Archive for November, 2010

Craft Day with the Neighborhood Kids – Holiday Gobblers for Relay for Life

Last Saturday was “turkey day”. The neighborhood kids came over. Some of them used the computers and some learned how to make the Holiday Gobblers for our Relay for Life Team. I was pretty busy helping them through the process and rethreading yarn, but I did take a few shots:

Plastic Canvas - Jovon, Tyrek and Jacal at Work
Boys At Work (Well, two of them)

Plastic Canvas - Jacal Glues Eyes
Jacal Glues on Eyes for Greg Z’s Turkey (THANKS GREG!)

Plastic Canvas - Tyrek Works
Tyrek Finishes Up A Piece

Henry was on hand for moral support:
Plastic Canvas - Henry Lays Around
Henry and Supplies

And here are some of Saturday’s efforts:

Plastic Canvas - Tyrek's Turkey, Vicky's Turkey
Two Finished Turkeys

Holiday Gobbler - Grey and Pink
Grey and Pink Turkey

Do you covet a cute little turkey of your own? Simply make a November donation to our Hunter Street Hope Relay for Life Team.

Tyrek’s Donation Page
Khalif’s Donation Page
General Team Donation Page

November 16, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

ISO: Tree Books

Speaking of trees and books….

The local ecologist blog is looking for books where North American trees and forests serve as main characters. As this list will give me ideas of additional ways to feed my tree fancy, it is in *my* best interest for that list to be as comprehensive as possible. If you have a tree book you would recommend, fiction or non-fiction, definitely swoop over to local ecologist and leave a comment:

Call for books: Ethnobotany of trees & forests

Tree of Books
Tree of Books (Photo by

November 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm 4 comments

Trees and The Kite Runner

In 1992, the city of Sarajevo had 26,111 trees. Three years of war later, only 6,117 remained. Faced with a siege, the residents of Sarajevo had no choice but to cut down the trees to heat their homes, to cook their meals, to survive. Some time ago, I read a compelling quote that has stuck with me. It’s from Kemal Kurspahic, the editor in chief of a Sarajevo newspaper:

“Do whatever you can to stop the killing, to bring about peace, and then bring us trees.”
-Kemal Kurshpahic, Oslobodjenje, Spring 1998 Issue
(Also see Releaf Returns to Sarajevo)

This first thing on his wishlist was peace. Second up— trees.

The best-selling novel The Kite Runner focuses on another war-torn city, Afghanistan’s Kabul. Author Khaled Hosseini is describing a different city and a different war, but he still hits upon the loss of trees.

Part of his effectiveness comes from describing the many ways trees touched the lives of citizens in happier times. Descriptions and cameos of trees litter the entire novel. Although a particular pomegranate was prominent, it wasn’t the only tree accounted for in the book. A wealth of species – willows, pines, cypresses, cherries, apples, mulberries, gums, acacias, poplars, palms, persimmons, hibiscuses, loquats, birches and oaks- made appearances.

Trees were used to describe locales and landmarks. Jalalabad described as “the city of cypress trees and sugarcane fields.” A passage on Islamabad’s panoramic view mentions “rows of clean, tree-lined avenues and nice houses.” One of the main characters lived “[o]n the south end of the garden, in the shadows of a loquat tree.” Meanwhile, another character was buried “in the cemetery on the hill, the one by the pomegranate tree.”

Trees described people. The main character recalled sitting on his father’s lap as a child “like sitting on a pair of tree trunks.” He described his father’s strength by saying he had hands that “looked capable of uprooting a willow tree.”

Trees were used to portray affluence. A rich boy’s house was described as “a posh, high-walled compound with palm trees.” A family friend’s two-story home “had a balcony overlooking a large, walled garden with apple and persimmon trees.” Later in the novel, a character speculates on another’s privileged upbringing. Part of his tirade– the presence of fruit trees.

You probably lived in a big two- or three-story house with a nice backyard that your gardener filled with flowers and fruit trees. All gated, of course. Your father drove an American car. You had servants, probably Hazaras.

Trees were functional. Their fruit was ingested and their shade was enjoyed. The kites that were the namesake of the tale were also aided by trees. After the boys ran the kite strings through a “mixture of glass and glue”, they would hang “the line between the trees” to dry. The author even described how a snapped tree branch served as a credit card for two young boys.

Hassan and I would take the wooden stick to the bread maker. He’d carve notches on our stick with his knife, one notch for each load of naan he’d pull for us from the tandoor’s roaring flames. At the end of the month, my father paid him for the number of notches on the stick.

Trees illustrated the happy childhood of the two main characters. They chased each other “between tangles of trees” and “used to climb the poplar trees” to annoy their neighbors. The boys would respectively tell and listen to stories under a pomegranate tree. The same pomegranate tree documented the boys’ friendship in the form of their carved names and continued to do so for decades. Happiness and trees were so synonymous that at one point, one boy was able to cheer up the other simply by asking, “Do you want to go climb our tree?”.

In the book the main character escapes the turmoil of Kabul and eventually settles in America. After roughly 19 years, he returns to the city of his youth and is struck by the devastation. One change he definitely notices is the trees. When he first arrives in Afghanistan, he notes that “pine trees flanked the road, fewer than I remembered and many of them bare.” When he reaches the center district of Kabul, he discovered, “There weren’t as many palm trees there as I remembered.” At his childhood home “most of the poplar trees had been chopped down.”

As he had a somber reunion with his city and he watched children playing in ruins and mule-drawn carts swerve around debris, he had a question for his driver.

“Where are the trees?” I said.

“People cut them down for firewood in the winter,” Faris said, “The Shorawi cut a lot of them down too.”


“Snipers used to hide in them.”

A sadness came over me. Returning to Kabul was like running into an old, forgotten friend and seeing that life hadn’t been good to him, that he’d become homeless and destitute.

Because Hosseini had been consistently reminding us about the presence of trees throughout the story, this conversation has all the more impact. When I read The Kite Runner, I found myself coveting two things for the Afghan people– peace…and trees.

The former may be tricky, but there are numerous organizations already helping out with the latter.

Future Generations Canada
Afghans4Tomorrow’s Bare Root Trees Project

Anthony Miller Plants an Apple Tree in Afghanistan (Photo by USDAgov)

November 15, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Relay for Life – Holiday Gobblers

The last two years, Ryan, ZJ and I weren’t alone at Relay for Life. Both years we had neighborhood kids accompany us. Since the kids are very enthusiastic about the event, this year we making our team a “Hunter Street Team“. Ryan and I are donating the registration fees for the kids who want to participant. (Ryan has already been convinced to give Tyrek an additional donation as well 🙂 ).

Recently I have been exposing some of the kids to plastic canvas.

Plastic Canvas - Jacal Works on Magic Card Holder
Jacal Stitches Himself a Deck Protector for his Magic Cards

Building on that skillset and inspired by Thanksgiving, this month as a thank you gift for donations, we’re going to make these Holiday Gobblers as Thank You Gifts.

Holiday Gobblers
Holiday Gobblers for Thanksgiving

We have four colors:

  • Burgundy (aka “The Hokie”)
  • Dark Brown
  • Tan
  • Black and White Spotted

When you squeeze them, they will give you a kiss, specifically a Hershey Kiss. Or…. you can use them to decorate your nose. Holiday Gobblers are multifunctional!

Plastic Canvas - Kissy Bird Bites Jacal
Jacal is Attacked by a Holiday Gobbler

Donation Pages
Khalif’s Donation Page
Tyrek’s Donation Page
General Team Donation Page

P.S. If you are craftsy and would prefer to make your own, we can send you all the supplies (except for glue and needle) and the instructions instead!

November 12, 2010 at 5:00 am 3 comments

Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut!

Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut! Today my favorite author would have been 88 years old.

I think of his passages often, reread his books every few years and most importantly– he gave me something to talk about with that intimidatingly cute guy from college. One would think it is safe to say that Vonnegut left his mark on me. But it would just be a figurative mark. There are those out there bearing physical marks of an author they love. Enjoy!

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt (Photo by Mez Love)

Goodby blue monday
Goodbye Blue Monday (Photo by Mez Love)

Kurt Vonnegut
The Man Himself (Photo by Mez Love)

Vicki + Kurt
So It Goes (Photo courtesy of Heidi Uhlman)


November 11, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

Fall Colors: UW Arboretum

Here in Elizabeth City, my Red Maple is doing justice to its name… but there is still quite a bit of green in my yard, including the baby American Chestnuts. So let’s live vicariously through Wisconsin again! On October 20th, my boss Larry and I had enough afternoon daylight to explore the FREE! UW Arboretum in Madison.

UW Arboretum - Blue Sky, Yellow Aspen, Red Tupelo
Blue Sky, Yellow Aspen, Red Tupelo

UW Arboretum - Colored and Holed
Changing Maple

UW Arboretum - Yellow and Green Leaves From Below

UW Arboretum - Spotted Tree
Dusting of Color

UW Arboretum - Crabapples
Red Crabapples

UW Arboretum - Yellow Berries
Yellow Berries

UW Arboretum - Lovely Bark and Twisted Branches
Slate and Green

UW Arboretum - Changing Trees and Grasses

UW Arboretum - Bird in Grasslands
Curious Field Bird

UW Arboretum - Lit Leaves and Grasses
Sun Through Leaves and Grasses

UW Arboretum - Purple Wildflowers
Surprise Purple

More pictures of the UW Arboretum are available on my Flickr site.

November 10, 2010 at 9:12 am 3 comments

Hopefully She Knew I *Meant* Well : )

I was exceedingly lucky to born into circumstances that gave me not one, but two very admirable, loving women as grandmothers. When I was growing up I was particularly close to my maternal grandmother, Grandma Turnock. She lived right across the street. She cooked us dinner on the weeknights. During middle school she used to pick up my sister and I at the bus stop each afternoon and take us to the Garden Kitchen for milk and cookies.

Last week, Ryan, my brother Jay and I had the arduous task of cleaning the attic of my childhood home. There were 30 years of accumulated possessions up there. At times it was a demoralizing job. You would go through boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff only to look up and see you were still surrounded with more work. But then there were gems. I found love letters from my parents (!!!!), letters my paternal grandparents wrote to my father when he was in college and I found this– An essay I wrote in Elementary School about my Grandma Turnock (who passed away February 2000).

I started reading and it was so sweet.

Elementary School - Lib Turnock is my Grandma Page 1
Essay on Grandma – Page 1

Lib Turnock
My Grandma!

I love my Grandma very much. She loves me very much too. She babysits us whenever my Mom and Dad go out. Sometimes we sleep at my house, and sometimes at Grandma’s.

My Grandma’s first name is Elizabeth, her nick name is Lib, and her last name is Turnock, but we call her Grandma.

Her favorite animal is a beagle dog. Her favorite color is blue. Her hobby is going out for lunch. We like Grandma’s favorite things.

I turned the page and was greeted by another sweet line:

I drew a picture of my Grandma, She is pretty.

But then I caught a glimpse of said picture!

Elementary School - Lib Turnock is my Grandma - Close Up of Picture
My Grandma By Elementary School Vicky

And I know for a fact she saw that picture! How? Right below it I have a sentence about her signature and then Grandma signed the essay.

Elementary School - Lib Turnock is my Grandma Page 2
Page 2

Grandma is nice to us. All those reasons add up to be 100%, I think she is the best Grandma in the world.

Grandma’s signature

[Mrs. James H. Turnock, Jr.]

Sometimes our talents have absolutely no hope of doing justice to the love we feel. : )

November 9, 2010 at 10:04 am 4 comments

Cape Cod – Day 4 – Vicky’s Old Lady Face

When my maternal grandmother was alive, sometimes I would ask her what’s wrong. “You look tired,” I would say.

“I’m OLD!” she would reply, “This is what it looks like when you get OLD!!!!”

Over a decade after her death, I do have some support to my notion that being tired can make one look old. I wasn’t that misguided afterall!

After a morning run and a long day at the North Shore, I was sunburnt and tired at suppertime. Carolyn, Clint, Ryan and I ate at The Tavern at the Chatham Bars Inn. My sister took me offguard and snapped this picture of me:

20100803 1947 - Cape Cod - Tavern - Vicky, Ryan - old sad lady face - IMG_1800
Vicky (Photo from ClintJCL)

My face not only surprised my dinner companions, but also brought them a source of amusement as they waited for their entrees to arrive. Each person took a turn trying to pose with my “old lady face”. Carolyn seemed to have the most difficult time mimicking me. It took her five tries. I believe Clint and Ryan, prodigies that they are, each made one attempt.


20100803 1950 - Cape Cod - Tavern - Carolyn finally semi-succeeds at frowning, after 5 tries - IMG_1806
Carolyn Poses as Vicky (Photo from ClintJCL)

20100803 1950 - Cape Cod - Tavern - Ryan - impersonating sad old lady - IMG_1807
Ryan Poses as Vicky (Photo from ClintJCL)

20100803 1948 - Cape Cod - Tavern - Clint - impersonating sad old lady - IMG_1801
Clint Poses as Vicky (Photo from ClintJCL)

November 5, 2010 at 8:42 am 2 comments

Cape Cod – Day 4 – North Shore

On our third full day on Cape Cod,Ryan and I finally made it out to the North Shore… and I got to see seals!!! Visible from our hotel, the North Shore is an ongoing evolution of land. Roughly every 150 years the beach grows, breaksdown and regrows.

It was rather windy that day which led to some short term and long term unpleasantries. Short term, sand would be blown against your exposed skin. I could briefly forget about the pain by making the repeated “insight” that it was simply “exfoliation”. The long term downside of the wind was a direct result OF keeping your mind off your surroundings. The wind kept the temperature cool and made it extremely easy for one to lose track of how much sun exposure one was getting. I got sunburned. Not only that– I was wearing sunglasses. So I got one of those attractive sunglasses sunburns (more on that to come!).

On the upside, the wind gave us opportunity to fly things in the wind. Towels. Seagull corpses. You know, all the usual stuff.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - SUPERCLINT!
Clint in Wind

With close exposure to the Altantic’s whims and a 150 year erosion and regrowth lifecycle, the terrain is not only harsh, but also dynamic. Not surprisingly, there were large sections of the island that were void of vegetation.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Clint From Afar
Clint From Afar

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Desolate
Empty Landscape

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Ryan in Sea of Sand
Ryan and Desolate Terrain

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Ryan and Sand Patterns
Ryan By a Stream

The plants that were on the North Shore did look particularly equipped for the environment. Some of them appeared to be succulent-like.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Succulent Like Plants
Succulent-like Plant

Fauna – Birds
There were plenty of shorebirds on the island. I saw some seagulls bathing on the Atlantic side. Even though water is not in short supply in a seagull’s daily life, I was struck by how happy the birds looked at they dunked themselves in the shallow ocean water. They looked just as thrilled to be bathing as robins do in surprise street puddles.

Some species, such as terns, do find parts of the North Shore to be desirable nesting spots. Those sections were roped off accordingly, but there were plenty of human-friendly spots to catch a glimpse of flocks.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Black Sheep Squared
Gulls and Duck

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Seagulls
Bathing Gulls

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Flying Terns

Fauna – Seals
On the way back, the boat shuttle (named the Bar Tender) took a little detour by the resting seals. FINALLY! After days of hearing their haunting evening nasal calls– I got to see a whole bunch a seals up close.

20100803 1405 - Cape Cod - seals - hotel - (by Vicky) - 4867253912_16c7a08772_o
Seals and the Chatham Bar Inn

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Seals 2

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Sunning Posture

20100803 1406 - Cape Cod - seals - swimming - (by Vicky) - 4867261638_7e25a24973_o

This is not a maintained beach. The sand is not groomed nightly and trash is not picked up. That means there are plenty of seashells to find…. and dead things. We saw dead horseshoe crabs, dead seagulls and even a dead seal. Of course, pictures HAD to be taken. And it follows that pictures of people taking pictures of dead things had to be taken as well.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Abandoned Lobster Trap
Abandoned Lobster Trap

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Fibonacci
Lots of Seashells

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Timmy Discovers Why Seagull is Dead
Dead Seagull

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - North Shore - Clint Photographing Dead Seal
Clint Takes a Picture of Dead Seal

More pictures of Chatham’s North Shore can be found on my Flickr site.

November 4, 2010 at 10:44 am 2 comments

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