Valencia for Christmas

At Christmas I went to visit some very special people- the family who hosted me on my high school exchange program….17 years later. 

I haven’t been to Europe in ages, so it was an awesome treat. And since Christmas in Spain isn’t over until the three kings arrive on the 7th, it was Christmas THE WHOLE TIME I WAS THERE! Magical Christmas extension!

Christmas tree in El Puerto del Sol.

Meat cones. Yesssssssss.


The glass palace. I wouldn’t mind a greenhouse like this.

My lovely host sister in Retiro Park.


Fish mouth tennis stadium.

Pretending to make paella in “tio’s” farm kitchen.


Architecture details in my favorite neighborhood in Valencia. (El Cabanyal is worth googling.)

Riding the Ferris wheel.  


Lovely church in Valencia. The belief is that babies baptized here won’t die in car accidents. Very specific.

…..and Valencia oranges. 

Potager Americain 

I recently learned the French word “potager” – it means kitchen garden.  I love all the various words for gardens. I like the idea of victory gardens, of food not lawns, of your plain old veggie garden…but the simplicity and elegance of potager? That’s a word I can get behind. (I am an English teacher, ergo a word nerd). 

My birthday is in early March….and delightfully here in zone 7b, I can get started right around then!

This was after my birthday weekend. Little baby kale and strawberries and lots of seeds you can’t see. (Also: beehive)


After a few weeks and thrifting some roofing slates.

Then I realized I had way more seedlings than space, so I added a few more beds (this is April 15th). (And because I’m a seed hoarder, I might be adding another new bed…oops.)


First harvest! Kale and mustard greens!


First dinner! Gluten free Alfredo with crisped garden greens on top and some super dry homebrew cider. All the deliciousness.

New Hive!

A few weeks ago, I drove out into the countryside and got my newest bee colony!

It had been forecast to be chilly and overcast, but the sun peeked out in the morning and I got the ladies fixed up in their new hive.


One of my gals modeling. 🙂

I got stung on my install, and like every time I’ve been stung, it was my fault. I didn’t notice that there was a bee on the back of my knee and when I went to climb the stairs up onto my porch, she got pinched and stung me.  They hurt less and swell less every time, but my adrenaline still goes through the roof.

There have been a few days with high pollen warnings. Allergy sufferers beware, but honeybee fiesta! 

After just a month, they’ve built out 12 bars and I’m waiting on a break in the weather to give them some more space.


The queen is free, long live the queen.

Absentee Blogger

Being a first year teacher essentially swallowed my life. I thought I’d have all sorts of creative things to share, but I just had a lot of “tired,” a lot of “frustrated,” a lot of “overwhelmed.” 

I’ve seen the belly of the beast: a title one school, one of the statistically worst in the country- kids whose parents are incarcerated, homeless kids, kids in foster care, kids passing through for a few weeks on their way somewhere else, kids who only have guaranteed meals at school…and of course kids with all varieties of more conventional families. 

They all think their lives are normal, and for them they are. Even though 98% of my kids get free lunch- they don’t consider themselves poor.  Even though 85% of my kids are reading far below grade level- they consider themselves average or above average. Even though many of them are in 8th grade but on their 4th or 5th year of middle school- they consider that a regular feature of school. And for this community, I guess it is.

It’s been a year where I’ve had to really think hard about my lenses, my norms, my perceptions. When another new teacher asked the question I’d been thinking, “Why are we making such a big deal of 8th grade prom and 8th grade graduation?” – the answer surprised me. Many of our kids won’t graduate. I googled the rates for the neighboring high school and it’s under 50%…but only about 35% of boys. 
Suddenly my student nonchalantly running out the clock on his 5th year of middle school with an eye toward his 16th birthday makes…I hesitate to say “sense” but I guess I now know why.

Teach for America asks us all to view ourselves as empowered agents of change.  It’s hard to imagine the three of us in my school turning around the culture of a whole community…it was hard enough (and I’m not saying I’ve been successful) just trying to create a culture in my classroom where high school graduation is an expectation and college is an attainable goal.  Some days, just getting through a lesson while fighting the constant battle against behavior issues felt Sisyphean…  

But…next year is a new year…there are just a few weeks left…and for now, I have bees and a garden to meditate on. 

One of my kids asked me this recently.