Ms H's Blog
Just another weblog


We went to Shawnee National Forest in the Southern tip of Illinois to see the eclipse. Our intent was to park at the Garden of the Gods, but they were “closed for safety.” The guy at the entrance said to wait about an hour, so we drove down the road, found some shade, parked the car and relaxed for a while. While waiting I remembered that the forest had an alerts section on their website, so I checked it out, but nothing for our location. Then I saw the blue and white bird…Twitter! Check Twitter, duh! I wish I would have thought of that sooner. I didn’t get a whole lot more information, but they did say that they would tweet when the parking lot was open. It had been almost an hour. We saw an ambulance drive by, then a long line of cars, and decided to go for it. Drove back to the entrance, but saw the dreaded sign…Parking Lot Full. Ugh!

We drove around to check out our other options. Saw a little cemetery. It had a very small area to park and a clearing above to see the eclipse. We saved it in our phones and moved on; it was too close to the road, but still a last minute option. Found a forest road. Ended up being a dead end, sort of. There was a gate at the end to some farm or ranch. On the way out I noticed a big grassy area next to the trail. I figured that was another worst case scenario option. It was further from the main road, so it would be better than the cemetery. We continued on to a Trail head. The lot had a lot of cars, but wasn’t completely full! Sweet! So we parked and gathered our stuff for the night.

Double checked to make sure we had everything. Gathered a few items that weren’t packed yet: toothbrush, flip-flops, food, etc. Filled up our waters and were on our way! Time for some dispersed camping! Meaning what ever you bring in, you must pack out, nothing more, nothing less. It also means to leave nature as it is, don’t go hacking down a bunch of plants and trees to clear a spot for your perfect campsite. We followed the trail for a while, saw a few people set up already (although too close to the trail; I believe you are supposed to pick a spot at least 150 feet away). I think you should go off trail a little more, so that you are not as easily visible from the trail.

We finally found a good spot. Seemed like higher elevation, had some flatness to it, and no iffy trees nearby that could potentially fall on top of us. We set up the tent. Made some dinner. Then noticed all the teeny tiny ticks! Ugh! Seriously? Temps were in the 90’s. The area was pretty dry. Neither of us thought we would have to worry about ticks. So, we finished dinner, cleaned up, and got ready for the night. Luckily we had a handy tick remover tool and some extra zip lock bags! So instead of relaxing with a good book, we spent the next 3-4 hours searching and removing ticks from each other. I didn’t sleep well that night. Tossed and turned and worried til the sun came up.

Very carefully we packed ourselves up and headed back to the parking lot. It was still quite warm out, but we put our long pants on, gators, long sleeves, and doused ourselves in bug spray. When we got to the car, there were a few people up and around in the lot. One truck was packing up a big telescope. We had a little snack to eat. Repacked some things. Then headed down a Forest road trail. It was only about 9 am and had until about 2 pm for the total eclipse.

This trail was totally different than where we were the night before. The trail road had been used a lot by trucks or Jeeps. There were huge ruts in the road! At one point we found someone’s flip flops that had gotten stuck in the mud. We followed the trail for quite a ways. Dodging and Harry Potter wanding the spider webs. We finally stopped at a point that looked as though it was the highest point of the trail. As we looked further along, the trail just went down in elevation. We found some good trees and set up our hammocks. I know I fell asleep for a little while. Not sure how long we were relaxing there either, but it was nice. Super quiet and peaceful.

Around noon we headed back to the parking lot. There were more people there now. We changed clothes, dank more water, got the camera set up, and waited. There were some clouds in the sky, but scattered and small bunches. There was a group of people next to us that kept commenting on the clouds. They were pretty funny. “Oh, no! More clouds. Do you think they will pass in time?” And this was still an hour or so from the time of totality. I was actually thankful for some of the clouds. For one, it was a lot cooler! And two, so I could get the camera lined up with the sun. I didn’t have any filters for it, so I didn’t want to try and set it up with the sun blaring down.

As the time grew closer to totality, the brightness of the sun became dimmer. But it wasn’t noticeable right away. It wasn’t until there was just a sliver of sun shinning that we noticed the eerie feeling around us. As we reached the five minute countdown, nature began to change. The birds had stopped chirping. The crickets chirps became louder. The temperature dropped. The shadows on the ground were distorted (the shadow bands appeared). It was quiet. A weird, indescribable quiet. Five minutes took forever! But then it happened. The moon was totally in front of the sun. We saw the beads. The diamond ring. The corona waves. I tried to get some photos, but I seemed to have forgotten everything about the camera. I couldn’t see the buttons for any of the settings. Ugh! Whatever! We only had about two minutes of this spectacular event. I decided to just enjoy the view! It was amazing! We were in an area surrounded by trees, so we were unable to see the horizon, but still had breathtaking views. Was it worth it? Totally! Would I do it again? Maybe. There will be another eclipse in about seven years. If I get the chance to go again, I probably would, but if I didn’t get to see it again, I would be ok with that. I highly recommend that anyone who is even slightly curious or intrigued with this natural phenomenon, definitely make a trip to an area of totality. It is a truly amazing experience.


We do not produce that much garbage in a week. During the warmer months, we would collect the stinky food scraps and store them in the freezer. About once a month we would take it to the curb on garbage day. Our town is cool enough to have a bag system so we don’t have to spend $20+ each week to store a 35 gallon bin in the garage, instead we put a $3 sticker on a 30 gallon bag when we have collected enough.

A few weeks ago I came home to a big bag of horse pellets. I’ll be honest. I thought he was going to buy me a horse for my birthday. Panic mode…I don’t want a horse! I continued to wander the house and put the stuff away that I just brought in, and luckily I saw another new addition. No, not a composter…yet! I saw a new 5 gallon bucket with a lid that says “food safe” on the side of it. I knew this was the beginning.

We collected food scraps in the bucket for a couple weeks. It was very noticeable that the soon arriving composter would be a good fit for us. The freezer still had lots of room in it. Our garbage disposal was not getting the work out it was used to. And, best of all, that bucket did not smell! Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the first round bucket scraps, but I’m sure I’ll capture the beautiful image next time around.

He chose to purchase the Jora composter. It comes in a few different sizes (we have the small), it is not a complete eye sore (looks like it could be a grill on the patio), and it has two compartments so you can compost continuously. He got the idea from the Art of Unity guy’s recent post How to Compost. There is even a coupon code for 10% off when you purchase through the composting warehouse, which has a lot of good information on composting.

We either did not have enough food scraps yet or we put in too many horse pellets, because the compost was way too dry the first day. We ended up adding a lot of water. The consistency is supposed to be that of a damp sponge. Here are some photos from the first day:

As you can see from the one photo, we had too many horse pellets. The ratio was way off. It should be 1:10 pellets to waste, according to The Joracomposter troubleshooting.


I went tubing for the first time today. It was a lot of fun! B went first by himself, hung on for quite a while. Then D and I went. We went slow at first, then worked our way up to higher speeds. After, I volunteered to go with A, but she was too scared. A did not want to go with anybody. D went by himself. B went again. We all kept trying to get A to go, but we were out of luck. I went by myself. Stayed on for quite a while. If you stay in the middle its pretty easy. When you get knocked out to the sides is where it starts to get rough and bumpy. I hung on for a long time. Then, I hit one of the bumps, and I think flipped over under the tube. Not really sure what all happened. But I ended up in the water. It was a lot of fun!

Then we headed over to the sand barge. That was pretty cool. A lot of boats were parked there and people were hanging out in the water having fun. At first the water level was up to the top of my head, but we moved closer to shore and the water level was at my waist. A was scared to go in the water at first, but she got used to it. She saw a friend from school and all her fears went away. She realized that she could stand in the water and be fine. B, D, A, and I played in the water for a while, until we and others started to get hungry. Packed up the boat and headed out. Stopped at GW’s house, sort of, to get some oil for the boat, and so B could get D some shoes (he lost one in the water, somehow, while we were playing at the sand barge). Picked up S along the way to dinner where we met W. Dinner was ok. The best part was seeing the baby ducks in the water and watching S try to catch a carp with her hands. She pretty much got one!

On the ride back we saw a very pretty sunset! Good day, soreness comes tomorrow!!


I was told about this website,, a while back. I looked around. It seemed pretty cool, but I knew I didn’t have the time for it. Today, I found time! According to their website, Udemy is a global marketplace for learning and teaching online where students are mastering new skills and achieving their goals by learning from an extensive library of over 55,000 courses taught by expert instructors. Currently, they are offering courses for a low cost of $10. They have deals like this often, so if you miss it, have some patience.

I got an early start today and managed to get through 15 items (video clips, articles, assignments). Had a slight frustrating moment and needed to take a break, but I pulled myself together and continued with the course. My first few photos were pretty bad. I gained some momentum after the first assignment, not that I submitted my best work for the day, but I had the opportunity to view other students’ work. One student posted a picture of a pair of shoes. Not too impressive at first sight, but reading the description, the student took the photo in very low light with a 4 second exposure. I immediately got back behind the camera and tried some of my own low light, long exposure photos.  This was the best one…


6 second exposure, ISO 100, f-2.8


School’s out for ever! Ha, wait…maybe!? I have decided to take a leave of absence next year. Which means, come August, no back to school shopping for me! I will need to make a final decision by February if I want to go back or not. You see, teachers in my district have the option to request for a one or two year leave of absence. No pay. Small fee, but if I go back after a year, or two, then I get that shall fee back. Many teachers decide to get married, have kids, spend all their money, etc, but I saved. I need a break from the kiddos. This is the perfect opportunity! I am taking full advantage of it, too. Many of my coworkers are jealous of me. When they found out I was perfectly healthy, not planning on teaching at a different location, want tied down with little ones at home, they congratulated me. “Good for you!” and “I wish I could do that.” were very common responses. I kept my decision pretty quiet. I did not want to be treated differently. Some asked if I was going to leave at the end if the year “balls out, sticking it to them?” But that was not my intention. Yes, I had my ups and downs, but I didn’t want to leave in a negative note. I didn’t want people treating me differently or acting different around me. I only told one of my five classes. My soccer team didn’t find out until the last day of the season at awards night. You may think that is mean or rude, but I want looking for any special treatment or gifts. At the end if the year, I told all of my students to have a nice summer and just smiled when they responded “see you next year!” It’s hard to believe that it is over for a while. It still seems like any end of the year. All going on summer break. Except it was different this time. I was one of the last ones to leave the hallway. I mean, I’ve had my share of late nights at the office, but this time it was different when the lights dimmed in the hallway. It wasn’t just quiet. It was eerie quiet. I had been so happy for this day to come, but something hit me when I finally realized that I would never walk down that back hallway again with my coworker, my mentor, my friend. It was her last day, too. But she had been working far longer than I had. Happy retirement tears of joy ran down her face as we went to check out mailboxes for the last time together. That’s when it hit me. That’s when the smile went away and the tears appeared. I cried some more when I turned in my keys. And even more when I hugged her “see you later” for the last time in her classroom, because it wasn’t goodbye, I’ll see you again. Looking back for one last time as I left the parking lot, realizing that the next time I’m there, it just won’t be the same. See you later, I will never forget, thirteen years in my heart forever…

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Last day of school today! Woo hoo, let the summer begin. Too bad I’m going back tomorrow! Oh well, at least I don’t have any classes this summer! 🙂


Awesome!!! Dropbox is so easy to use. I can upload all of my files (.doc, .pdf, .exl, .ink, .jpeg, etc…) which can be viewed from anywhere – home computer, iPad, cell phone, work computer. I can even share files/folders with friends, family, coworkers. Plus, I can upload more than one file at a time!!! There are many programs out there that do not allow this, which makes them time consuming. The best part…I can’t believe how quick it is. I can take a picture with my cell phone, upload it to the Dropbox app, and by the time I log in to the Dropbox website or open the shortcut on my desktop, the picture is already there! If you would like more info, view the video from my earlier post – Dropbox.


If you would like to try it out and get 500MB of FREE space, follow this link. Enjoy!!!


 I finally finished my masters degree. It’s been a long, very stressful two years. However, I feel like I have learned a lot. I’m not sure what I can really say about what I’ve learned, but I will be able to bring that knowledge to work and share it with my coworkers and students. There were many times that I just wanted to quit, but I stuck with it until the end. For someone who never even wanted to go to college, who would have been ok with working in the grocery store deli (though looking back I can’t imagine doing that every day…I don’t know what I was thinking…), I am proud of myself. Even though I don’t feel like I am a master in Educational Technology, my prefessor seems to think differently. Technically, I still have one more class to take before graduation in December, but it will go towards a type 10 certification. So in my mind…I am done! The tough part is waiting for my final grade. It’s been 5 days, grrrr!

I took my capstone paper, entered it into Wordle, and this is what I got:


I’m not too sure about the privacy of dropbox yet, but it’s worth checking out. As with anything these days…be careful with what you share! Click here to download Dropbox after you watch the Common Craft, LLC video below.