Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hanging Out with a Sick Kindergartener, Coloring, and Counting in Spanish: A Grandfather’s Way of Spending a Day

Hanging Out with a Sick Kindergartener, Coloring, and Counting in Spanish: A Grandfather’s Way of Spending a Day

There are times when you get a taste of potential retirement and incredible remembrances from the past. Today was one of those days.
Anna Rose, our daughter, called last night and said her daughter Emiline was not feeling well and wondered if one of us could stay with her the next day. Joanne talked to her first and said she couldn’t do it. Once I arrived home from my pottery class (more on that in a different blog), I decided I could take a day and stay with my little sweetheart Emiline.

Emiline this summer
I arrived around 8:00 a.m. Anna Rose hadn’t left, primarily because William was still in his PJs and eating breakfast. I asked him if he wanted to stay with Grandpa and Emiline. He said he wanted to go to school, but he wanted me to take him in my car. Anna Rose just laughed. Soon, they were off.

That left just Emiline and me. Once she finished her bath and dressed, we began her homework. Because her illness, she has missed a bunch of school. We completed five assignments. I was so impressed with what Emiline did, I thought I would pen a few words about her homework and how much she loves doing it.

Beginning the assignments
First of all, Emiline goes to kindergarten at a place called the Dancing Moose in the Draper area. It is a private school that is very close to Cricut, where Anna Rose works. From what Anna Rose tells me, her teachers are amazing and teach the children a great deal.

The first assignment we did was about weights. We had to choose two objects and determine which one was the heaviest. Emiline hefted a couple pieces of pottery. She knew instantly which one was the heaviest. Then, we tried a couple of other objects. We closed the assignment with me giving Emiline one of her shoes and one of her dad’s shoes. Before giving them to her, I asked, “So, which one do you think will be the heaviest?” She just looked at me with those “You-realize-I’m-in-kindergarten-already-right?” looks.

Which is heavier?

Next on the list was cutting out shapes: circles, rectangles, squares, and triangles. Then, we were supposed to created “things” from them. This looked fun enough that I decided to try cutting out the same shapes.

Making shapes
Once finished, Emiline and created a rocket car,

Rocket car
an ice cream cone,

ice cream cone

a house, 

Emiline's house
 and a hotel—Emiline’s creation. She colored all of the shapes and had a great time with this assignment. I did, too.

Hotel

The third assignment was “Guess the Word.” I had to create a list of words so she could blend the sounds together and then read the word. I created a list with words like b/i/g….d/i/g…..p/a/n….m/a/n…b/e/t and so forth. She was able to blend all of them perfectly. Then, I challenged her with words like s/o/c/k, s/h/i/r/t, and r/o/c/k. Perfect again! Okay, I thought, all short vowels. Let’s see what she can do with long vowels. She didn’t know those yet. But once I showed how they sound, she got it. So, the words n/o/s/e, m/a/k/e, and c/a/k/e became no problems. She is sharp.

The word list

One of the most interesting assignments was called “Counting Pennies.” She had to find some pennies. Well, that was an easy task. She just went to her piggy bank and took out some money. She then sorted through and snagged all of the pennies. Her job was to place them in groups of ten and then count the groups of 10. She had no problem with that. On her third stack, she began in Spanish, “uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve…diez.” She counted that stack in Spanish. Impressive!


Once she congregated six stacks with ten pennies in each stack, I asked her how many she had.  She looked at me puzzled. Then, I pointed to the first stack and said, “Ten.” Next stack, “twenty.” She caught on, and then counted the rest, “thirty, forty, fifty, sixty.” Once finished with English, I taught her how to do it in Spanish. She caught on.


Stacks of pennies--ten in a stack

On her last assignment that we did together, she had a writing assignment and was able to choose from a list of eight items, from writing/drawing about school events to creating a card to free writing. She chose to make” a special card for someone you care about.” Well, for her that was easy: She chose her mother. We walked downstairs and picked up the supplies. She worked diligently on her card, and it turned out beautifully. She asked me to help her with the words. She told me the word, and I spelled it out for her. There were some, she said, “I know how to spell that.” 

Thank you card to her Mom

 And she did—and off she went writing everything down.

Inside of the card

Five tasks tried and five tasks complete. But she wasn’t done. She said, “Now, I want to write a book.” So, we gathered up the supplies, including a glue stick—where were glue sticks when I was a kid? Then, by herself, she created a book, complete with six pages, including the inside jackets. 

Heartland--the book
The title of her book was Heartland. She asked me to how spell a variety of words, but she completed all of it, complete with stickers, a title on the outside, name of the author—Emiline—drawings, and narrative. She even asked for paper so she could make the insides, and she knew how to glue them together. I never helped her once on the construction of her Heartland book.

All this came from a first semester kindergartener. Now, at this point, I should interject and confess that I never went to kindergarten, but I did go to first grade and did extremely well. But here was a kindergartener blowing me away with what she was doing.

Emiline hard at work
My hats off to the Dancing Moose Montessori School and its teachers who are doing an incredible job. Amazingly, though, Emiline kinda came this way, packaged with the right learning skill sets. Her mother has spent an inordinate amount of time with her in teaching this and that.

Having said all that, I was still impressed, especially with the word blending and her writing her own book. Oh, yeah, counting in Spanish was spectacular, too!

After all this we had lunch: apples, grapes, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, chips, and salsa. Not healthy right? One we slurped down lunch, she had two choices: 1) have the eye drops in eyes, and then watch a movie or 2) no eye drops and immediately to a nap.  She chose the former….She wanted to watch How to Train Your Dragon II. Very cute movie!

Around 4:15 p.m., her dad came home from work. We gave each other a hug and off I went, much wiser than before.

It is important for grandfathers to spend time with their grandchildren, primarily to remember the mothers of these children and the great times we used to have writing, reading great books together, rocking in the old blue rocker, going on daddy daughter dates, working in the garden, coloring, etc. It seems so long ago when these things happened; yet, when you are with grandchildren, those thoughts and remembrances  seem to emerge from the mists of the past and become vivid in the brilliant rays of the current day. 

Overall, we had an incredible day together. She is such a sweet little girl, full of vibrancy and intelligence. Heavenly Father has definitely saved the best for last. And I believe they know that…..



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Capitol Reef Field Station: Utah Valley University's Connection to Nature



Darrel L. Hammon

 Capitol Reef National Park—Joanne and I experienced a marvelous day on Saturday, November 8, 2014, spending time at Utah Valley University’s (UVU) Capitol Reef Field Station, located strategically within Capitol Reef National Park, an incredible landscape of anciently formed rocks and unique landscapes. 

Just below the Field Station, runs Pleasant Creek, that, according to the record, “breaks free of its narrow canyon walls upstream from the Capitol Reef Field Station and before it cuts through the Waterpocket Fold downstream, it nourishes a small oasis of tall grasses, wildflowers, shady cottonwoods, and aromatic sagebrush. Pleasant Creek has been a sanctuary for a very long time” (http://www.uvu.edu/crfs/location/history.html).

Utah Valley University, the Park Service, a host of professors, donors, and congressmen joined forces and created the Capitol Reef Field Station, a collaborative partnership between the Capitol Reef Park Service and UVU. The Capitol Reef Field Station’s mission, “in partnership with Capitol Reef National Park, promotes and supports engaged learning, research, scholarly, and creative activities, and environmental ethics through the exploration of the Colorado Plateau” (See (http://www.uvu.edu/crfs/about/mission.html).

The purpose of our visit was to attend an open house for UVU faculty and staff. Part of the open house was a tour of the facility and ultimately a hike to discover the wonders of the surrounding area. It wasn’t a strenuous hike, but one filled with incredible sights and insights into the history of the former ranch. I don’t pretend to know all of the geology or history.  My fascination with the places was the incredible landscapes and unforgettable natural ecosystem that hasn’t changed much over the years.

The trail was narrow through the canyon with impressive walls of rocks to our right going up and a flat meadow-like opening that lead to another series of large rock formations where Pleasant Creek gurgled its way out of the canyon. Darrell, our guide, told to stay on the trail because of the various flora and fauna that abounded in the stark surroundings. While it seemed like there were lots of sand, rocks, and trees, other “beings” surrounded us. Lizards, various kinds of ants, other bichos, birds, and organisms whose names I cannot even pronounce reside along the sides of the trail and beyond. Literally, it was dream world where biologists, geologists, and naturalists could spend hours, even years studying the vastness of its secrets.

Along the way, I took pictures of cool rock formations, huge rocks with names of some of the surveyors, a broken down fence line that I am sure was constructed to keep animals in or animal out, rock formations along the trail and ahead of us at the mouth of the canyon, and other oddly-shaped rocks that had fallen from some of the rock cliffs.

Perhaps, most impressive were just the rock formations—sheer walls, coves of rocks and outcroppings. On some of the walls, huge holes defaced the flatness. My mind thought, perhaps, the US Army or some armed forces launched shells from across the canyon to see what kind of holes it could make. But, alas, no Army forces launched anything. Rather, nature and wind and deterioration created the holes on the face.

Our jaunt up the canyon revealed rock formations, etchings of past passerbys, surveyors, and families who came to settle the valley. Ephraim Hanks and his family were the early settlers, building their little ranch on the banks of Pleasant Creek and converted some of the water into ditches so they could irrigate the 200 fruit trees—pears, peach, apples—they had planted. History states that when the trees were in bloom, it was a magnificent site. Thus, ranch donned the name of “Floral Ranch.” Over the years, the Floral Ranch passed from one descendant to another until one of them quit claimed it to the national park.

On our walk, we entered a cove of sorts, and were instantly surround by high, colorful walls, replete with a range of oranges and sandstone colors. Our voices echoed! We sat one some of the small ledges the winds had made. High in one corner was an opening, but I could still see even higher slabs of solid rock with the same color strata. I suspect the sun didn’t shine in this cove very often, even during the throes summer.

I took hundreds of pictures, none of the really depicting the actual landscape, created hundreds of thousands of years ago. For me, I was again convinced that this type of beauty and majesty just do not happen ad hoc. Rather, the greater Creator, even God Himself, was the architect of this great plan for our world. How else can one truly explain the incredibleness of it all? In the LDS Hymnbook, #86, the lyrics explain the greatness of God’s creations:

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze….
How Great Thou art….
How Great Thou art.




Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween: A Belated View from the Extended Studies Building at UVU

"Halloween: A Belated View from the Extended Studies Building at UVU"
Darrel L. Hammon

Halloween is one of the days of the year when people trade their regular selves for some character they want to be or think would be a good character to imitate. During the normal work day, they are one type of person, but when they don the costume or the persona of the character they choose to be for the day, they seem different.

Take Rebecca and Carlee from Concurrent Enrollment. Carlee had been planning her costume for some time. Rebecca couldn't decide until early Halloween morning when she was lying in bed wondering what she was going to be. Then, she had an epiphany!

Rebecca and Carlee from Concurrent Enrollment
While Halloween is a day to dress up and become someone else, it is no different than any other day when food is involved. Our building had a potluck with all sorts of goodies to eat. If one didn't eat his/her fill, then something was terribly wrong. As with all potlucks, more food is available that can be eaten--at least in one setting. It was all delicious!

the gang from Concurrent Enrollment + Ellen from Community College Programs

 Lily, from Brazil, who works in Extended Studies shows off her "cute" outfit. She was a bit disappointed when everyone thought she was cute because of her outfit.

Lily in her whole outfit
It was cute until you actually looked at face. Now, here is the face up close. Isn't that a bit bizarre and scary?

Lily and her face
Of course, there always has to be one who scares the pants off everyone. Ruth, the Extended Studies Director, had told me she was going to don a pretty scary costume. In fact, she mentioned that she had placed her costume on her bed and forgot about it. When she returned and looked on her bed, there was the mask, and it scared her spitless. So, I was on the computer, pounding away on an email, when I heard this heavy breathing. When I looked at the doorway, there she was, crouched, wearing the mask on the right, peering into the doorway. I literally said aloud: "Ahhhhhh!" It was a bit frightening to look at the doorway and see this face, staring up at me. The picture does not do it justice. You just had to have to been there.

Ruth and her different "personas"

Now, Matt had one of the coolest costumes. I witnesses the make up routine in the restroom. I walked in, and there he was applying the make up. He said, "They told me it was time for me to put on my costume; so that's what I am doing." Fortunately for me, I saw him without all of the make up first before. He is was one scary dude.

Matt
 Vicki who works in Extended Studies took on this persona. 

Vicki
Now, when Vicki and Matt got together, they seemed to match up well. They didn't realize it until they donned their costumes and stood side by side.

Vicki and Matt
Joy from Extended Studies was delightful! During lunch, she came around to everyone and asked them to pick a pocket. Then, she pulled a delicious treat from that pocket. If she is going to bring treats everyday, then she can wear this costumer with lots of pockets. Thanks, Pocket Lady!

Joy, the Pocket Lady
Of course, you always have to have the Prom Queen, and Cara was perfect. Her modest blue dress was the same one she wore for one of her "Miss Beauty" pageants. She was so happy she could still fit into it.

Cara
And here is everyone in their costumes. 

Everyone who dressed up and who wanted their picture taken
It was a fun day with fun people! Thank you!











Halloween: A Belated View from the Extended Studies Building at UVU

"Halloween: A Belated View from the Extended Studies Building at UVU"
Darrel L. Hammon


Halloween is one of the days of the year when people trade their regular selves for some character they want to be or think would be a good character to imitate. During the normal work day, they are one type of person, but when they don the costume or the persona of the character they choose to be for the day, they seem different.

Take Rebecca and Carlee from Concurrent Enrollment. Carlee had been planning her costume for some time. Rebecca couldn't decide until early Halloween morning when she was lying in bed wondering what she was going to be. Then, she had an epiphany!

Rebecca and Carlee from Concurrent Enrollment
While Halloween is a day to dress up and become someone else, it is no different than any other day when food is involved. Our building had a potluck with all sorts of goodies to eat. If one didn't eat his/her fill, then something was terribly wrong. As with all potlucks, more food is available that can be eaten--at least in one setting. It was all delicious!

the gang from Concurrent Enrollment + Ellen from Community College Programs

 Lily, from Brazil, who works in Extended Studies shows off her "cute" outfit. She was a bit disappointed when everyone thought she was cute because of her outfit.

Lily in her whole outfit
It was cute until you actually looked at face. Now, here is the face up close. Isn't that a bit bizarre and scary?

Lily and her face
Of course, there always has to be one who scares the pants off everyone. Ruth, the Extended Studies Director, had told me she was going to don a pretty scary costume. In fact, she mentioned that she had placed her costume on her bed and forgot about it. When she returned and looked on her bed, there was the mask, and it scared her spitless. So, I was on the computer, pounding away on an email, when I heard this heavy breathing. When I looked at the doorway, there she was, crouched, wearing the mask on the right, peering into the doorway. I literally said aloud: "Ahhhhhh!" It was a bit frightening to look at the doorway and see this face, staring up at me. The picture does not do it justice. You just had to have to been there.

Ruth and her different "personas"

Now, Matt had one of the coolest costumes. I witnesses the make up routine in the restroom. I walked in, and there he was applying the make up. He said, "They told me it was time for me to put on my costume; so that's what I am doing." Fortunately for me, I saw him without all of the make up first before. He is was one scary dude.

Matt
 Vicki who works in Extended Studies took on this persona. 

Vicki
Now, when Vicki and Matt got together, they seemed to match up well. They didn't realize it until they donned their costumes and stood side by side.

Vicki and Matt
Joy from Extended Studies was delightful! During lunch, she came around to everyone and asked them to pick a pocket. Then, she pulled a delicious treat from that pocket. If she is going to bring treats everyday, then she can wear this costumer with lots of pockets. Thanks, Pocket Lady!

Joy, the Pocket Lady
Of course, you always have to have the Prom Queen, and Cara was perfect. Her modest blue dress was the same one she wore for one of her "Miss Beauty" pageants. She was so happy she could still fit into it.

Cara
And here is everyone in their costumes. 

Everyone who dressed up and who wanted their picture taken
It was a fun day with fun people! Thank you!











Saturday, September 6, 2014

Making Nectarine Jam in Less Than an Hour




Making Nectarine Jam in Less Than an Hour

I have to confess something: I like jam—any kind of jam although frozen raspberry jam is probably my most favorite. For years, I watched my mother make all sorts of jams and jellies. We grew raspberries and strawberries. When I was younger, we trundled to Emmett, Idaho, to Mr. Fresh’s orchards and picked Bing cherries, peaches, and apples. When we lived in north-central Idaho in Lewiston, we went with our friends the Rindlisbachers and picked blackberries along an old abandoned railroad tracks. Last year in Pleasant Grove, we were able to glean peaches; now, in Springville, our neighbor gave us nectarines.

Nectarine jam
Yes, I have learned to make jam. Well, actually, I have learned to read the recipe that the pectin companies like Sure Jell stuff inside of their pectin boxes. And I have discovered that you had better pay attention to the details. Jam can be finicky.

Last evening and today, I made nectarine jam. I was visiting with one of our friends in the Dominican Republic, and she wanted to know how to make jam; so, I thought I would write up a play by play of how I made the nectarine jam. I figure if Darrel Hammon can make jam, pretty much anybody in the world can make it. Seriously! It’s all about ready the recipe to the T.

So here we go.

First, find some fruit. Buy it. Ask your neighbors nicely and watch for giveaways on your email. That’s how Joanne found out about the nectarines.

Food processor and nectarines
 Second, be sure you have the right jars. I like to put jam in little jars. Often we give them away at Christmas. The main reason is that if you have lots of different kinds of jams, it won’t take you long to finish off one and then start on a new flavor.

Third, wash the jars. It’s best to run them through the dish washer, but you can wash them in sudsy hot water, too.

Then, fill them full of hot water and set them aside. You want to keep them a bit warm so when you put in the hot jam, your bottles won’t crack or break.

Get out your food processor or chopper and the rest of the kitchen tools you are going to need like a knife, a cup, bowls, spatulas, etc. You want to be ready because when the jam is ready to go, you don’t want to be looking for a utensil. Trust me on this one. When you are in a hurry to find something, it can’t be found.

Sure Jell
Wash the nectarines carefully. You never know what might have crawled over it. Besides, you probably don’t want to know what’s crawled, licked, or performed any sort of “thing” on it. Most recipes don’t want you to peel the fruit. Just put out of your mind any potential challenge you might conjure up.


the other pot with water
Before I begin cutting up the nectarines, I have already placed another pot on the stove about half full of water and begin heating it to boiling. This is where you are going to do about a ten-minute water bath shortly.
 
Cutting the fruit
I also put the lids in a small pan with water that covers the lids. I put this on a very, very low heat.
 
pan with lids
Then, cut up the nectarines, take out the pits, and place the cut-up nectarines in the food processor. I usually cut out bruised spots and any anomaly that I see on the skin.

Once the nectarines are cut up and placed in the food processor, put on the food processor lid, and let it rip. Now, I like a few chunks of the nectarines in my jam; so, I don’t purée the stuff.

Food processor full of nectarines
I then measure out five cups of fruit and put them in a larger kettle where I will mix in the pectin and the lemon juice.

Nectarines, Pectin, and lemon juice mixture
Once the fruit, Sure Jell pectin, and lemon juice are mixed, you stir until it comes to a hard boil. Initially, I had no idea what “rolling boil” met. It means that when you are stirring, you cannot break the boiling. In essence, you stir and it continues to boil.


Nectarines, Pectin, and lemon juice mixture boiling

Once it comes to a rolling boil, you mix in seven cups of sugar—yes, seven (7) cups! I also wondered why I like jam and jelly. Once I discovered that you usually add more cups of sugar than cups of nectarines, then it made perfect sense. I am really making nectarine-flavored sugar. But try to put that out of your minds. Think: fresh nectarines with a touch of sugar. Besides, when you mix seven cups of sugar with five cups of nectarines and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, you can’t even see the sugar. I think the sugar disappears, never to be seen again. At least, that’s how I see it.

Seven (7) cups of sugar
Okay. Once the sugar disappears into the nectarine mixture, stir until it comes to a rolling boil. At the rolling boil stage, boil and stir for exactly one minute. That’s 60 seconds exactly. Then, turn off the heat and begin ladling the nectarine mixture into your jars sans the water, which you have poured out.

Stirring and boiling
After you fill each jar, wipe their mouths clean, carefully dabbing a clean cloth around the edges. Then, lift out one of the lids with your knife from the very hot water, place gentle on the top, and screw a ring band around it. Once you have tightened it—not too tight—place it in the wire container that is sitting in the pot of water that you already prepared earlier. It should be almost ready to boil by now.

Putting on the lids
Once you have the bottles in the wire container, lower them into the water. You should have about 2-3 inches over the top. Bring the water to a soft boil.

Putting the jars in the wire container to be lowered into the water
At a soft boil, set your timer for ten minutes. You can read a book or begin cleaning up. The biggest downside to this jam-making business—or any cooking gig for that matter—is the clean up. I’m always amazed how many bowls, utensils, and other things you use to cook with. I don’t like it, but I know it’s part of the job. Besides, it’s always nice when Joanne sees her kitchen clean again after jam making and comments how clean it is. There is little worse than seeing the look in your wife’s eyes when she sees her kitchen in a state not normally known when she is around. 

Cleaning up: the right thing to do
Once the ten minutes are up, turn off the heat, and begin taking out the bottles, one at a time with your handy-dandy bottle taker outer (I have no idea what it is called). 

The taker outer
Place them gentle on a cooler tray, which also doubles as cookie cooler. I think Joanne calls them “cooling racks.”

Placing each jar on the cooling rack
Once all of the bottles are out, stand back, and listen to them “pop.” That means they are sealing and you have done it correctly. Plus, I like to look a little close to see how pretty they turned out. My nectarine jam turned out beautifully today.

Almost done!
I usually let them set out for a few days. Then, I clean them, print the date on the top of the lid with a permanent marker, and put them away in our storage downstairs.

There you have it. Nectarine jam in less than one hour!

Provecho!