You would think…


That with all of the wine classes I’ve taken, I would have done some wine tasting at some actual vineyards.  Not so.  Well, do you count vineyards in MN?  It’s not quite the same…

This past weekend I was in the San Diego area.  I have a friend that is living there for a couple of months and it was her birthday.  What does that mean?  Girls weekend of fun in California!  On Saturday, we did wine tasting in Temecula.

As far as wine regions go, Temecula is fairly young.  It’s also pretty hot.  So the grapes that grow best are the hot-weather ones.  The wines that I liked the best were Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrahs, and some blends.  There were actually a few roses (not the flower, the wine – don’t know how to type an accent mark) that I liked.  Also, many of the wines that we tasted are only available at the wineries.

We started at Wiens Family Cellars.  There, we did a sit-down tasting that included cheese and olives.  Their wine is only available directly through them.  I liked the 2007 & 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the best.  I actually liked the olives.  I’ve been trying to train myself to like them for a few years now…

Next was Monte de Oro.  Their tasting included 8 wines that you could pick.  In general I liked most everything I tasted.  I was very nicely surprised with their 2010 Synergy Rose.  The woman who was helping us was really nice and that made the experience more enjoyable.

We had lunch at Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards.  Instead of going to their tasting room, we ordered a variety of their champagnes with lunch.  I took the card that tells who distributes this stuff in my area.  Almond Champagne, Peach Bellini and Orange Mimosa sparkling wine were all fantastic.


Masia de Yabar has a more Spanish feel to it.  Be careful if you click the link – there’s music.  They get some of their grapes from Argentina.  By this time we were sharing our tastings.  To me, these wines needed some food or some more time in the bottle.


Danza del Sol was an unplanned stop on our itinerary.  The wines were fine, but the service at the counter could have been better.

Oak Mountain Winery was one where I liked most of what I tasted.  I started off with a Raspberry Champagne.  They also had a white Merlot, which was a rose that was nice.

Lastly, we stopped at Robert Renzoni Vineyards.  I liked these wines but my notes are a bit hazy.  You can guess why…

All total, we visited seven wineries.  If you’re going to do the power-winery-day thing, you need to think a few things through…

1. Have a driver.

2. Bring snacks and make sure you’re having food.

3. Share your tastings.

4. Dump it!  Do not drink everything that is poured!

5. Know your limits and don’t go over the edge.

6. Consider trying a chaser.

Doing 3 – 4 vineyards in a day is probably more do-able for most people.  If I lived in an area like this, I’d probably go to one or two in a day and take advantage of their entertainment options.  Many of the vineyards have live music in the evenings.

All of these vineyards wanted you to join their wine club.  All states have different laws regarding alcohol.  Some states have more variety than others and some you can’t get wine shipped to you.  So it’s up to you if you want to join.

In regard to pricing of wines…  The guy who teaches my wine classes has a pretty good thought on pricing.  If it’s over $40 for a bottle, you’re most likely paying for someone’s mortgage or their ego.  You can get great wine that doesn’t cost $90 a bottle.  So think before you buy.

The countryside is beautiful, but you’ll have to wait until I get home before I add a few photos to this post.



81 degrees?

That’s the dew point!  What’s that you ask?  It’s the measure of humidity.  You can feel the air when you walk outside.  The air is thick.  All of my windows have condensation on them – on the outside.  Thank God I have air conditioning!  The temperatures are in the high 90s.  What is the 5-day forecast?  97, 99, 96, 94, 91.  Yikes!

Where else do you have the temperature range that we do?  You can’t say that we lack variety.

And the project begins…


My bathroom project is happening now!  It’s so exciting!

I cleared out everything in the bathroom on Sunday.  My contractor started on Thursday.  It has been interesting to watch the process.  The tile came on Friday.  The picture below is the quartzite tile being used in the shower.


This morning he set the floor tile.  12″x 12″ tumbled travertine – Sandlewood.  I’m picking out the grout tomorrow.  I think it’s gorgeous!


The Walker

The Walker Art Center is a special place.  It is very unique.  Most people think of this when they hear of it…

Spoonbridge & Cherry

There was a downpour this morning, so we were not able to tour the sculpture garden.  Hopefully jpellgen is ok with me using his photo.

I’ll admit, the Walker isn’t my favorite museum.  It’s modern art.  A lot of it, I just don’t get.  I usually wander though wondering what makes this so special?  A rolled up rug?  An octagon of off-white on the wall?  Some cardboard pieced together?  Huh?

Today we started with a tour of of the Midnight Party exhibition.  Probably not my favorite.  There were a few cool pieces that I liked.  At the end of the tour was the Vanitas: Flesh Dress for and Albino Anorectic by Jana Sterbak.  Lady GaGa did not come up with an original idea for her’s.  Click on the link for a description and a picture.  It’s quite interesting.

Later in the morning we did a Writing Through Art activity.  I ended up in the poetry group.  Me?  Write poetry?  It was actually a really cool exercise. The different writing exercises are found here.

We were in the Absentee Landlord exhibit, which was put together by John Waters.  He used his favorites from the Walker’s permanent collection and grouped them into 3 galleries.

Our task was to write Cinquain Poems.  We wrote our first one together.

The piece that we looked at was called Low Overhead.  Click on the link to take a look.  I don’t think I can copy the image to this site.


Striped, Whimsical

Looking, Living, Opening

What’s on the other side?


After our group came up with the poem, I could appreciate the art better.  Writing about it helped me to understand it.  We did another to get the hang of it.  We were then able to peruse the galleries and find one to write about ourselves.  I can’t find an image of the one that I did.  But here’s my poem…


Red, Shapes, Random

Flowing, Curving, Swirling

What could it really be?


I liked it because it reminded me of what my doodles look like.

At my school everyone but the math teachers has been trained in write to learn strategies.  It makes me wonder if this is similar.  I’m more curious about this now because writing did indeed help me to learn about and understand the artwork.

One of our docents made some interesting comments about the wacky stuff you find at the Walker.  A student that is kind of quirky can identify with it.  They’re not like everyone else.  They don’t fit the mold, and that’s ok.  Many of these artists were probably just like them.

I’ve been to the Walker, but I’ve always come away with that ‘I don’t get it‘ feeling.  That’s ok not to get it.  This time I came away with a tool to help me appreciate it.

The Children’s Theatre Company

The Children’s Theatre Company was our afternoon session.  It began as the Moppet Players in 1961 and evolved into the Children’s Theatre Company in 1965.  It was very interesting to really see that the CTC has been leading the way in children’s theater since its inception.

Typically, the CTC takes a book and turns it into a stage production.  Children’s theater is such that you need to create new works “because there is no Shakespeare of children’s theater.”  They were the first to do a Dr Seuss book as a stage production – The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  While he was still alive, the theater had a very good relationship with him and they continue that with his widow.  In 2003 they took their production of A Year with Frog and Toad to Broadway.  They were the first and only group of theater for young people to have won a Tony award.  In the country, there are 2 other theaters of a similar nature.  One is in Seattle and the other is in Arizona.

We got a tour of the theater after we learned the general information.  It was very interesting to see all of the jobs that go into a production.  The CTC builds most of its props and sets on site.  They were busy making sets and designing for their upcoming productions of A Wrinkle in Time and Mercy Watson to the Rescue.

It was very interesting to listen to all of the different directors.  Lighting designer, Technical director, set designer, props and costumes were the different areas we toured and people we met.  These people have the coolest jobs!  Because most of what the CTC does is new material, the end up making most of their sets, props and costumes.  The props and costume departments talked about how much they use the internet now to find various things they need.  They wonder how they did it before internet!

The last piece that we learned about was the Neighborhood Bridges program.  They pair an artist with a teacher and use theater as a vehicle to teach/learn standards.  One of the areas they focus on is Critical Literacy.  What’s that, you ask?

“Critical Literacy is the ability to analyze the presentation of information and identify how the presentation influences the listener’s and reader’s understanding of the information.”   – Jack Zipes

Doesn’t that sound like something important for students to learn?  Many adults aren’t able to do that.

I have only been to a few CTC productions.  Each time they were fantastic!  I knew this place was pretty special, but I didn’t really have that much of a clue.  As with all of the places we’ve visited, I’ll be pondering how I can use this information in my situation.   A lot of the more technical jobs do apply to math.  It’s nice to have a few more answers for students when they ask about how they’ll use math in the future.

The M.I.A.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts was today’s destination.  I have been here several times.  They have a wonderful permanent collection and often have traveling exhibits.  Our main purpose today was to find out about the educational opportunities and teacher resources at the MIA.

The MIA has such a large collection that the docents are trained to design tours around your topic.  There are also teacher resource pages that have current and recent features.  The current one is a Japanese Samurai Suit of Armor.  On this page there is a picture of the suit, three key ideas, and additional related activities.

There are several topics on their site that I’m going to check out.  Math in Art, Native American Art, Day of the Dead materials and workshops and many others.  I’m sure there will be a lot of cool stuff to find on this site once I really start snooping around.

Custom teacher workshops are another option.  Custom tours are too!  As long as you have a minimum of 6 people and a maximum of 30 people, you can get a docent for free.  You can find collections online that can be used in your classes here.

After our overview of the website and things the MIA offers, we went on a very short tour with a docent.  Our tour was very short and only focused on a few of their pieces.  The selections were a wide variety and we were prompted to look for why each piece might be considered a masterpiece.  Materials, design, revolutionary for the time, and the artist reputation were just a few of the things we looked for in each piece.

After our tour we learned about ArtsConnectEd.  It’s a very cool website that has been created in partnership with the Walker Art Center.  There is an Art Finder and an Art Collector part of the site.  They’re really easy to find when you visit the page.  Just remember that blue = finding and yellow = collecting.  I really need to play around on this site.  You can search for images and make your own power-point-type presentation or you can find one already done and use it or alter it.  When you bring students to the MIA, doing one of these as a pre-visit activity and one as a post visit activity were suggested.

I really want to go back to the MIA.  We didn’t really have any time to look at the galleries before our next destination.  I’ve seen a lot of it before.  But you always see something different, or some new thing catches your eye.  As for my professional life, I really need some time to explore the website and learn more about ArtsConnectEd.  I’m sure that I can find a way to use it and my colleagues would appreciate knowing about it too!

And we dance…

Our next stop was the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.


This is also familiar territory for me.  I have season tickets for the SPCO.  But I haven’t really done anything there other than see the Chamber Orchestra.  So this is a case of learning about a place that I go all the time.

The Ordway is the only theater of it’s kind that was financed without taxpayer dollars.  Who was the major contributor?  You know that family that has a company that makes scotch tape and post-it notes?  Yep.  3M.  It’s on the West side of Rice Park.  The other buildings that border the park are the Landmark Center, St Paul Library and the St Paul Hotel.  Rice Park is usually the center of activity for the St Paul Winter Carnival. The photo is a view of the Landmark Center.


The Ordway has a variety of programming for students.  I had no idea about their artists in residence.  We did an activity with one of them.  Karla does poetry, writing and dance.  She took us through a shortened version of what she does with students.  At the beginning she warned prepped us that we would all end up on the stage.

Dance to Learn is a program that Karla teaches.  I’m still not super clear on how it works.  Schools apply to do it and it’s a pretty big time commitment.  Karla started with getting us to think about what, who and why of dance.  Then she showed us a movement (dance step).  After she did that, she broke it down into frozen moments.  The sequence was broken down into 5 poses.  When broken down like that, we all could do the entire movement.  We did a few of these and then she gave us a start and an end.  We had to come up with the middle in our groups.

There was way more going on in this lesson than you realized.  Every single person was engaged in what they were learning and doing.  Even though we were a group of teachers, I have a feeling that it’s very similar with students.  Besides having our complete attention, we were all smiling and enjoying ourselves.  Karla did many things to encourage us and make it so we were comfortable.  No matter what your dance skill level, you could do it.  At the end we were lined up in rows and all doing synchronized dance movements.

I’m really curious about teaching movement.  How could I incorporate some of this into my classroom?  It was so fascinating to see how many things were happening at once.  Are there ways in which I can use some of the principles in this lesson in my lessons?  It would be really interesting to watch Karla do this with high school students.  I wonder if their level of engagement would be as high as ours?  I wonder how I could incorporate movement with math?

This is one of those lessons that will be churning around in my head.  Some ideas you just need to take the time and “chew” on them.  I had never, ever thought that dance or movement could be worked into math.  I’m not sure how I’d try to do it yet.  But the elements of learning and engagement were so incredible that I want to try.