Saturday, April 21, 2007

Photo Crazy, Busy Lady

Jason at the Flea Market, originally uploaded by sgrace.

Today we went to the flea market and I took a few pictures. I have been photo-crazy lately, taking pictures every chance and every place possible.

This has been a crazy week for me. Monday, of course, is always hectic because I have class at CSUMB and have to leave right after school. Tuesday I commuted with B for the first time and that was great but also a change in routine which is always stressful for me. I also had IEP meetings during my prep on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

On Thursday I drove to Fresno for a teacher recruitment fair. I have never been over the Pacheco Pass that I can remember, and it was an interesting journey.
Pacheco Pass

I stopped at the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area and took some pictures and checked it out for camping. The space is just so open, its amazing:

but I think it will be too hot and full of mosquitoes to be fun in the summer.

I also got some pictures of Tiki playing, and a cloudy sunset at the beach.
Tiki Blur

Check them out on my flickr page.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

UCSC Arboretum

Pink Proteaceae, originally uploaded by sgrace.

Today I continued my photo safari trend and went back up to UCSC, this time to check out the Arboretum. I lived at UCSC for two years and worked there for 10 and, believe it or not, I have never been to this amazing garden. Now I am ashamed to admit it. Even though it is early spring and some blooms have been damaged by frost, there were still a lot of unusual flowers and foliage. The garden has collections from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that take up acres, as well as smaller California Native Plant and Succulent Gardens.

I had a lot of fun walking around. I’m still figuring out my camera, but I feel like I’m getting better with practice. I saw some huge lizards that I wish I could have caught a picture of and also two bunnies and a blue jay that were too quick for me.

Moss Landing at Sunset

Moss Landing Dunes at Sunset, originally uploaded by sgrace.

Ever since I've had this new camera I've been addicted to taking pictures all over the place. It's like an excuse to go on little adventures.

Yesterday, for example, I had to go to class at CSU Monterey Bay, and instead of going straight there and back I decided to turn it into a photography trip. Whenever I'm commuting I always see places I want to stop or pictures I want to take but never have the time or courage to stop and check it out.

So I left an hour early and drove down to Cannery Row, which is in Monterey about 15 minutes South of CSUMB. I parked and walked around and took some pictures and then headed back to campus.

On the way to class I had seen fields of ripe artichokes that I really wanted to photograph. So, on the way home, I pulled over at the first chance and took some pictures right on the side of the road! I never would have done that before.

I was on a roll, then. I stopped at Moss Landing State Beach just as the sun was setting. I’ve driven by there countless times but never pulled in. Yesterday I did and I had the whole beach to myself. It was really windy, but there were lots of birds and I got some cool shots of the sunset.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Photos Galore!

statue (19), originally uploaded by sgrace.

I've just about finished putting all my photo archives (except pictures of friends and family) into public albums on It is really fun to see others' pictures and see how they compare, and see who likes the pictures that you have on display. I especially like how you can click on a photo and see what camera took the picture and what the settings were. This helps me learn to use my camera. I am especially challenged by aperture and shutter speeds -- that is a whole new thing for me.

At any rate, there are over 300 pictures with a few more to come, dating as far back as 2000. I have always wanted to have virtual photo albums and flickr is very easy to use. You can also click on any of the pictures (all rights reserved) to download for personal use.


Sunday, April 8, 2007


Friday was my 30th birthday! It was relatively painless, as many people kindly celebrated with me. I feel good about some things, like my job and my marriage. In other parts of my life, such as my weight and exercises habits, I feel like I'm not where I wanted or expected to be at 30. I think my career as a whole is a mix of the two because I really never imagined myself teaching high school English, let alone Special Education. But, I really love it and have passion for it right now so it is a fulfilling career overall.

I received many nice things from my family, friends and students. Some of my students went out of their way to throw me a little party which was very nice. They probably just wanted to have an excuse for a party but still, it made me feel good.

Yesterday we had a party and it was wonderful to have so many of my friends show up. We BBQd a lot of food -- so much in fact that all we had to eat at the party was meat and cake! There were about 15 people, and almost everyone brought something to cook. I mean, who doesn't love an excuse to grill? We cooked sausage, hot dogs, Jamacian Jerk Chicken legs, a HUGE chicken breast and a tri-tip. And there was none left.

Jason made 2 cakes. Both were banana bread baked in a bunt cake mold; one was frosted chocolate and the other vanilla. There were 2 pregnant ladies and a 4-year old and between the three of them those cakes went pretty fast! All my girlfriends were there except Liz and she wanted to come. We had a keg of some nice light beer (my request) because I wanted to be able to drink as much as I wanted and not get wasted. Everyone else stayed relatively OK. It was fun to see everyone all together, especially people who never go out to parties.

One of the things I'm really stoked on is that the many nice flowering plants I've gotten over the past few days. Last week, I bought myself a small orchid and a freesia. Then, I received an Easter Lilly, a Hyacinth, and another large orchid. I'm going to take pictures and record the care instructions in this blog so I can track and see if I can actujavascript:void(0)
Publish Postally make these beautiful blooms survive.

(update 6/29/07: I did not make the beautiful blooms survive.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Harbor Tree

harbor_tree, originally uploaded by sgrace.

I walked down the trestle and to the Seabright side of the Harbor today. I took a few pictures but didn't really get any good ones -- it was overcast and the light was not very flattering. This is the only really interesting one. I experimented more with my camera settings, but I still really only understand a fraction of what the thing can do. I want to learn how to keep the exposure open longer to play with the light at evening and night.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Book Review: Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald

Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald
Random House, 1997, 245 pages

Editor's Note: Hi there!  It's me, Sara, updating this post nearly 6 years after I wrote it.  Interestingly, this is the most popular post on my blog.  And tracking data indicates that a lot of people are searching for a summary of "Swallowing Stones".  I have a very strong suspicion that many of you are students looking for some help on a book review or summary.  You see, I was a high school teacher.  I know these things.  So feel free to use my post to better understand the book, or maybe see if you want to read it for yourself, but DO NOT PLAGIARIZE MY REVIEW.  Your teacher knows how to Google... they will find out.  Thank you :).

On his seventeenth birthday, Michael receives a Winchester rifle as a gift from his grandfather. He and his friend Joe take it out into the woods behind his house and shoot it into the air in celebration.

Across town, an innocent man who is fixing his roof is struck in the head by the bullet and dies instantly. His teenage daughter, Jenna, is witness to this tragic accident.

This is an interesting and compelling story, made more so by McDonald's narrative style. The chapters of the book alternate between the perspective of Michael and Jenna. Each has their own knowledge of the incident and as the book progresses more and more clues are exposed as the two grow closer together.

A nice feature of this book is the realistic, age-appropriate characters and relationships. Jenna and her boyfriend have trouble when Jenna suddenly begins having panic attacks whenever he's around. Michael is so wrapped up in his guilt over what he's done that he alienates his girlfriend. Joe's occasional beer at a summer party increases to a drinking problem. The secret of who fired the gun expands like a balloon with guilt and lies.

There is also an element of magic realism to the book, as both Michael and Jenna are drawn together by visions of a "ghost tree" with powerful spiritual energy.

Overall, "Swallowing Stones" is an excellent picture of how tragedy affects those who are left behind. It also gives a glimpse into the guilt that surrounds someone who has accidentally caused a tragic accident. These themes are effectively delivered through realistic teenage characters, making this a solid young adult novel.


Orca, originally uploaded by sgrace.

This collection is just a fraction of the collection of photographs taken with my older camera, an Olympus D-450 Zoom. Most of these are from our July 2004 honeymoon in San Diego.

Tue and Rousseau

Tue and Rousseau, originally uploaded by sgrace.

I caught the cats together in a rare moment. They don't usually sleep or hang out together much anymore. I love this picture because it shows their personalities. Tue is the little punk rat-catcher and Rousseau is the dorky mama's boy. Can you tell which is which?


lizard1, originally uploaded by sgrace.

This small lizard on the sidewalk caught my eye as I was about to cross the street near the Porter bus stop. Like nearly all the nature I encountered today, it seemed to be waiting to see what I would do before it scampered away down a storm drain.


fish1, originally uploaded by sgrace.

I spent a while at the koi pond at Porter, leading the fish back and forth to try and get a good shot with the noon light directly overhead. This is the best of the batch. I especially like the spots on the golden carp.

California Grey Squirrel

squirrel1, originally uploaded by sgrace.

There are both tree and ground squirrels at UCSC. This grey tree squirrel and a partner were knocking over trash cans in the deserted Theater Arts complex.


hand1, originally uploaded by sgrace.

This large wire hand was attached to a building. There was also a statue of a leg (up to the thigh) nearby, but I couldn't get a good shot of it in the bright afternoon light.


skull1, originally uploaded by sgrace.

Today I took my camera and went up to UCSC to take some pictures. I parked at Performing Arts and walked up the hill to Baskin Arts.

Welcome to Stasiland...

...the place for all things Stasi. I've decided to combine all of the other places that I've posted photographs and poems and recipes and other stuff into a blog. Yes, I'm starting a blog. I've definitely been inspired by my friends' blogs, which I check regularly to see how their lives are going.

I like to take pictures, write, cook, garden, and be creative. So this will be my electronic creative journal to share with friends, family, everybody.