision-level outcome. 


I'd imagine that it'd be such a meditative moment, going out in the snowy, quiet world. The wintery wonderland actually is as quiet as it seems because the snow, which is porous due to the open spaces in the individual 6-sided, crystalized snowflakes. It's this porous-ness which absorbs the sound & surrounding sound waves. The world in this setting is literally blanketed in snowy silence. And there is Simon Beck, systematically moving about, mindfully creating his snow art. Some of his greater works of art can take up to 12 hours of outdoor trekking. 

Perhaps this could serve as inspiration for all of us to up our snowman or snow angel game! I'd imagine the step count would be pretty phenomenal on my Fitbit to create something like this! What a creative way to stay in shape in the winter!

To learn more about Simon Beck and see more of his his dynamic designs and snowy installations, check out the following:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Wishing You A Joyous Season

My typical Christmas greeting is always a simple wish of wellness to all to have a joyous season. 

After a hard year, may your holidays be filled with hope, health, and happiness.

As always, sending you my best during this time of year!

Created on

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

December 23rd: Christmas Eve Eve

When I was little, growing up in the Midwest, our Christmas holiday season had a definite routine and rhythm, and it became a 3-day Christmas Festivus every year:

December 23: Christmas Eve Eve
That night, after dressing up in our finest Christmas fashion-wear and having a wonderful home- dressy dinner at the decked out dining room table, we opened gifts my original family of 4 with my mom, dad, and brother. We went around the circle one at a time opening gifts, with it being a full magical, memorable event of savoring everyone's presents to each other. We'd chuckle over the silly names we'd put on the package tags. Sometimes the names would hold clues about what was inside, and sometimes they were silly like "Mickey Mouse,""Snoopy," or "Holly Hobby." Sometimes the gifts would involve antics like boxes inside of boxes, or cans of corn or bricks that were wrapped to add additional weight and humor and disguise. (Some of those traditions have migrated into my own family now that I'm an adult.) With the gifts being from our nuclear family, often these were the best gifts of our entire Christmas!!

December 24 Christmas Eve: 
That morning of the 24th would be filled with loads of excitement because that was the morning Santa visited. It made perfect sense to our young minds that Santa needed to come to our house a day early because he had such a heavy job load the next evening--we were helping him out by being available the morning of Christmas Eve. That afternoon we'd usually travel the 45 minutes to my maternal grandparents so that we could have Christmas with them. Dinner was always chili because it was quick and easy and ultimately tradition. My grandpa, a Methodist minister, had a pretty busy evening that night or the next morning with Christmas services (up until he retired). We'd go to church, then often stay the night at my grandparents, opening gifts at night with the lights all a-glow, and laughter would usually ensue with all with my uncles, aunts, and 2 cousins.

December 25: Christmas Day
Christmas morning we'd ready ourselves to head the opposite direction about an hour and a half away to see my Dad's family (although every few years it'd be hosted at our house). Dad's family was bigger than Mom's, and with my grandparents being Lithuanian, we had a lot of ethnic and cultural flair in the air.  Dad's siblings (my aunts and uncles) would often talk to my grandparents in Lithuanian. We had more cousins on that side, so there was always a lot of rabble rousing at "the kids' table," the family togetherness, and all that comes with being part of a bigger family. Especially the annual family group photo by my one uncle--it was his self-appointed job. It was alway heavy with orchestration and getting us all in order, a lot of pomp and circumstance for photos I'm not sure any of us ever saw!

As an adult, the holiday season always has that wistful element of days and Christmas gone by and memories filtering around. Its' in the noticing the changes over time as grandparents and others passed away. Kids get older and eventually start our own families and family traditions. The timetables of fitting in everyone and everything had to become more flexible, especially since my family is still in the Midwest, but my husband's family and our now-nuclear family are both out East. So the timing of Christmas in my house has always been a little bit different every year now. In part, some of this contributes to Christmas as an adult not having the same magic as it once did due to things having an added layer of complication. 

And then there's this year. 2020.

The melodic tune of "Have Yourself a Covid Little Christmas" is ringing through my ears this year. PNC Banking, who for 37 years has been doing the true price of "The 12 Days of Christmas" is strikingly cheaper this year as the 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 ladies dancing, 9 lords a-leaping are all unavailable due to Covid cancelations of large group gatherings. As numbers climb, the recommended travel and extended family restrictions of Thanksgiving continue even moreso. Our plans have modified and we won't be doing our typical Christmas break trek to my Midwestern Mama, who I have now not seen in person since last Christmas--the two times we were planning to this past year, numbers started climbing and it once again felt unsafe. Of course, in retrospect, both times, the numbers were no where near this high. I'll be honest, it's wearing on me. But prudence and a sense of caution are what's navigating all this year. We have our family unit and our lights on our Christmas tree, and gifts have been mailed and will be opened while FaceTiming. Locally with the inlaws it's beginning to look like the only safe and comfortable option for all is a Christmas Day outdoor bonfire (with prayers for warmish winter days in our future).

I know this holiday season is going to be very different for a lot of people. It's of course bittersweet as many of us aren't going to be able to be with our loved ones in the same way we've traditionally been. But if you don't have health, you have nothing. My hope for the world is that we all have faith & respect in each other to take care of each other through these hard days of the pandemic. Likewise, I hope the vaccine distribution and administration will be swift and successful and bring us brighter, healthier days for everyone of us. These are the items on my Grown Up Christmas List.... right next to world peace, an end to climate change, a world with no pollution and hatred, and no one cold, hungry or homeless. 

May you have a wonderful December 23rd & Christmas Eve Eve, steeped in memories and anticipation and seasonal glow, filled with love, laughter, good health, and family togetherness (even if it's via technology). 

Pictures created on

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Winter Solstice 2020

A few years ago a friend of mine shared Susan Cooper's poem "The Shortest Day" on Winter Solstice. Since I shared it on my Facebook page, it comes up every year, and it strikes me annually of its beauty. Last year, during Winter Solstice, we were in the mountains of Western Maryland and spent the day in winter wonderland, making it even more strikingly beautiful. In fact, this photo is the sunrise following up 2019's shortest day.

"The Shortest Day" 
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

For more about Susan Cooper, this interview with WTVF Virginia Public Radio from December 21, 2019 is very good. It details the poem she wrote in the 1970s, the inspiration of light versus dark, and the picture book it ultimately became in the fall of 2019.

Have a lovely Winter Solstice this December 21st.

Photo from my camera, book image from from 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Textile Recycling

Socks with holes?
Shirts with worn elbow spots or deepened stains?
Clothing remnants that won't serve as hand-me-downs?
What do you do with all of these? 

Luckily, our county has returned to Textile Recycling.

Old clothes don't need to live in the landfill, and they certainly can't be recycled in traditional recycling measures. But, they can be taken in if sorted by reusable & non-resusable items. Clothing that can be reworn is sent to developing countries for sale in open-air markets and bazaars as affordable clothing. This in turn opens up jobs. The non-reusable items can be used in a multitude of ways too. From the Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling LLC: "About 50% of the clothing collected is recycled as second-hand clothing. 20% is made into cleaning and polishing cloths for industrial use. 26% is recycled for use as fiber for insulation products, mattresses, fiberboard, upholstery, and even re-woven into new textiles."

So as you are readying up for the holidays ahead and bringing in new items by way of gifts this holiday season, think about doing some in-house clothing & textile recycling if your municipality allows for it! 

To learn more about our Clothing & Textile Recycling, check out this link.
Earth911 is another place to go to find out more about this type of recycling and use their recycling locator to find what specific services are available near you.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Cork Recycling

My husband and I are wine drinkers. 

I discovered today, we may also possibly be wine cork hoarders. We had a drawer-full of them. I went to go move them to our typical place we stockpile them, and it, too, was full and we needed to find another place to stash our surplus. Yes, we may be cork-hoarders.

My son, who was there for the cork-relocation-project, mentioned that there has got to be something we could do with them. Certainly, they are all there because I cannot bear to throw them away and add to the landfill. Yes, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to arts and crafts projects, but I don't see that happening over here. But, as a natural product, there has got to be some way to recycle corks. 

So, I started digging.

And what do you know. There is! More than one, in fact.

ReCork is North America's largest cork recycling program. They have a number of drop off and retail locations where you can recycle your corks in order to close the loop of waste. The corks they get back from you will get ground up to make new products, many of which you can buy from their website. This includes the shoe company SOLE and their cork soles. (Most of their drop off sites are closed currently due to Covid, there is a location finder on their website. However, you can also ship individually--however, they no longer provide shipping labels so you need to fund it yourself. In my mind, it's worth a few dollars when you consider the good it can do! To learn more, visit ReCork's website or read this article about them on SOLE's website.

Cork Forest Conservation Alliance also is involved in cork recycling through their Cork ReHarvest program. They too have cork collection boxes in multiple stores. (You can find their list here.) Part of their mission statement is to protect the cork forests in the Mediterranean area and promote the biodiversity of the area. They feel that it is through education and the promotion of sustainability that they can help make a difference.

If you are still looking for some way to repurpose them at home outside the arts and crafts arena, you could also do this, from Napa Recycling

Whatever you opt to do, I hope your corks just don't land in the landfill! 

Cheers! I'll drink to that!

Image from, ReCork screenshot taken on 11/15/2020 from their website showcasing the number of recycled corks to date, ReCork logo from, Cork ReHarvest from, Napa Recycling screenshot

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Patrick Dougherty Environmental Sculptures

When it comes to sculptures, we've all seen them created out of clay, stone, metal, plaster, glass, wood, even wax.

It's more rare to encounter one made out of sticks. But that is exactly the medium of choice of Patrick Dougherty, stick sculptor. His work will be showcased at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Maryland May 3-21, 2021

A carpenter who loves nature, Patrick created his first piece, the Maple Body Wrap, in 1982. Since then, he has created over 300 large scale works which required truckloads of saplings on at least 3 continents.

From his website, between now and then (and for the remainder of 2021), here are the planned installations ahead. Sounds like they would be worth checking out if they are in your neighborhood: 
  • 01/2021 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA
  • 02/2021 BRIT, Fort Worth, TX
  • 03/2021 Biltmore, Asheville, NC
  • 04/2021 Patterson School, Lenore, NC
  • 05/2021 Maryland Hall, Annapolis, MD
  • 06/2021 Sandhills Community College, Pinehurst, NC
  • 07/2021 The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY
  • 09/2021 Sidewalk Detroit, Detroit, MI
  • 10/2021 Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA
  • 11/2021 Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, FL
To learn more about Patrick Dougherty and see some of his stick sculptures, check out his website or watch the videos below. May his inspiration from nature help inspire creativity within you. Nature and art abound!! 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Nature Advent Calendar

I ran across a post on 1000 Hours Outside's Facebook page for a free outdoor Advent Calendar that I not only loved but it also got my creative juices stirring. Author Ginny Yurich created a post and beautiful cards for a month of outdoor adventures to take advantage of this December. I love her idea of cutting them up, placing them in envelopes, and doing one a day.

I started thinking about how this could become a creative digital, clickable advent calendar as well. It reminded me of the clickable Bitmoji boards that are all the rage this remote learning season, and I got the urge to put my edtech skills to work with Google Slides. 

I envisioned the traditional Advent calendars with windows that opened, but how with a nature Advent Calendar, you would open your doors to go outside--almost like reverse windows. Here's where my creativity led me: to the clickable calendar below. By clicking the windows, you will get a link to another slide within the presentation which will detail the advent event for your day. Whether you start the 12 days before Christmas or as a lead in to Winter Solstice (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), may you take time this season to embrace the beauty that surrounds, getting. yourself out there, unplugged, when you can. Additionally, may it bring you seasonal joy!

Clickable Nature Advent Calendar: (photos via Google Slides "from the web" photos)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hacking Your YouTube Links

Teachers (whether full in school, in hybrid settings, or full-on remote) have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves to build interest and engagement. Interactives, games, music, breakout rooms, and asynchronous activities are many of the ways to do that. Another way is to share engaging videos. But, the videos with their advertisements and comments definitely get in the way. There's Video.Link (formerly SafeYoutube) and SafeShareTV, both of which people may have heard of, which help solve the problem

But this may just be the easiest way yet! I'm totally on board!

Screenshot of Seesaw's Twitter account with shoutout to both them (@Seesaw) and Heidi Neltner @heidinelt.