29 December 2013

"Why the Church Needs Business"

Great article from Fr. James Martin on "Why the Church Needs Business."
Surround yourself with excellent peers and know when to rely on them.
Only thing that jumped out to me was that he cited of examples of priests, brothers and sisters who need basic finance knowledge, and the news is about the Vatican bringing in consultants.  Let's hope the Church can find some means of getting them the help that is needed, on all levels.

Field Notes: Crop Edition

Great video on the heritage of feed & seed memo books.
Field Notes, for me, is about as great as it gets when it comes to design, details, function, all of it.
Great tip on the video, mom!


Field Notes Brand: From Seed from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

18 December 2013

May be a long day...

Guest blog:  I copy and pasted this from an email I received a week ago from minovia.

Morning message today: "We are going to make bird feeders."
 
me: What is a bird feeder?
 
students: Awkward silence.............. no one had a guess.
 
me: A bird feeder is a container that has food on it for birds.  We're going to use a pinecone, peanut butter and seeds to make our bird feeders.  What is a pinecone?
 
students: Awkward silence.................
 
me: Where does a pinecone come from?
 
students: Awkward silence................
 
me: (showing them a pinecone)- It comes from a......... (No one finishes my sentence.)
 
me: It comes from a pinetree.
 
me: What do birds eat?
 
student: WORMS!
 
It might be a long day.  :)

10 December 2013

Last Blast Mixtape

In these final days of 2013, I thought I'd pass on a few tracks that I've been enjoying lately.  I know there will be an onslaught of new music as I start to receive everyone's 5 Songs for 2013, so I thought I'd better pass these on now because I'm gonna be busy listening to new things for a while.
So here's the tracklist...
1. Express Yourself _ Labrinth
2. Mean Streets _ Tennis
3. Ribs _ Lorde
4. Hoes _ Kid Sister
5. Roar _ Katy Perry
6. Timber _ Pitbull & Ke$ha
7. Play It Again _ Becky G
8. Aqui Voy a Seguir _ Ceci Bastida
9. Promise Me _ Hood Internet remix of Misun
10.You Know You Like Gas _ Hood Internet (Sage the Gemini)
11.212-PARADISE _ Hood Internet (Azealia Banks x YACHT)
12.Come Walk With Me _ M.I.A.
13.Hold On, We're Going Home _ Drake
14.Dear Marie _ John Mayer
15.Somewhere Only We Know _ Lily Allen

[sidenote: the cover art features the klipspringer from the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Canter typeface]

06 December 2013

World Cup Draw

Just finished watching the last half of the World Cup draw for the games next summer in Brazil.  There are so many great teams, not really any powerhouse countries that failed to qualify this time.  So there are several "Groups of Death" and not really any 'easy' groups.  You could say that Group C, E, and H might be a little more open than others but there is still quality aplenty. The USA has a tough road.  Germany will be one of the favorites to win it all, (#2 in the world).  Ghana has beaten the US in their previous two meetings, knocking them out of the 2010 World Cup.  And Portugal has Christiano Ronaldo. 
Can't wait to read the experts analysis of the groups and the matchups.  I'm ready for it to start now!
ESPNfc coverage.
FIFA coverage.  And rankings.

02 December 2013

Skillshare & Jessica Hische

J
essica Hische is a world-class letterer.  You have seen her work on Dave Eggers' newest book cover, or on postal stamps, or Bertolli's ads, the Moonrise Kingdom poster, on Barnes & Nobles classic books, and on Penguins Classics. Her husband works for facebook and they created a ridiculously cool wedding website.
Skillshare is a new service that offers class where people can learn things that they want to know.  I saw her name (via twitter) and saw that she was going to be giving a Skillshare class on lettering.  Now, I will be the first to say that I am a poor artist.  And my sketching/drawing skills are not good.  But for $19, I could not pass up signing up.  It was a web-based class, really a series of 12 videos where she explains her work methods, tips and tricks, advice, motivation, thoughts and issued an assignment.  And then there is a community of the ~550 students who had signed up for the class.  As you build your project and upload documentation and explanation of your progress, people offer you feedback and critique.  I would say 90% of the students either were in art/design school or working in design.  So to say I was out of my league is an understatement.  But I was upfront with my skill level and people were supportive.  I got lots of good feedback and even a couple of "likes."
The project was to create a dropcap letter for a book.  (Jessica is known for her dropcap alphabet project and she is now doing dropcaps for Penguin book covers).  I chose The Old Man and the Sea and the letter H for Hemingway.  It was done using Illustrator which I am not great in but I LOVED having a project and instructions and a timeline.  I read.  I sketched.  I worked.  I learned.  I got frustrated.  I got eager for feedback.  I refined. I realized my limitations.  I got more than my $19 worth.  It feels great to be creative, even if the finished project isn't as great as you had hoped for.  I'm already looking for my next class to sign up for!

30 November 2013

Thanksgiving and more...

A great trip home for a great holiday. With the extra Wednesday off before the holiday, it really made it feel like a break from work.  Great food, a little ping-pong, some poker (a new addition thanks to NTW), a birthday celebration for caboose (30!), Black Friday shopping (great deals!), a super Hawkeye win over Nebraska, and some Orscheln's shopping were all very enjoyable activities while I was home.  Skypeing with the Brig and with the India Greenleaf's were also a great technology-supported treat. 
And this morning, as a last bit of excitement, homebase woke me up a little before seven and said there had been a sighting of five short-eared owls in the county and so off we went!  We saw a trio of turkeys taking a walk on the ice of a frozen river and we saw a posse of eight deer in a field.  We went to the location reported and it wasn't too long before we spotted three owls sitting on fence posts and they let us come up very close to them.  We got some nice pictures of them.  Great to be able to add them to the life list.  Thanks for the tip homebase!

22 November 2013

Boston Symphony 11/22/63

Music is such a powerful medium. 
The image of the typed program, the story of the symphony libraraian rushing to get the scores gathered and set out, the words from the conductor and the mournful movements of Beethoven...all so haunting and incredible.
Sit back, close your eyes and sink into these 15 minutes from 50 years ago.

21 November 2013

Ashton..again.

After the video from the Teen Choice Awards that I posted previously, and a good subsequent interview from the Ellen show, now Ashton has said to Wal-Mart what many of us have always wanted to have the voice to say.
Tip of the hat to that Iowa native for sure.

20 November 2013

Kareem Shares Life Lessons

I saw this Esquire article from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared on twitter today, "20 Things Boys Can Do to Become Men" and enjoyed it.  Could definitely start some conversation when dealing with adolescents.
There is a link at the bottom which took me to another article of his, from April, "20 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 30".  Again, lots of basic, yet valuable thoughts to consider for the self-reflection process.

19 November 2013

The Coach Who Never Punts | Middle School Secret Play

Two football stories to share today:

I saw this headline and of course thought of stoppable.  He is always a fan of going for it on 4th down.  This coach, though, firmly believes in never punting.  Oh, and even better...he onside kicks EVERY kickoff.
Check it out.

And this one has been floating around social media the last week or two.  I finally took the three minutes to watch it and I'm glad I did.  The honesty of the receiver at the very end is impressive for a middle schooler.  Good stuff.
 

14 November 2013

Children's Book Spotlight

This last week I picked a couple books from my own collection of picture books that I have never read.  homebase is always on the lookout for good children's literature that might be getting tossed, either from her school or the library, etc.  These were a couple of Caldecott Medal winners that I had yet to open! 

Always Room For One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas (winner 1966)
This Scottish author uses a "lilting, rhyming brogue of a time-worn Scottish folktale" to tell his story and the illustrations, depicting characters in lines and crosshatch are very unique and cool.  There are quite a few Scottish words and expressions so I think the details were probably lost on Isa, but overall story is simple, fun and quick.

Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi (winner 1948)
Lovely book and story of Juan, Julian and the departure and return of the swallows from the mission in Capistrano.  We all liked this one.  The pictures with the pair of swallows cuddled up to sleep on a branch together was great.

13 November 2013

Popular Baby Names by States

This is a fun visualization of the trends in baby girl names and their geographic groupings.  Click on the map to let it start rolling through the years. I was amazed at the consensus behind many of the names!

10 November 2013

Bring on the Christmas Cheer

I always enjoy Lily Allen's voice and the fun she brings to her music.  She has a new single, a cover of Keane's must-sing-along ballad "Somewhere Only We Know" and it is featured in the animated Christmas commercial for a UK retailer.  It also is burning up the charts in the UK.  From what I could find, it looks like it will be available in the U.S. tomorrow. I will be purchasing it. 
How cute are the Bear and the Hare!?!  Check out the video and song here.

06 November 2013

Plant a Tree...or 850

I loved this piece from the DM Register about Father Kenkel, former biology teacher at Dowling Catholic HS.  He planted 850 trees on the campus there.  It is a beautiful campus.  One thing that struck me was - look at the power of change capable by one person with one idea.  Plant trees.

Another thing that struck me was...why didn't the Register do some actual journalism and write a real article on this man and his work instead of just posting a set of photos and one tiny caption?

04 November 2013

New Furntiure, New Look (#1594)

A few changes in our front room...the parlor....sitting room...well, we haven't figured out a good name for the room yet.
On a trip home a week ago, I cozied up with a large steel trellis that needed to get down to homebase's house. Little did I know, there was a round red table that wanted to come back to Des Moines with me! I've always loved this table and homebase wanted to try her front her without it so I volunteered to give it a good home.
minovia had been on the lookout for a good couch for the room for a while and when she spotted this Ethan Allen one on craigslist yesterday, she was ready to pounce.
It totally makes it look more spacious in the room, and warmer too. And look at all that wall space! Just waiting for some cool black & white enlargements!

31 October 2013

Farmers Tribute Fallen Friend

"It seems to me that farming communities all over the country may still hold the key to what makes this country a shining beacon in a world of trouble."

Loved this story of farmers taking time in harvest season to pay a unique tribute to a young farmer who died from cancer.  See full article with lots of great photos here.

30 October 2013

Strangers Posing

I saw that a cousin of mine had liked this article on facebook so I checked it out.  A photographer, Richard Renaldi, in NYC takes complete strangers and pairs them up and poses them in a manner that transmits a relationship of some sort. 
The pictures (most of them) are interesting as is the feedback from people once they are finished with the ten minute shoot.

29 October 2013

Lip Dub Contest: Katy Perry's "Roar"

Somehow I happened to starting watching a couple lip dubs today.  These are lip-sync'ed videos and there are some great ones out there done by different high schools to show school spirit.  I noticed that there were a bunch that used Katy Perry's new hit "Roar", of which I am a big fan.  Then I saw that she had held a contest for high schools and the winner got Katy Perry performing at their school live on Good Morning America.  You can see the live performance and read about the contest here.  And here are the five finalists.  Be sure to check out the winner.  Great stuff. 
5th Finalist - Pickerington Central - OH
4th Finalist - Abeline Cooper - TX
3rd Finalist - Spanish Springs - NV
2nd Finalist - Verrado - AZ
Winner - Lakewood - CO  - This one is fantastic.

21 October 2013

Center Grove Orchard

It seems everyone with a small child in the metro area raves about Center Grove Orchard.  So much so that I started to not really want to go.  I was afraid of 'drinking the Kool-Aid' and getting hooked, especially once minovia told me it was $10 a head to get in!  "Just for admission to the orchard?!" was my response.  But, of course, I did give in and she was sharp and snagged us all some $4 off coupons from work and we headed up on Sunday.  The weather, which had been flirting with gray & rain all morning, held off and then turned sunny and wonderful for us. 
Now, to market themselves as an orchard is something of a misnomer.  They are really closer to a huge play area or activity center with a pumpkin patch and apple orchard alongside it.  They have built up their grounds so that there really is a lot of things for kids to see, do and interact with.  We all had a good time, checking out the animals, feeding goats, watching a turkey fight, roping sawhorse cows, playing in the one-room schoolhouse, wandering through nursery rhyme village, flying down the huge slide, watching the pig races, swimming in the corn pool (not me, thanks.  too many lectures of not playing in corn growing up), trying out hand water pump duck races, milking a fake cow, riding a shuttle to our parking lot past all the orchards, doing ring-toss with a hula hoop aiming for pumpkins, guessing pumpkins weights, and on and on.  And, of course, we finished it all off with a caramel apple for the ride home.  It was delicious.
[I was going to add a photo but flickr is being hiccupy.  Just head over there and check out my pix.]

14 October 2013

Raptors at Scheels

In a wonderful alignment of timing, my Des Moines Audobon newsletter came in the mail on Thursday and it had a little snippet about a raptor show that was going to be at Scheels on Saturday and Sunday.  So when I was talking to homebase and thinking about something fun for the weekend, we thought that that show sounded just right.  So, on this past gorgeous Sunday afternoon, after preparing ourselves for the upcoming colder weather by picking up a few cozy treats at Active Endeavors (20% off everything!), we sat in some bleachers in the parking lot and enjoyed a great show, put on through the US Fish and Wildlife.  Falcons, hawks, eagles, owls, vultures, and kestrels.  It was great to be able to compare sizes of all the them in real life instead of pictures in a bird guide.  I nearly got clothes-lined by a barn owl whizzing by my head at one point.  The presenter was from New York and entertaining.  He wrapped it all up with a statement about living the American dream and being thankful every morning that caught us a little off-guard and was very touching. 
It was a great day and a nice end to a fun weekend.  minovia and I had a good night out with sushi and drinks on Friday, then (after watching Texas beat Oklahoma) went up the street to a chili cookoff with some friends on Saturday.  A great fall weekend.

11 October 2013

Creighton's New Look

With their new move to a new Big East, Creighton unveiled a new logo and wordmark this week, as well as a new court design. 
While it may take a little warming up to the wordmark, I will say that I love the bluejay head.  It is intense and focused without going down that often too-traveled road in mascot redesign of making them overly angry and rabid-looking.  Well done.  The 'C' doesn't really get me excited like the way the old, Chicago-Bear-ish one did.  I hope they keep the old 'C' around, I liked it a lot.
[thanks to homebase for the tip]

08 October 2013

The Return of Yard Fest!

I'm not sure when the first Yard Fest took place.  I was able to find a CD from the 2001 Yard Fest
weekend, but all I know is stoppable, for several years after purchasing his house would have a weekend where we all would visit him and help complete all sorts of home improvement projects.  It's been quite a while since we've had one though.  Now that I am a homeowner myself, I thought, "what a perfect tradition to re-introduce!"  And so we did.  I put together a good sized list of items I wanted to get down around the place.  Most of them were outdoors work: removing hosta plants, planting grass seed, sweeping & bagging acorns, trimming back bushes, etc.  stoppable made the drive over, bringing NTW and the brig with him.  homebase was first to arrive, with soup, homemade brioche and cookies in hand, and caboose, although last to arrive (per his namesake), hit the ground running.  minovia & isa both had a great time as well.
I had discussed with minovia ahead of time, saying that we should lots of before/after pictures and fun photos from the day, which I promptly forgot about as soon as everyone arrived.  Luckily, she is smart and took pictures for me.  And homebase took some great ones as well.  We were able to incorporate some fun activities into the work, including some boulder lifting, a mystery broiler drawer that refused to be figured out, a Hawkeyes loss to watch and Ping-Pong to be played. 
"Many hands makes light work" couldn't be more true.  The amount of work we got done would've taken me days to do and parts of it I simply could not have done by myself (i.e. putting the Iron Giant in the basement).
Many thanks to all and I am putting together a 2013 mixtape for Yard Fest so keep an eye on your mailboxes!

03 October 2013

Shutdown!

Came across this clip today and, while I try not to shine any more light on those cuckoobirds among us, I had to share this one.  Congressman from TX castigating a Park Ranger for not letting vets into the WWII Memorial.  
Class act.  Yet another reason Congress earns that amazing 10% approval rate.
Of course, he bolts as soon as someone tries to confront him.

The comments, while definitely not work-friendly, are rather hilarious.  And the Breaking Bad pizza gif is hilarity.

01 October 2013

Top 100 Tools for Learning

I came across this list of Top 100 Tools for Learning today.  I do think the title should probably say something like 'tech tools for learning' or even 'software and web tools for learning'. 
The analysis data page also include who were included in her survey.  It is quite a diverse group and by no means limited to K-12 education.
That said, here are my thoughts on the list.
  • Love seeing Evernote moving up and in the top 10.  I am a big fan.
  • Completely agree with Twitter as the #1.
  • I would probably have Google Search as a close second though.
  • Surprised a little that Powerpoint is still not only everyone's go to presentation tool, but still moving up in the list!
  • I was also a bit surprised WordPress was so high, but less surprised when I saw that the survey group skewed to higher ed/training folks.
  • Feedly definitely is enjoying life after the demise of Google Reader.  Going from not on the list to #19. 
  • I don't really agree that iTunes and iTunes U should be lumped together. 
  • And I'm not sure about including "iPad", "Android tablet" and "Kindle"
  • Microsoft has got to be bummed to not see Bing on the list.
  • There are a few eLearning tools on here that I will have to check out.
Give the list a look and see if there's anything that interests you.
What are some of your favorite tools for learning?

30 September 2013

"Henrying"

I love Thierry Henry.  And the meme that has grown since his 'goal celebration' or lack there of, "Henrying" is pretty great.  Similar, although probably not as hilarious as the "Mo Farah Running Away From Things" tumblr.

27 September 2013

Whirlpool Gold

Yesterday felt like Christmas to me.  I couldn't stop thinking about the new refrigerator that was heading my way.  After a long and thorough hunt, both in person and online, we purchased a Whirlpool Gold bottom-freezer in white from Nebraska Furniture Mart.  And it got delivered yesterday after work.  When the NFM truck came around the corner Isa started jumping up and down in the front yard and I pretty much felt that same way.  The guys did a great & quick job of taking away the old frig and bringing in, leveling, connecting it to the water line and setting up the new one.  (sidenote: I need to get a set of moving straps for the future. Those things are amazing.)
There is SO MUCH room in the new frig!  We have increased our shelf space by over double and all the in-door storage is super useful.  The pullout freezer drawer and its basket will take a little time figuring out the most efficient way to pack it, but I love it all.  Woo hoo!  Everybody come see it!

Mariano Rivera

My lack of interest in professional baseball doesn't mean I can't enjoy the drama and emotion of this moment.  Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer in modern baseball,  gets a standing ovation in his final career game.  And when you think about where he came from, it is pretty great.

19 September 2013

A Trip to Kinnick

I've been so remiss on my blogging lately.  I'm telling myself that I will make a focused effort to improve and post more often. 

So here is a fun one from a couple weeks ago.  minovia scored some cheap tickets to the Iowa vs  Missouri Southern game so we packed up a little tailgate food and took Isa over.  We parked in the greenleaf driveway, like always and then enjoyed a little tailgate picnic before walking over to the stadium.  It was a HOT day, but everyone held up well and had a good time.  It was a delightful surprise that two schoolmates of Isa's happened to be sitting directly one row behind us.  (what are the odds?)  It was a first time experience for minovia and for Isa so I was happy that the Hawks could muster up a win.


Interview with a Pope

I saw Fr. James Martin's tweet hints this morning that a big story was getting ready to be released in the America magazine and then I heard the end of an interview with him on NPR after school.  But I wasn't able to read the full interview article until this evening. It is long, but very readable.  And I am thankful for whenever I can say that about some said by a Pope!  Too many dense encyclicals and I just gave up reading a Pope JPII book because it was such a chore.

 Favorite quotes:

I am always wary of decisions made hastily. [You and me both!] I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision.

being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons

I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.... The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.

We must walk united with our differences: there is no other way to become one. This is the way of Jesus.

complaining never helps us find God

If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.  

You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

You cannot bring home the frontier, but you have to live on the border and be audacious.

Also, he falls asleep in adoration sometimes, so you are in the clear, homebase. :)
And you can read some of Fr. Martin's thought on the interview here.

10 September 2013

"We talkin' about practice."

I couldn't help but hear Allen Iverson in his press conference, downplaying the importance of practice, as I read through an excerpt from David Epstein's book The Sports Gene in a recent Sports Illustrated.  It is a fascinating read, touching on the 10,000 hour rule, deliberate practice, and authentic repetitions.  I highly recommend checking it out.  I had read previously a little about the ability of grandmaster chess players being able to recall many exact layouts of pieces if they were situations that could occur naturally occur.  If they were odd set ups that would never occur, they could not remember hardly any.  That example is mentioned in this article as well, along with examples from many other disciplines. 
Alternate title for this post was, "You can't think up there.  If you think, you're dead."  The point in the article referring to game action happening too fast to think, that great players anticipate better than others definitely reminded me of the Top Gun scene where Maverick is at a loss to explain his actions and decisions.
I am gonna have to check this book out soon because I also heard an interview (transcript) with Mr. Epstein on NPR a few weeks ago about running/runners that had me thinking.  Things like the length of your Achille's tendon, the genetic diversity of Africans, the dearth of white cornerbacks in the NFL, the two reasons people run in Kenya, as well as a hilarious statistic that if you are talking to a North American who is 20 to 40 years old and 7 feet tall, there is a 17% chance he is playing in the NBA.

06 September 2013

Funny & Terrifying News

Separate news items.
I saw this article about a 727 pound alligator being caught during hunting season in Mississippi (yet another reason to stay away) and shared it via email, but then when I went back to search the web for it so I could blog it, I came across an article about a golfer on vacation in Cancun getting attacked while chipping out of a bunker.  He lost some fingers but his golf partner/friend saved him by smashing the gator with a rock.  Impressive!  And another article about a vacationer in Australia, kayaking around until a crocodile held him hostage on an island for two weeks.  And lastly, a story of an IT guy, celebrating someone's 30th in the Australian Outback, decides to swim across the Mary River (one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles in the world) after some drinks.  Doesn't make it.
Yikes.
After all that, how about something funny.  Well, you can't beat the Canadian Prime Minister hilariously mistaking 'twerking' for 'tweeting' during a press conference.  And not just one little slip...nope, he sticks with it.  Best line, as caboose pointed out, "would like to twerk with every Canadian but that of course is impossible."  Although I also like, "a quick twerk is a great way to express what I’m thinking."   

29 August 2013

Champions League Draw

Well, in case you missed it (and I'm guessing most of you did) Celtic FC had a historic comeback last night in Glasgow.  After losing in Kazakstan 2-0, they came back to Scotland won 3-0, scoring the last goal a couple minutes into stoppage time.  This put them through to the lucrative group stages of the Champions League.  The draw for the group pairings took place today and Celtic's Group H is probably the toughest one in there.  Barcelona was in the same group as Celtic last year and the Hoops were able to take a game off the Spaniards so anything is possible.  AC Milan is a team that is going to be tough.  Young, aggressive with lots of striking power (Mario Balotelli, El Shaarawy, Niang).  And Ajax of Amsterdam is another of my favorites.  And the stadiums!  Camp Nou, San Siro, Amsterdam ArenA...incredible European nights!

26 August 2013

Friday Night Visitor

"Take the girl, go into the bedroom and close the door."

Those are words you hear in a tense thriller movie and most normal people don't get to say them too often.  Well, I can proudly say that those words were delivered by me on Friday night.  Nothing like coming home from a delightful trip to Snookie's for ice cream, only to have an indoor bat visitor turn your family into a bunch of screaming, crying lunatics (I was in the screaming group, not the crying one.)  And I was amazed at how much larger a bat looks when it is flying at you in your living room, as opposed to thirty or forty feet above you in the trees.  (Isa said she thought it was a hawk.)
His shiftly, unpredictable flying style left me swinging at air a few times with the tennis racket, but eventually I took him down and pinned him to the ground under the racket.  At this point I called Sylvia out to assist.  I wasn't sure if he was dead as he hadn't moved, so I wiggeled the racket a little.  It squeaked out its bat noise, we both screamed, and I bopped it solidly on the head several times with the other tennis racket.  And that ended that.
That night all three of us slept together with the door closed. 
Rest assured though, we have a bat exclusion expert scheduled for this week. 
Sidenote: Isa later asked if we could keep the bat (it was in the freezer) until Halloween and use it as a decoration to scare people. 

22 August 2013

Ashton (Chris) Being Real

I love seeing a celebrity using those spotlight moments for something actually worthwhile.  Even better when that celebrity is a young man from Iowa. 
Nice work, Ashton!

21 August 2013

Project: garden shed

When we were checking out the new Fleet Farm in Ankeny, one thing that caught my eye (along with an axe, a gray Carhartt hoodie and some birdseed) was a plastic tool shed.  I'd been looking at DIY plans online and found a couple that I thought might work.  This one cost about that same as I would've spent on supplies to make one myself, it was simple to put together, and it was plastic.  Sadly, it was also out of stock.  And they had no idea when they were getting more in.  Nor did those facts change in the multiple phone calls we made to then in the following days. 
Not one to sit around, I looked around online to see who else was selling that same brand and model.  Lo and behold, Home Depot sells it online.  I had to go through a couple people to get it all squared
away, but they shipped it for free to their West Des Moines store and I went out and picked it up. 
And by picked it up, I mean I had four of their workers put it on top my Jeep and I strapped it down for the short ride home. 
We have the perfect hidden corner for it so I just had to rake away all the mulch (during which I found that they already had cement pavers down covering half the area), lay down some more pavers (purchase at the Habitat ReStore for $9), level it all and then
assemble the thing.  I am thrilled with the size.  It won't block the window view.  And there is room in there for the mower, the snowblower (thanks Greenleafs!), the edger, the wagon (a great Orscheln purchase to replace the wheel barrow that I hate) and all the gas and birdseed!
Plus the leftover box makes a great play "dog house" for Isa!

16 August 2013

The Stomach Talks

"Jakee, can I have those spicy chicken leg thingies?"

This is what Isa leans over and whispers to me during church yesterday (completely out of the blue). We had had leftover buffalo-style chicken wings on Wednesday evening and were surprised that she not only ate them but loved them.  She can be a little sensitive on spicy things but she chowed them down. 
We thought that was that, but obviously she hadn't forgotten about them so quickly.  ...And she was hungry. 


11 August 2013

Lemonade Stand, Outdoor Movie Party and a Tree Cutting.

Lots of fun to finish up last week!
On Thursday evening, Isa ran a lemonade stand for the first time.  And, while I was skeptical of business on a Thursday evening, she did fantastic.  I will say that she diversified her product line with some top quality, home grown produce (two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, poblano & hot peppers and cherry tomatoes) and I think that appealed to some prospective buyers.  Mainly, though, the credit has to go to her soft skills.  She waved and smiled at every car that passed, engaged every walker in conversation and ended up reaping the benefits.  Her clientele was really spread across the age spectrum and by the end of it I think she had caught the entrepreneur bug.  She kept asking to be able to stay out a little longer and earn a couple more dollars. 
Friday we had a good crowd on the patio for some food (grilled chicken sandwiches & hot dogs), fun and a showing of Brave, as chosen by popular vote.  Popcorn and smores over the chiminea during the movie were a big hit and the weather couldn't have been any better.  I didn't get to see much of the movie because one of my good friends brought his chainsaw over and just after dusk we cut down a big arborvitae evergreen on the front corner of my house.
And that provided my fun for Saturday.  I was in the yard by 8 and taking all the branches off, stacking them up, bundling them and then finally getting out the chainsaw and cutting up the trunk.  I came across a bird's nest on the ground so I set it aside and later, we went and found a new spot for it in the bush adjacent to its old home.  Hopefully its previous tenant won't mind the slight relocation.
After all that, I needed someplace to stack up the wood and stuff from fallen large branches that we will be able to burn in our fireplace this winter.  So, using a couple tips from my friend, I fashioned a wood stack, using entirely stuff I had around the place.  Twelve bricks, two 2"x4", and two steel fence posts.  I was happy with the finished product.
...Now how to get rid of five large bundles of evergreen branches?
Oh, and here's the best "before and after" I could do for the tree removal.  I forgot to take a "before" so I had to use this one from the assessor's page.  Sorry they aren't from the same angle.  It makes such a big difference in the look of the house from the road, as well as the amount of light coming in the master bedroom window there.  And it really opens up the walking path.

06 August 2013

Jersey Boys

I already knew I loved Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons music.  Oldies get heavy rotation at our house.  I just wasn't sure about a musical focusing just on that one group and mainly on the story of the band's history.  Well I was pleasantly surprised.  minovia and I went out for a nice dinner at Alba and then to the theater for Jersey Boys on Friday.  (She had been comp'ed a pair of tickets for her involvement with the Civic in her classroom!)  The show was fabulous.  The performers voices were stellar and the hits (as they say) just kept on coming!  Super enjoyable.  And we capped the night off with a couple drinks at the Lift and were joined by caboose & Angela. A great night for sure.

05 August 2013

Salsa Verde

My garden is really starting to put out some produce.  And we had tomatillos left behind from the Greenleaf visit, so I decided to make a quick salsa verde last night.  You can see the ingredients (plus I added some salt) and it turned out delic.  HOT, but delic. 

29 July 2013

Choc Chip Cookie Analyzed

I have had some serious trouble with chocolate chip cookies recently, so much so, that I find myself looking for other cookies to make because I have become quite lacking in confidence that the end product will be enjoyable. 
I saw this page ("The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies") linked on facebook and checked it out.  I loved being able to see the effects of each different recipe tweak.  I like the look of the 'more flour' specimen.  I like a taller, cakey cookie, yet I always seem to have a lot of spread on my cookies.  I've paid attention to my butter temperature, chilled my dough, used parchment and bought new leveners.  Hopefully this article will aid me as I seek out a better cookie. 
Tips are always appreciated.

26 July 2013

Coaching Blunder

Man, I feel sorry for these players.
Check out the DM Register story for full details on how Le Mars's coach forfeited away their state tournament berth.  My co-worker is a former baseball coach and said that there is no excuse for this.  The pitcher rest rule is covered in every coaching rules meeting and is on the lineup card.  Players know it, coaches know it.  I don't know if he thought he wouldn't get called on it or if he just got caught up in the moment.  Either way....ouch.

Henry Doorly Zoo

It's been years since I'd been to the HDZ, and I was excited to get back and check out the changes.  We got there just after its 9AM opening and didn't leave until 4:45.  When you consider that, the admission fee of $15 for adults, $10 for children is actually a pretty good value! 
For me, the biggest takeaway was that nature is amazing.  There were so many cool adaptations and abilities by different animals, insects, birds and reptiles that I couldn't believe it.  And that things are often larger than they appear on TV or in my mind (namely, lions, giraffes and rhinos). 
We all had a great day and I've always loved taking a nice sit down break in the afternoon while enjoying the train ride.  So great to be able to share that with two first-timers!
My only advice/thing to remember for next time...bring a cooler and pack a picnic lunch.  The food inside was of mediocre quality, poor nutritional value and highly expensive.  
You can check out some pix of the day here.

21 July 2013

Goats are interesting

On top of the fainting goats and the Taylor Swift goats from the past few months, I came across this goat last week who is great at parkour and also these rock-climbing Italian Ibex goats...which then led me to read about 'tree goats'. 
Nature is pretty wild.

15 July 2013

Father-Son Goal Combo

Don't pay attention to the fact that this happened in a testimonial game (a tribute match at the end of a marquee players' long stay with one club, they are usually low-stress, fun, free-flowing affairs).
Instead focus on the heart-warming joy of Ariel Ortega, 39, playing in to his son Tomas, 12 who slot home a goal in front of 65,000 fans.  Papa unleashes the waterworks. :)
Watch the video here.

And I'm going to double your soccer clip pleasure this morning...
I don't feel so bad for eating grass during a little 4th of July kickabout now, after watching Manchester United's Danny Welbeck demonstrate how not to put a move on someone in the corner in this preseason match.  Keep it simple!

12 July 2013

Black Olive Penguins

homebase gets credit for passing the blog post on these great little mouthfuls on to me.
I love some penguins and I like olives too!

05 July 2013

Baggo Board Painting

caboose came to the rescue on another painting project last weekend.  I had sketched out the design I
thought would look good and he took it from there.  He showed up with the primer, paint and tape and started in.  He primed the boards with some grey primer, then put down a grey paint base layer.  After that we measured out the chevrons and taped them off and he painted the green.  Finally we added a 1" purple boarder. 
The boards look great and I've got a new set of bags sewn up from homebase so we are ready for some fun in the yard this summer!

02 July 2013

ISTE '13 Recap

So much information and I'm still trying to sift my way through it all.
I've finally got all the pictures (mostly of fun and food) uploaded and tagged so you can check those out here.  Still working through my work notes but I'll give a little overview of the trip...
minovia and I took the early flight out on Saturday morning and despite a layover in Dallas that was supposed to be 30 minutes but turned into 2 hrs & 30 minutes due to a problem with the jump seat (just don't sit in it!), it was a great couple of flights.  There was a good group of people from area schools and the AEA on our flights so there was fun conversation to be had.  When we got in and checked into our hotel (Hyatt Regency Riverwalk, not as posh as the W last year, but still nice) we headed out to find a late lunch.  We ate at Casa Rio on the riverwalk and I wasn't impressed with the food or the location.  It seemed hot, dirty and touristy.  The riverwalk would grow on me over the days we were there but I don't think it is really as amazing as people make it out to be. 
After eating, we wandered over to the Alamo and toured that historic landmark.  It is oddly set right in the middle of the commercial district and isn't as big or impressive as pictures make it seem.  The history and story behind it, is quite interesting though. From there we strolled around and just checked out the area, I picked up some cheap sunglasses since I forgot mine in Iowa (four dollars!!) and then made our way to San Fernanado Cathedral for afternoon mass.  It was a great mass and beautiful structure.  The three leader heroes from the Alamo are buried inside the church intererstingly.  The music was what they call mariachi choir on their website, two gentelmen with a guitar and a mandolin.  Wonderful to listen to.  And at the end of mass they recognized one of the alterboys.  He was 18 and had been serving since he was five.  Now he is off to the Marines.  I said a prayer for him.
For dinner we checked out County Line, again on the riverwalk, for some BBQ.  The food, service and atmosphere were top notch, but I wouldn't put their meat up against North Main BBQ.  We called it a night at a respectable hour as the travel and sun catch up with us, plus I dropped a rib on myself and didn't want to be out carousing with a BBQ stain on my shirt. :)
Sunday morning I was so excited I could barely stand it.  I had done some internet searching and found Mitchell Lake Audobon Center on the southern edge of town and it looked like a great birding spot.  So after a $40 cab ride with a very unique and entertaining cabbie, we found ourselves pretty much out of the city.  The area used to be used by San Antonio Water Service and has been taken over by the Audobon Society and maintained as a wildlife center.  Seven miles of trails, which I was planning on conquering on foot, but didn't have to, due to the incredible good fortune and kindess of two park docents who were not working, just there to bird and stopped and told us to get in with them.  So not only did we not have to walk all those miles in the heat, we also got a guided tour for 90 minutes with two experts on the center and its birds!  They were great company too.  I saw so many new birds!  Scissor-tailed flycatchers (so cool), a caracara (fantastic), snowy, green and cattle egrets, a mockingbird, neotropic cormorants, pelicans, a black vulture, golden-fronted woodpecker, black-chinned hummingbirds and more.  Eight life listers for me.  A incredible, and incredibly fortunate morning for us.
We had our same cabbie friend drop us off at Mi Tierra on the way home for lunch and it was a great place.  Superb food.  My enchiladas en mole were fabulous. It is like stimulation overload there.  Tons of bright decorations, lights, pinatas, a bakery & sweets counter, piles of people, mariachis and more.  We also picked up several things from the bakery area to enjoy for snacks and breakfast during the conference.  The empanadas and campechenas were great.  We made our way through a little street market and walked to the conference center, checked in and got the lay of the land.  I also picked up a Microsoft Surface RT.  Microsoft passed out 10,000+ of them at the conference in an attempt to get a foot in against the iPad.  From what I've heard so far...they have a ways to go.
For dinner we headed to Ocho, which is a Cuban restaurant attached to the Havana Hotel with super cool decor, very vintage, very tropical.  There was a little bit of a wait for the food, it was worth it because my huilacoche and chicken quesadillas were super tasty.  And the IPA that I chose was fabulous (Bear Republic's Racer 5).  We sat inside for a while til it got too chilly and then moved to the patio.
Monday the conference began and the race to absorb and analyze as much as you can began...
Here are the Monday sessions I attended:
An integrated model for teacher evaluation and PD
Design your digital tattoo
Individualized tech goals & differentiated staff development plans
PLUS TECH: a gamified PD approach in Chicago Public Schools
What makes a successful conference presenter
For dinner, we headed out to Koi Kawa and had some tasty sushi.

Tuesday's sessions:
Got iPads! Explore Strong Instructional Strategies & Differentiated PD
Want to be a Tech Coach? Learning the NETS-C
iPad Deployment Blueprint for Success
Where Good Ideas Come From (keynote by Steven Johnson)
A pedagogical approach to the iPad
For our last dinner there, we chose ácenar and it was a great choice.  We had a server who is finishing up his culinary training to be a chef and hopes to have his own restaurant within five years.  He loved to talk food and would go on about this or that topic, seemingly unhurried by his other tables.  We learned a lot, ate & drank some fabulous items and had a great time overall.  Walking the riverwalk on the way home we decided to stop in at The Worm, a tequila and mezcal bar just outside our hotel.  We had one of the bartenders set us up with a flight of tequilas ranging from silver, to anejo, to resposado.  Each was only a half an ounce but it was enough to enjoy the differences between them.

Wednesday's session:
Bringing teaching to life with the new Microsoft Office
Only time for one session before heading to the airport for our flight back home.

A great conference and I still have a lot of takeaway ideas, reading and things to consider.

01 July 2013

Summer Mixtape '13

How is it possible that I haven't put out a mixtape in a YEAR?!!?   Yikes.
Well then, without further ado, here's the mix that has been sitting in my iTunes for several months waiting to get finalized and shared.  I actually downloaded two of the songs just today and added them to the mix.  There are a few beats just perfect summer on there so holla if you want a CD from me to you, with love.

Track List:
1. Forest Whitaker ~ Bad Books
2. Royals ~ Lorde
3. Sweater Weather ~ The Neighbourhood
4. Body So Tight ~ Reflex ft Childish Gambino
5. Dance Apocalyptic ~ Janelle Monae
6. Step ~ Vampire Weekend
7. Unbelievers ~ Vampire Weekend
8. Treat Me Right ~ Keys and Krates
9. Wild for the Night ~ A$AP Rocky ft Skrillex
10.Itching on a Photograph ~ Grouplove
11.Dirty Diana ~ The Weeknd mix of MJ
12.Technologic ~ Daft Punk
13.Bring the Noize ~ M.I.A.
14.The Baddest Man Alive ~ The Black Keys ft RZA
15.Virgin ~ Manchester Orchestra

29 June 2013

The Last Burrito

After 15 years, my favorite eatery in Des Moines closed on Friday.  Pablo's on the skywalk was such a wonderful place.  Great flavors, hot food, good prices, and most importantly, a fantastic owner there to take your order each day with a smile, a joke, a laugh. 
When I took a new position as a Process Analyst in Staff Underwriting, I switched locations and began working downtown, connected to the skywalk.  On my first day on the job, my boss took a couple of us out to lunch and he introduced me to Pablo's.  That was 13 years ago.  I've been going there every since.
I searched my blog for "pablo's" and it was so nice to re-read all the times that I've mentioned that great place.  I've gone through times where I would go with a book or a sudoku and enjoy some time away from work, I've taken burritos to go to bring back to work after noon mass at St. Ambrose during Lent, I taken (or tried to) everyone I know to this great spot.  And I was still exploring the menu and 'off-menu' items. (Mole quesadillas were a gem).  I learned of Valentina sauce here and also the wonderful family of El Yucateco hot sauces.  Since it is a cash-only spot, I can't run a report in my budgeting software to see how much I've spent there over the years....and since it is 13 years, that may actually be a good thing.  I'm probably better off not seeing that number.  Whatever the amount, it was money well-spent.
When caboose forwarded the email news of Dave, the owner's impending retirement, we were both crushed.  When I got back from San Antonio, there was no question that we would eat lunch there on Thursday and Friday.  The line was huge both days and he was happy to see us.  I will miss the food for sure, but just as much I'll miss a great lunch getaway spot and a kind, funny businessowner to support.

Shower Faucet is a Snap!

Our master bathroom has a shower with a one-knob faucet that you pull straight at you to turn on the water.  It was hard to pull and hard to push back in.  minovia, although small, must be pretty strong because one day she pulled the handle right off.  I thought maybe it had just popped off or something but further inspection showed a broken plastic bit.  Since I know zilch about plumbing, the shower went unused for a few weeks until I had a contractor in to work on a couple windows and I could pick his brain a bit.  (Jeff Carmichel of Window Solutions...great guy).  He directed me to David down at
American Plumbing Supply in the East Village.  The store has been there since the '30s and without too much renovation by the look of the place.  It would be a fantastic place to wander and poke around.
I took my broken piece, he glanced at it, walked off and came back a few minutes later with a small piece of black plastic and a new knob.  He told me what I needed to do (and made it sound deceivingly simple).  Fifty bucks and I was on my way.
Incredibly, when I sat down to the work, the project was just as easy and went just as smoothly as he said it would!  I spent more time
figuring out where to shut off the water than I spent replacing the part.  I needed two tools for the whole thing.  Plumber's wrench to take off the nut and the bonnet nut.  Pulled out the broken cartridge.  Pushed in the new cartridge.  Return the two nuts.  Screwdriver to attach the new handle.  Presto!  $50 job.  Loved it.  So happy to have a quick success!

27 June 2013

Feedback

Reading through the comments from college students at a symposium I presented at a couple months ago and came across this gem.  When asked what they didn't like about the overall event there was a wide range of answers but this one takes the prize:
"We had pizza for lunch and I had pizza the night before."

22 June 2013

That's a Wrap

A hectic last couple weeks has wrapped up another year and kicked off summer vacation.  Due to a massive project that is on an aggresive timeline I will be working off and on over my vacation, but it is a project I'm very excited about so I'm ok with it.  I'm going to be sure to pack in lots of fun times too.  Some short trips, some relaxation, some running, some biking.
And minovia and I are starting it off right by flying to San Antonio for an educational technology conference.  Can't wait.  This is my third trip to this annual conference and it is always fantastic.  Plus we are right on the Riverwalk, I've got some restaurants to check out, a great birding location to scout out, and a fun travel partner.  I'll report back next week with what I learn! 

21 June 2013

Seattle Reign (and the rest of the WSL Logos)

stoppable mentioned how cool the new brand image of the Seattle Reign was and how he liked the wordplay of 'reign' and 'rain' for Seattle.  I made a mental note to check it out and then quickly forgot about it.  That is until it can up on a blog I read.  Wow.  Seriously, wow.  I LOVE this logo, the branding, all of it.  SO fantastic.  It looks like a professional level team.  I do not mean to be sexist but many women's pro teams do not have a professional or classic look to their uniforms and logos.  For instance, check out the rest of the teams in the WSL. 
I'm sorry but if you are a fan of the Boston Breakers, FC Kansas City, or Sky Blue FC (which, seriously, what kind of name is that?), you can not be too thrilled to go buy a jersey or other merchandise. (Actually, I'm writing that without ever seeing their jerseys.  Maybe they are awesome and just the logo itself is awful.  If so, I apologize.)  Portland and Seattle are in a whole other level with their logo, their wordmarks, all of it.  Tip of a hat to them.

13 June 2013

A little catchup

I was uploading pictures over the weekend and it made me realize how much has been going on and how little I've been blogging!  Here's a speedy recap...
  • On Sunday I had caboose over and we had a little painting party in the backyard.  I had drained the rain barrels, scraped any paper off and wiped them down and gotten some Krylon Fusion paint (designed for use on plastic).  He went right to work and before you knew it, we were done.  The kid is good with a spray can! And I was THRILLED with the finished product.  It definitely is a great improvement from the science project look that we had previously.  They blend nicely with the brick/siding and I like the barrel bands that we accented them with.  I also added strainers (using tulle and a rubber band) over the spouts because there was a lot of sludge/detris in the bottom of the barrels.  There also was some algae on the walls of the barrel but the paint should help with some of that and if not I'll have to look for other options to fix it.
  • homebase and I took a nice drive over to explore the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.  It is a place I'd heard about and wanted to check out but I was mistaken and thought it was a bit further away.  It is really only a 20 minute or so drive, not much past Southeast Polk HS actually.  They are conserving and recreating the natural praire grassland environment and they have walking trails as well as a driving route that take you through the buffalo & elk pasture!  It was a windy day and didn't do any exploring by foot but the auto trail was great.  We saw some buffalo and I got a great picture of a deer that watched us roll by.  I also saw a bobolink, a lifer for me!  They have a well stocked gift shop as well.  Lots of great books, field guides, etc.  I brought a fun little puzzle of songbirds home for isa to try out!
  • Work has been hectic with end of the year stuff, then a two-day session on standards-based grading, then some work sessions to update our online education offerings and more pushing trying to get a big teacher tech PD learning platform off the ground.  More to come on that front when it happens.
  • minovia and I took a gorgeous Friday afternoon/evening bike ride from our house, through Ashworth
    Park, Waterworks Park and down to Confluence Brewery, just south of Grays Lake.  (One of the owners is originally from Imogene, back where I grew up!)  We sat on the patio, enjoyed some wings and a flight of samples and then got a half-growler to take home with us.  The perfect size and a cool shaped bottle that you bring back to get refilled.  They have great beers there.  I highly recommend.

10 June 2013

Children's Book Spotlight

A special issue spotlight this time!  I found several books on birds in both the the adult and children's sections that I checked out recently.  Three of the kids books were worth mentioning here.

"The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound" by Sallie Wolf. 
The journal drawings and quick sketches in this book bear such a resemble to the ones in "Keeping a Nature Journal" (a book that homebase & I both have and enjoy) that we both assumed it was the same artist & author.  When I was looking it up to write this post, I discovered it was not!  (The latter book is by Claire Walker Leslie).  Either way, it is a fun read and for some small person who enjoys sketching, nature journaling or just reading about birds and the outdoors, there is plenty to appreciate here.


"Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf" by Olivia Bouler.
Some people see something they are interested in and wonder how they can join in, get involved or make a difference.  Others just jump in and start doing something.  This 11 year old (now 16) is 100% in the second category.  After learning about the oil spill in the Gulf, she wrote to Audobon and inquired how she might best be of service.  She does fantastic watercolors of birds and decided to sell them off, raising over $200k in the process.  The pictures really blew me away in this.  Recommended.

"Backyard Birds" by Roger Tory Peterson.
This thin little field guide introduces a couple dozen common birds that people might see in or around their yards. The writing is interesting and offers more info than in his full field guides.  Not necessarily a "kids book", this one was enjoyed equally by isa and myself.  There's even the requisite checklist in the back to mark your progress!

06 June 2013

Kiva #4

I've had great success with my Kiva micro-loans so far.  All have been paid off in full and on time.  Last night I made my fourth loan, this time the funds will be heading to Rawalpindi (just outside of the capital, Islamabad), Pakistan.  There Bakhraid will use them to help her husband's welding business. The money will be used for welding & soldering rods as well as iron sheets and the loan is administered through BRAC.  Avg annual income there is ~$3000, so a loan of $200 is a good chunk of cash. 
Previous loans have gone to Ney, Raul, (both in Peru) and Charlevoix in Samoa.

"When the Beautiful Game Turns Ugly"

A powerful inside look at racism and soccer in Italy.  And really it happens throughout Europe, less so in the western areas, more prevalent in the east. 

30 May 2013

Soccer Snippets

Two videos from the world of European football. 
I watched the USA men get dismantled by Belgium but, after seeing this goal from the Germany vs Ecuador game, it definitely could have been worse.  Seriously, your centerback gets mugged on his first touch, the second pass of the game, ten seconds in, and Podolski bags it easily past the keeper.  Ouch.  That is a morale killer.

And this one is just too fun.  Robin Van Persie (formerly of Arsenal, now of Manchester Utd) putting on a little showcase of footie flair at his tournament in Rotterdam.  He's playing a little 3v3 with a couple other Dutch pros.  The ball control and precision touches are phenomenal.  There are a couple times where the little guys don't know where the ball went. 

29 May 2013

Childrens Book Spotlight

We've still been hitting up the library but I haven't really came across anything that made me stop in my tracks.  Here are one good one and one stinker to share...

"One Morning in Maine" by Robert McCloskey. 
Yes, I have a soft spot for McCloskey and all classic books.  But Isa loved it too, especially when she heard it was about a girl who loses her first tooth.  She had just done the same and loved hearing about another girl's experience with it.  I loved the illustrations of life on the coast of Maine, the drawings of trees, wildlife, water and main street business.  They are monochromatic windows into an earlier era.



"The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss. Pictures by Crockett Johnson.
The book breaks the stereotype that all "old" books are great reads.  The illustrations are mundane and uninteresting.  And to say the story is weak or thin is a vast understatement.  I wasn't a huge fan of "Harold and the Purple Crayon" either but this book really not worth your time.