Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

November Sunrise over the Coulee, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Alone on the Lake, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Cabin Dock at Sunset on Hultman Lake,  © Carol Labuzzetta
Summer Seat, ©  Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Summer Seat at the Cabin,  © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Na Pali Coast Beach on Kauai, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2013
HorseshoeBayBeach Bermuda17wm
Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Resting in Peace, Long Coulee Cemetary, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
New Amsterdam Grasslands, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Sunset on Hultman Lake, © Carol Labuzzetta
Taro Fields on Kauai, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2013
Basking Monk Seal, Kauai, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2013
Pink Sunset, Kauai, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2013

Inspired by the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene


Favorite Christmas Music

Favorite Christmas Music

This year I waited until last week to start playing my Christmas music. In years’ past, I have been known to play it as early as late summer! I am chalking this up to a busy fall.

I love Christmas music and definitely have my favorites songs and favorite CD’s. Music, whether being appreciated by listening or playing, can be food for the soul – enriching one’s sense of comfort and even gratitude for those who wrote the songs or play our favorite version.

Usually, I start my holiday listening with a Boston’s Pops or Radio City Music Hall CD that has beautiful renditions of pieces that have been popular for years –  my favorites being Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, Winter Wonderland, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and We Need a Little Christmas.


However, I am just getting around to those CD’s now – more than a week after pulling out my collection. My first Christmas music this year was A Partridge Family Christmas, in deference to the late David Cassidy and his recent passing. As a child of the 70’s – the Partridge Family, their harmonious performances, and the characters were a huge part of my early youth. The CD was a gift from a good friend, years ago, and I think of her and my youth when I listen. It makes me feel good, albeit, now a little sad.

Christmas CD2

In more recent years, the soundtrack from the movie Elf has received the most play in my house. I sing along with a lot of the songs – especially, Baby, It’s cold Outside, as sung by Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel.  There are many renditions of this tune now, but none I like better than the one from Elf. And, I must say, some – although sang by some very famous people – are utterly terrible, in my opinion.  The thing I really like about the Elf CD is the mix of songs and the history of some of the featured performers like Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Eddy Arnold. These older, standard versions are mixed with newer versions of things like The Nutcracker Suite as performed by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.


We were able to see Brian Setzer in a Holiday Concert last December and were absolutely wowed by the talent of this performer. It was definitely a feel good, sing along, toe tapping experience!  If you ever have the chance to see him and his group in concert, I would highly recommend it. Naturally, I have an entire holiday CD of his called Dig That Crazy Christmas, too.  I save it for when I am in a Rock and Roll mood.

Christmas CD4

I guess variety is the most important thing about my holiday music collection, I have everything from Mannheim Steamroller to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, encompassing everything in between. I play the music that suits my mood. And, yes, sometimes I need to turn it off.  There are also some recent renditions of holiday music that I do not care for at all. Some of these performers or groups are popular choices for other people, but I find myself cringing at what has been done to the cadence or even pitch in the songs.

Where did my appreciation of holiday music come from? It actually came from two places. One is church. I was blessed to attend a church while growing up that offered beautiful music. Our organists were affiliated with the Eastman School of Music (no, not Juilliard, but close) and holidays featured student musicians from there as well as local high schools. I had the good fortune to play my flute several times in church on Christmas Eve.  I distinctly remember playing Carol of the Bells, and O Holy Night.

The second place my love for holiday music comes from is being a band student. I was in band throughout high school. It was a both a formative and impressionable experience for me.  We had three bands, and an elective marching band,  in which I participated on piccolo. Through my band experiences, I learned to appreciate all kinds of music. Sleigh Ride is a favorite Christmas song for a reason – we played it many years I was in band, and when I hear it I think of my many happy years as a music student. And although The Nutcracker Suite is not a favorite composition, Tchaikovsky  is a favorite composer.  Familiarity with his music, Christmas or otherwise, grew out of my band experience.


Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Carpenters Christmas Album. It is probably my all time favorite as it is seamlessly blends all those traditional church hymns with more secular fun tunes like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I am a Christmas music lover. Happy Listening.

A Lesson: Give Others the Same Break You Give Yourself

A Lesson: Give Others the Same Break You Give Yourself

It’s Tuesday again! Already!  Time for a Slice of Life Post sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers Blog.   Last Thursday, I found out the my proposed study, Garden Education and The Subsequent Development of Environmental Stewardship: Indicative Memorieswas approved by the IRB, or Institutional Review Board, at the university I attend for graduate school. My mentor was pleased that I was able to get through the committee’s review process with just two small revisions!  She said it was rare!

But, after I sent the revisions I heard nothing! The faculty member working with me on the study said she had sent the copies of the revisions to the appropriate person. I had sent the digital copies. Or, so I thought. But then, again, I had sent them just before leaving on a trip to see my parents.  So, when I got home and there was still no word and the commencement date of my study passed – without commencing, I began to worry. After searching my emails, I could not come up with proof that I had sent the documents digitally!  So, after searching and searching, more and more frantically, I became disgusted and disappointed with with myself!  I must have worked on the email, and been pulled away from the computer, not having sent it and the digital copies of the revisions. All I could find was a half written email – no proof it was ever finished or sent.

So, I put my proverbial tail between my legs and wrote an email of apology to the IRB committee chair, stating what I had found and reattaching the revised digital files. In the email, I admitted that maybe I had been too busy, too distracted by my trip, and too rushed to get the job done right. In other words, I had not been wise or careful with something that was important to me. I apologized – profusely.

But then, several hours later, a strange thing happened; the IRB committee chair wrote back and stated that she did, in fact, have my email from the previous week (November 15th) with the attached revisions. It was the hard copies the committee was waiting on! I was both relieved and frustrated! First, I was relieved that I had followed through and did what was required to get my study off the ground. Secondly, I was frustrated that the hard copies, presumably delivered by my professor/advisor, were not in the hands of the appropriate people. The IRB committee chair put it in perspective for me. She said she had followed up on the missing hard copies and if they had not been received by Wednesday the 22nd, they would track them down or we could resend. She also put my mind at ease and told me that the hold up was not due to any negligence on my part. After a brief period of irritation, I realized that my mentor deserved the same benefit of the doubt that I had given myself. She had told me she would deliver the files. I am sure she did, or at least intended to, deliver them.  Perhaps – they were sitting in a pile on the committee person’s desk, perhaps – they were still on my mentor’s desk with all those good intentions left afoul, perhaps – they got stuck in inner-campus mail. This was the case! The hard copies of my files had taken from the 16th to the 20th to be delivered from one building on campus to another and land on the appropriate person’s desk. After being CC’d on the email of apology by me and the “we will track it down” email from the IRB committee chair, the last person in the loop was able to go ahead and give me the permission to start my study! Believe me, my Thanksgiving gratitude included being able to proceed with this research.

So, this past Saturday I sent out about 120 postcards to former garden club students who are now young adults – aged 18-23 years. I am looking forward to learning what memories of garden club they can share with me and if they felt the club influenced their ability or desire to be our next generation of environmental stewards.  Yes, life is busy. But, life is good.

Slice of Life Tuesday 

Giftedness: Do We Need the Label or Not?

Giftedness: Do We Need the Label or Not?

Recently, I have been bothered by some emails I received from Dr. Jo Boaler who is a Math Professor at Stanford University in California and founder of You Cubed, a math website for teachers of mathematics and the families they serve. Do not get me wrong, I do not know Jo Boaler, but from reading educational journals and having students with a propensity for mathematics, I signed up to get a newsletter from her “You Cubed” organization. Dr. Boaler has many really great ideas when it comes to mathematics education but her most recent focus seems to be on giftedness – or rather the labelling of gifted students. It is that of which I am not so sure.

Exactly three times in the last two weeks, I have received an email from Dr. Boaler and her organization touting a recent video they made about the labelling of gifted children and how it has been a disservice to them to have been labelled as such. I watched the video after receiving the first email.  You can watch it here: Rethinking Giftedness. Dr. Boaler wants people to view the video, so I feel that sharing it is the best way to allow you to know to what I am referring.

At face value, I do think the video has a point. We do put undo pressure on students. However, many other thoughts surfaced for me after I viewed the video.  These are some of my thoughts:

  • Was Dr. Boaler labelled as a child?
  • Was she labelled as gifted? Talented?
  • Did she receive special services as a child?
  • How does the U.S. system of identifying, signifying, and servicing gifted students differ from that of the UK system, from where Dr. Boaler originates?
  • What would she identify as key to her rise to being a pre-eminant mathematics professor at a highly esteemed institituion?
  • How does she think of herself? Does she have a label?

Upon further thought, I am curious to know why she is pushing for the removal of gifted labels. Personally, while I understand that labels are not always helpful or healthy, they do serve to identify students and what services they might be in need of to maximize their learning potential.  I am not sure that removal of the label of “gifted” is the answer. It might be for some – such as those featured in the video – but what of those students who feel that the label actually helped them to “get what they needed” or helped motivate them to strive for more?  I think that only one side of the story is told by the video. This is what distributed me and I am left unsure as to why it is even being addressed at all by this particular organization.  Why the push back against giftedness from such a visible, generally proactive, revolutionary thinker and mathematician such as Dr. Boaler?  It concerns me that she is advocating for the deletion of labels for the gifted population.

One of my own thoughts kept resonating with me and it is this: student labels will happen whether we want them or not.  This became apparent earlier this year when my sophomore came home and told me that he is now known as “The Art Kid” at our high school due to his extraordinary talent in hyperrealistic drawings. He did not look for this label, nor do I think he really wants the label anymore than he would want to be labelled gifted for the fact he is taking AP Calculus as a sophomore. It just happens. Students notice. They will continue to notice and label whether we think it is a good thing or not.

Time might be better spent educating teachers on how to individualize learning to fit the needs of each student, understanding the complexity of gifted individuals, and providing support for their needs rather than using name and status to undermine an entire group of students by calling for them to “just be like everyone else”.  Because, that is the key to understanding – label or not – gifted students are not the same as other groups of students – who, by the way, also have labels.


I asked a respected friend who teaches TAG students what she thought about the video by Dr. Boaler. She responded with a great insight in that rather than fighting the labels, we should be teaching TAG students (and all students, really) to be resilient and continue to work to have their needs met – label or not.  We all need to realize that lablels exist in life beyond school – again, whether we want them or not. We want all students to be true to themselves despite what they are labelled. Giftedness is not a just label, it is far more complex – it describes “who” and “how”  someone is – and maybe that is what I see missing in the video, too.

I have a great deal of respect and even admiration for Dr. Boaler who is trying to revolutionize the teaching of mathematics, but I think she is off-base here. I would like to tell her not to waste time fighting the labels, her time is better spent on the mathematics education, itself.  The video and especially, the repeated emails with instructions to view it, have left me disappointed in what I thought was a new direction of educational leadership from an esteemed professional and institution.  I expected better. I expected more. And so do the TAG students…..sometimes, their label gets them there.



A Lifetime of Collecting License Plates: A Written Sunday Post Because I Am a Little Bit Off

A Lifetime of Collecting License Plates: A Written Sunday Post Because I Am a Little Bit Off

When I went to grab my computer this morning, naturally my mind went to my blog as when I am having “normal” days, writing my blog is one of the first things I do after I get up each day.  However, today I realized that I am really off……I posted my Silent Sunday post a day early – yesterday!  Being “off” is the result of traveling, a holiday with the kids home on break, and a visiting relative. I am really not sure of the date, or I guess, given the circumstances, the day!

So, after I realized this I thought I would expound on one or two of the photographs featured in my post yesterday, Scenes from a Visit Home.  There are two photos of license plates. Most countries in the world have plates that identify vehicles in which the associated human drives.  My Dad has collected plates from across the U.S. and Canada for as long as I can remember.  Right now he estimates that he has about 1,000 different plates. This number has recently been reduced down from 2,000, which in truth, had probably been reduced from a larger number years before.


He found plates at garage sales and flea markets such the one outside Antique World in Clarence, New York. He received plates as gifts, such as some of the ones we found in Wisconsin after we moved here. Those plates were found in similar spots like the Antique Center of La Crosse or Caledonia Street Antique Market.  We also visited a large Flea Market in Oronoco, Minnesota called Gold Rush Days where we found many plates.

Many years ago, when we lived in Maryland and travelled North and South to visit family, there were many places to find used license plates along the old Rt. 15 that traversed through the area between Lewisburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Now that area has been circumvented by a highway to make traveling faster for busy commuters.

My husband remembers buying a bushel of plates somewhere in Maryland or Pennsylvania that had a whole series of Maryland plates encompassing twenty years. We bought the whole bushel. It was fun for all of us to hunt for the plates that were usually inexpensive, but have become more costly in recent years.

There are license plate collector groups that I know my Dad has joined and belonged to over the years. He found these on his own and I know he has been able to buy and/or exchange plates in these groups with other collectors. There is even a license plate collector convention!


It has been a great hobby and even better conversation piece. My Dad has recently organized the plates he has decided to keep in categories in which he displays them in the utility room of their house. He has grouped vanity plates, all 50 U.S. States, all Canadian provinces, and then some specialty plates – such as one used on a vehicle that belonged to a worker when the Panama Canal was being built. Plates have been made to commemorate Presidential Inaugurations, charitable causes, and specific events such as the Challenger disaster.

Older plates sometimes have porcelain coatings or were stamped out of leather.  I know my Dad has enjoyed this hobby and it is always fun to see a new addition to his collection. When I see license plates, whether it is out at a flea market, or even a specialty plate on a new vehicle, I always think of my Dad.

Silent Sunday: Scenes From a Visit Home

Silent Sunday: Scenes From a Visit Home

Great Grandma’s Violet Still Around
A Fascination with Ramshackle Barns
Not Home Anymore
old licenseplates
Special License Plates – Panama Canal Plate is Cool!
Only Part of a Collection
Cabbages are grown here.
Christmas Cactus in Bloom —- Thanksgiving Cactus, I mean.  A lesson on photoperiod.
Some Kind of Foodie

Some Kind of Foodie

Food is on the minds of a lot of people this week. In two days it will be our Thanksgiving holiday, which means many will have a table full of food on which to overeat while visiting relatives and trying to stay away from volatile topics, such as politics.

Upon arriving home from Western New York, my immediate family wanted to know about the food I ate while I was visiting the Rochester/Buffalo area. Western New York has a lot of great food and ethnic choices.  While I did not get to Duff’s for Buffalo Chicken Wings (our family considers these the best), or to Ted’s for a Char-Broiled Sahlen’s Hot Dog, I was able to have a Beef on Weck Sandwich. Beef on Weck consists of thinly sliced roast beef served on a Kummelweck Roll – a hard roll with caraway seeds and course salt sprinkled on the top.  The taste is incredibly delicious! I like mine with a good dollop of horseradish, which sadly, I missed this time.  Fortunately, I was also able to have some good Greek food at a restaurant that was new to me, but seemed popular in the area outside Buffalo in which I stayed.  I selected a favorite: Chicken Souvlaki Salad. Wow! I really should have taken a photograph! My plate was mounded with all the good stuff that makes this dish appealing – salty feta cheese, marinated chicken breast, fresh lettuce, kalamata olives, red onions, and of course, a slice of pita bread on the side.

For me, none of the food mentioned above ever tastes better than when eaten in Western New York. My family has tried to find Buffalo Wings, a great hot dog, and recreate Beef on Weck to no avail while living in the mid-west. An adequate chicken souvlaki is the closest we have come to having Western New York food in West-Central Wisconsin.

I suppose I am some kind of foodie. I enjoy watching the Food Network shows on cable and can cook up some decent dishes. Now, with Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast almost upon us, I will turn to more traditional dishes that have stayed with us no matter where we have lived. This morning my gourmet potatoes will be made. My husband will make an apple pie. And, tomorrow I will make my mom’s sausage stuffing and Chinese Cabbage salad. These are all traditional dishes served on Thanksgiving in our house. But, we are stepping out of the box a little bit. We will be brining and smoking turkey breasts this year! We did a trial run a few weeks ago, and it was very delicious! Plus, when the turkey is in the smoker, I will have much more room in the oven for the stuffing, gourmet potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I also found a recipe for Cranberry Apple Chutney that I would like to try. Yesterday, I grocery shopped (avoiding today’s rush) for all the ingredients.

So, while I was a little disappointed I did not get to eat Duff Wings or Sahlen’s Hot Dogs on my recent trip to Western New York, I am full knowing the traditional meal that awaits us tomorrow. It is comforting to indulge in those things, including food, we love.

What food are you thankful for? Tell me in the comments!