Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved (click for full size)

Jack is not a duck, nor is he Jesus, but he was walking on water today. Jack loves water. He loves the big water of the North Atlantic and the little water of ponds and puddles near home.  It seems he’s even attracted to water when it’s in its solid state. On our way around the trail this morning, Jack insisted on walking on the pond.

“Don’t worry, Mummy. The ice is strong, and I’ll pay attention to it. There are heaps of interesting smells here.”

It did look solid enough, but I thought I should test it, so I slowly made my way out to Jack, bouncing on the balls of my feet and making the occasional stomp. The ice was surprisingly robust at the edges of the pond, and it was also full of divots and craters. I have no idea what causes water to freeze in this manner, but it was interesting. It felt a bit like being on the surface of the moon. I mentioned this to Jack, and soon we were playing Star Trek Away Mission and laughing like little kids. It was a good day.


TNET 37 – Wish I Could Fly

I do not give names to my paintings, this is just an association that has popped in my head when I took this one out of the pile to photograph. The painting is 450×715 mm, distemper on hardboard and, as you can see, in rather a bad shape. That is the result of two things. Firstly, I did not have access to high-quality art supplies twenty-five years ago (and anyways, I lacked the knowledge to use them or the money to buy them) so it was done with the only distemper available at the local stationery store. And secondly, the painting hung several years in a room adjacent to a badly ventilated kitchen. The fumes from burning propane do “wonders” to everything in their vicinity. When I finally got round to buying varnish to help to stabilize the painting, it was already heavily damaged.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

And since I got nothing else to offer for a new open thread, let this be one. Usual rules apply – talk whatever, just don’t be an ass.

Previous thread.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack wanted to check on things in the woods on the east side of town, so off we went to the Vansittart Trail. We don’t come here often for a few reasons. The first reason is bugs. There are a lot of mosquitos and ticks around these parts, but it was a few degrees below zero today so I thought that was safe. I was partly right. There wasn’t an insect in sight, but the trail is not maintained in winter when it is also seldom used (that’s the other reason we don’t come here often), and our walk was anything but safe.  The path was covered with ice and we had to wend our way between the trees to keep upright. The closer we got to the pond, the more snow we found, which actually made walking a bit easier. It was nice to see that the water was entirely frozen over, and there was no evidence of flooding here at all.

Jack seemed satisfied with the state of things and told me the fairies and little ones here were in deep winter sleep. Nonetheless, he wanted to check out their communication centre (who knew fairies even had those?) and so we veered off the path towards the meadow, and this is where Jack stopped – at a hollowed-out stump. He says this is an important spot for the woodland people and told me on the quiet that the fairies use it to send smudge signals, I have a general idea of what that is, but when I asked for more information, Jack wandered away as usual. I love that boy, but I wish he was a bit less recalcitrant.

The Last Time I have Finished a Drawing (possibly NSFW)

In 2007 we had a major blackout in our town, three days if I remember correctly. In the winter. So when I got back from work I literally could do only things that were possible to do by candlelight – reading and drawing. It was the last time I have sat down with a piece of paper and a set of pencils and finished a drawing from start to finish. The drawing is below the fold since it is possibly NSFW.

This is fairly representative of what I have drawn, in addition to fantastical beasts, dragons, and trees. And depressions. I hope to brush-up on my drawing skills and get back into it now that I am unemployed and a master of my own time for a while. I have a few unfinished paintings too. A few finished as well, but I did not get round to taking pictures yet.

The original is a bit bigger than A4 and is now unfortunately irreparably damaged from an incident a few years ago when workers repairing my roof shuffled stuff in my attic whilst completely ignoring my advice about strong winds in my area. So they stored the folder with all my drawings and sketches under an impromptu shelter that was ripped off by a wind gust during the next rain. I found out only several weeks later when everything was moldy and I could not even plausibly require the company to pay the damages. I tried my best to salvage what I could, but I lost most of my drawings at that time.
[Read more…]

Tummy Thursday: Tamales

I promised a more in depth thread on the tamales we had for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been wanting to make them for a while, since they a re one of my favourite Latin American street food, and just in time I found an online shop specialised in Mexican food where I could get the most unusual (for Western Europeans) ingredient: dried corn husks. I also go some quality corn flour and frijoles negros (which are from Canada…) so I could also make refritos (fried mushed beans).

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I chose a recipe with chicken filling, so I started by cooking the chicken. Well, actually it was the second step if you count soaking the corn husks. I thought it was daring from the people who wrote the recipe to tell folks to cook the chicken in liquid and later mention chicken stock but not to mention that of course you just made the world’s best chicken stock. Once I had that it was time to cream the butter for the batter. The original recipe called for lard, but the local Aldi doesn’t stock any lard any I won’t set food into the megamarkets before/during the holidays. You are supposed to add some of the stock and I swear this was the first time I made chicken buttercream. I then added the flour, more stock, salt and seasoning and let it rest for a while. The batter is quite fluffy at this point.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I used the resting time to prepare the filling. I deboned my chicken and minced it a little. I then prepared salsa with onions, garlic, tomatoes and seasoning and added the chicken. The filling needs to be well flavoured or it will be lost in the batter.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Yes, I’m a messy cook, why do you ask?

Then it’s time for preparing the tamales. You use your soaked corn husks and spread some batter onto them. You add a spoonful of filling, close the batter around it and then wrap the corn husk like it’s a burrito.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

You then put them into a pot with a steamer and steam. The recipe calls for two hours, but my pot and steamer don’t actually fit one another so I cannot close them properly. The test run was therefore a bit soggy and for the New Year’s Eve dinner I probably steamed them for 4-5 hours. Looks like another piece of kitchen equipment that I need to upgrade.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

They were yummy with that particular flavour of actual corn flour and so savoury that the dog begged for the leftovers.

Jack’s Walk

Modern Warfare by Chase Meuller

This morning Jack and I came across a pile of papers scattered on the sidewalk near my house. This isn’t unusual. We live near a high school, and I often find littered test papers and assignments on my lawn, but this pile was pristine and on examination looked lost, not tossed. There were a few job applications and several pieces of art, including the one above. Luckily, the young man’s name and phone number were on the applications, so I phoned him to let him know what I’d found. He hadn’t known he’d lost the papers and was quite glad to hear from me. He was very polite and thankful, and we made arrangements for him to stop by tomorrow to pick up his things. This piece of art appealed to me, and I asked him if I could post it. He’s given me his verbal approval, and so I present to you the artist, Chase Mueller.

Good Luck with the job search, Chase.

Teacher’s Corner: Why I Prefer to be Pseudonymous

On my last post about a mother sharing my private phone number with her son, brucegee1962 remarked the following:

I would never put anything on any social media that I wouldn’t want my students to come across.
This is why, aside from anonymously commenting on other peoples’ blogs, I don’t use any social media.

Obviously I have a different opinion here, and I really wanted to reply to this, but then I thought it deserves its own blogpost. This is in no way meant as a take down of brucegee1962 but an explanation of why I think having a pseudonym is a good thing for a teacher.

  1. Maintaining a professional relationship

It’s not that I’m in any way ashamed of what I write. It’s just that it’s occasionally very personal. I’m not one of those teachers who jealously guard every titbit of their personal lives. I always found that type to be quite stuck up when I was a kid myself. I share certain general information like my family status, I chat with kids about hobbies and movies. There’s a bunch of teenage boys who also play Pokémon Go. I occasionally will also tell them about times when I had problems or felt bad, because we’re all humans and I want them to know that it’s ok to have problems and that you can still make it. But we are not friends, we are just friendly. On here I will talk about health, grumble about Mr, share anecdotes  about my own kids, and occasionally well cover issues like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. While there’s nothing bad about these topics, they’re pretty intimate and nothing I want some teenage boys to know.


  1. Protecting my students

Writing pseudonymously means that my students are also not identifiable. This allows me to talk about some cases, to raise awareness to issues concerning education, abuse and child welfare. Just take the easy case of yesterday’s post: If I wrote this under my legal name, the kid would be identifiable. Instead of me complaining about a breach of trust on part of a parent and raising awareness about the issue of parents disrespecting a teacher’s privacy, I would be publicly shaming a kid whose friends and family could all read about it.  And that’s just the easy case and not cases where I talk about abuse and such. If I ever outed a kid like that I would and should lose my job. But we need to talk about these issues, so I will do so as Giliell.


  1. Protecting myself

Well, they’re teens. Not exactly the kind of people with the best decision making skills. Occasionally a kid will be angry with me and I really don’t want to have my Twitter mass reported and permabanned because I gave somebody detention. While I talk with the kids about Pokémon I won’t tell them my team or my name. And that’s just the kids and not their parents. We’ve had an older brother chasing the principal around school and the family of an expelled student making threats so they were only allowed to pick up his stuff with the police present.


  1. Nazis

Sadly, in 2020 that’s an issue. The right wing AfD has several portals where you can “report” teachers for being “too left” (i.e. not a Nazi and standing up against them). And while the school I work at has a high proportion of migrant kids, it is also in a place with a serious Nazi problem, the kind of Nazis with motorbikes and baseball bats. They know that I won’t let their kids use slurs or racially abuse the other kids. I guess I’m not on their Christmas Cards List.


I hope this makes clear why I don’t want my students to discover my online presence. Not because I’m ashamed, but because it’s better for all of us.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s a triple gravity sort of day for me and my brain can’t seem to organize itself to write. Rather than leave you with nothing, I thought I’d share this poem by one of my favourite authors, James Joyce.



Gold-brown upon the sated flood
The rock-vine clusters lift and sway:
Vast wings above the lambent waters brood
Of sullen day.

A waste of waters ruthlessly
Sways and uplifts its weedy mane,
Where brooding day stares down upon the sea
In dull disdain.

Uplift and sway, O golden vine,
Thy clustered fruits to love’s full flood,
Lambent and vast and ruthless as is thine


James Joyce – 1882-1941



Teacher’s Corner: She did what?

Many things happened since the last Teacher’s Corner. I don’t always have the time or energy or emotional strength to post about them, because mostly they involve vulnerable kids in difficult situations. Today’s story is a different one. It’s one about a good kid from a good family (whatever that means) and a serious WTF moment.

Some of the boys in grade seven told me today that their classmate J (home sick) has my WhatsApp number. I was like “yeah, you’re kidding”. I thought they tried to provoke me, with J being at home and not there to defend himself, but then they went on describing my profile image in detail, and while “you with your family” may still be part of cold reading, “with some blue box around you” really isn’t.

I went straight to the phone to call his parents because I had no clue where he could have gotten hold of my private mobile number. the father cleared up the matter: two years ago we had a charity run through the local woods and as part of our volunteer group, his mum had access to my phone number. She’d then passed it on to her darling teenage son “in case of an emergency”* and left it at that.

Now I can only hope that he just bragged about it without sharing it. I’d hate it if I’d have to get a new number. But I know why “dual sim” was another criterion for the new phone.

Just in case any parents ever wonder why teachers are sometimes “like that”. Even if you are the nicest, most trustworthy people, your fellow parents have ruined it for good.