Monthly Archives: October 2013

Scary, frightening, disturbing and horrifying & it’s not Halloween!

spokeySorry about switching my blog to ranting about something scary, but it is Halloween and this is pretty horrifying.

This week I heard 2 phrases that are so upsetting and obscene (and to think that no one is stopping to see what is happening today is frightening).  The two phrases that got to me?  ”(Elementary) school LOCKDOWN” and “(middle school) SEXTING!” As a teacher, I am totally appalled that these words have even entered into our English language. School used to be the safest place for kids, but no more!

It occurred to me that there are several phrases today that I do not know how the dictionary would come up with actual definitions and write them up. For instance, take “ROAD RAGE.” Considering that there is a word for such rude behavior is amazing to me. I witnessed a guy trying to jump through an opened window, into the passenger seat of a car in back of my car once. The driver pulled around me into traffic and left the scene before the guy could grab him.

spookn1Next phrase- “CYBER BULLYING”, just think, without technology, would this be a problem where kids could anonymously belittle someone, to the point of young kids committing suicide driven by these monsters? Where are the parents of these bullies? They should be arrested and fined for their kids behaviors.

Isn’t it bad enough that we had to come up with a color-coded scale for terrorist threats to our country? Where are their parents? Who teaches kids to hate others or to seek thrills at the expensive of others? What happened to the old  Golden Rule, do unto others as you would do unto yourself?

Hate crimes, homophobia, and why are there men picketing medical facilities like Planned Parenthood? They educate the public, teach birth control and help young girls who get themselves in trouble. There are so many kids who are orphans or abused and taken by Social Services, they  need to be adopted, why not spend efforts working on that? I see more people upset about protecting animals than children who are often abused or forgotten. Free speech? Hmmmm!

Anyway, makes me not want to buy any new dictionaries (or whatever they will come up with to define these phrases), how about you, can you make up a definition that is “acceptable” for any of the above?

FYI- I put the photos in to make this a cheerier blog! It is fun to take scary photos! That’s Michael in the “lion” suit, (a promo for my “At Seven the Musical” play). His costume is two different sized men’s T-shirts fringed at the bottom.

My Paintings: acrylic, watercolor and gouache (“gwash”, by gosh)!

Slide4I have been painting since I was six years old. That said, I am also and very fast painter and prolific as well. I spent a year just painting every day and produced some of my favorite works. Many of these still life paintings pictured were done that year.

Slide6I paint in many different styles, various mediums and different subjects. I love doing still life, florals, musical instruments and paint “en plein air” (outside while the light changes).


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I decided to go out into the part of my community where there are lots of Tudor and interesting homes with stucco or stonework, and do house portraits.  I painted the houses that caught my eye and I was intrigued with.  People would come by and ask me to come and do their property.

So I had a nice business going and the Shaker Historical Society asked me to do a show and they called it “Storybook Houses.” I have also had two shows at the Butler Institute of Art and sold 15 paintings to the LaBourner Children’s Hospital in Memphis TN. My “Scene It” show traveled to many libraries around Cleveland and I had many art shows and had my work in galleries as well.

I then created a poster for the Shaker Hts. bicentennial poster contest by lining up several of the paintings as though they were on a street. (One of the houses I did was Paul Newman’s house. I never realized it until I showed it to the woman who lived there now and she told me.) How exciting is that?

Here is the poster I created for the Shaker Centennial Contest and the new flier I am working on about my books for two book fairs I will be doing this next month. If in San Diego, go to Elijah’s Deli and see several of my plein air paintings of the area. They have been kind enough to have my work on display for a long time and I have sold paintings there. You never know where you can hang your work, so ask, that’s what I did and now I can send people to see it.Presentation1

Earth Science and observing erosion and other things

Did I mention I am taking a course online in Earth Science for Educators through I figured since I co-authored a book for kids called “What’s Under Your Feet?” for the U.S. Geological Survey, I knew the jargon and a little about a lot of earth science. Also, I have been to Arizona and Nevada, seen Red Rock, Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon, and it sounded like a fun 4 week course.   That would great if it was not in the real world, of course.Slide36

So far I have found some of the ways our assignments are uploaded to be very problematic. Being dyslexic doesn’t help and being computer literate doesn’t mean I know lots about transferring pictures from resources into the spaces provided for our homework. So I have been frustrated but figured I wanted to learn more to help kids understand their planet so I will take what I need and learn and use that.Slide31 Slide17

In the meantime, I am trying to help teachers find ways to teach children in hands-on activities which would also make kids think.


Check out my photos at the bottom of this page as they are part of a game I created. The answers are actually in the questions but the children have to think things through and compare what they are looking at to decide which goes with what photo.

I try to help people look all around and compare Earth’s wonders. Like the Grand Canyon below.

(Tip: buy a National Parks Pass as it will get you it all the parks free!)




QUESTIONS: Do you see a fault line where a builder built houses on top? (Is this a good idea?)

What so the waves do when they crash into the shore?

Does season change help erode and move stuff?

Can you see if a stream has been higher or lower at times?

What does moving water do to erode the land?

In a cliff side, can you see rounded rocks where a river used to be?


Take your own pictures and ask questions that will help kids learn to observe what’s going on around, above and below them.

Where the WILD things are!

Slide1Sometimes in life, you just have an encounter that blows your mind. Seeing animals in their natural habitats has always held a favorite place in my heart. What a surprise we had when going back to see some deer running across a field. When we returned, this is what we witnessed.

Slide2The fawns here are 4 months old (I was told by someone who knew this kind of stuff). We were just amazed that they could get down on their knees to nurse like this. Holy cow, I mean…. Oh Deer! is all I can say.

It reminded me of the another wild scene my husband and I witnessed in Denver, CO. this year. Having been on a photo safari at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, I remembered the park ranger saying that male deer and elk sniff the air to find a female who is “ready.” (And yes we did see one of these “parties” going on in the background in SD!)rockympontains1

I noticed two elk males sniffing in the Rockies and knew something was up, (or going down soon). I looked around to see if there were any little kids watching and then  2 males starting jumping up and rutting. I think it was about who would lead the pack because there was no hanky-panky elk style goin’ on! Slide2

Another thing on my bucket list was to visit Dinosaur National Park. The most amazing thing about this place is that it was an ancient riverbed loaded with fossils that was uplifted on an angle and some fabulously brilliant person decided to build a structure over it. This made it into a museum around the actual dig site. (See photo montage at the bottom of this blog below, that’s me touching a huge Hadrosaur femur!)

whalekidsAnother trip on my bucket list was going to see where the baby whales are born in Mexico. One day while at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego, I saw they were offering a 5 day motor bus trip to Baja Sud to touch the gray whales. I immediately signed up with my sister and we went. On this particular trip, there was a family (Jeremy, Carrie, Nathan and Seamus Simmons) who make a TV show entitled “Travel With Kids” and they filmed our trip. This is the family and the funniest thing was that the boys couldn’t reach the whales, so one of the guys actually dunked Nathan into the water by his ankles so he could do it! If you get CreateTv on PBS, watch for it because we are in it. We witnessed a baby whale playing with some seaweed while his mum and us were entertained. The naturalist with us said she had never seen this behavior before. I wanted to jump in and take the huge mass of it off of his eyes but he wasn’t concerned at all. But, after several other whale sightings, I got to touch one in the wild and I hyper-ventaliated afterward giggling so hard I could not breathe. (I have a video of this too but cannot figure out how to put it in the blog). Luckily my sister was in another boat so she took the photos of me with my hand on the whale. What a rush that was, especially in a boat smaller than the 14 foot, several ton whale. FYI: The whales come to the boats to scratch the barnicles off of their backs. So we get the pleasure of their company while they go under and try to rock the boat!Slide2

One more wet thing on my bucket list was to swim with the dolphins. When we went on a cruise to the Panama Canal (which was another bucket list activity as I am intrigued with locks and have been since I was a kid), my daughter and I had an opportunity to go to a special water park in Acapulco, Mexico where you could swim and even kiss the dolphins. They included a video of when the two dolphins pushed us each across the pool by our heels. Talk about breathtaking, we had to lift ourselves out of the water as high as we could or be pushed under the water to drown with the dolphins!

Penni Rubin Balloon 078One wild ride, (not wild nature) on my list was to ride in a hot air balloon. I have been very fortunate and have done this three times. This photo was taken from above as our balloon was landing next to this one. My husband and granddaughter went on the last one in Calidfornia with me and we were actually above the clouds, in heaven!

My next encounter with a live animal was so thrilling but not “au natural”. I always wanted to ride an elephant, and while at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego 2 years ago, they had a “ride” for $7.00 you could take a trip around the race track on the back of a real, wirey-haired, huge pachyderm. My daughter took the pictures of me on this fabulous ride on a decked out elephant.Slide1

And please note that is a picture in the middle of me and an orangatan kissing (it’s a theme with me I guess, kiss a monkey or a dolphin, whatever!). While at the rainforest in the Cleveland Zoo, I met Lena, this lovely lady.  I played with her with hand movements and imitated whatever she did. She played along with me for a half an hour (I had a bottle of bubbles with me and blew some for her to see!). When I left the building, the docent said that Lena kept looking for me. When I returned, she was visably mad and tried to hide. When I started walking away, she knocked on the window and this happened. OMG! Good thing my friend had a camera on me at that minute ’cause no one would believe this for a second!

The giraffe “leaf” feeding with the long blue tongue (and apples for gushy rhinos too) was at the Wild Animal Park. The parrot in the picture is from Dana Point, where a guy with his collection of several birds hangs out and let’s people play with them. The last time I was there though, the same bird bit me!

Whenever we see wild nature “up close and personal” like these experiences, I tell my granddaughter how lucky we are on this planet. So I beg you to go out and make a list and go for it yourself. I guess I am just a Wild Child at heart because these are the things I will remember and cherish (and glad I witnessed them), the rest of my life.

My WONDERlab van could be seen coming and going!

Slide1 Slide2Couldn’t let this opportunity to share one of my oldies but goodies with my new friends who blog and follow me. I picked up a used maroon van and immediately had it painted white. My husband thought I was nuts but I had a vision. (the phone number is not in service anymore though!) I called a sign painting company and found out the best way to paint a vehicle and it was fun to do this, some of my friends even helped out.myvan

I needed a van because I used to go around to schools and build elaborate environments for kids to explore their world in a hands-on place. An empty classroom was all I needed and I searched for furniture that could be used in many ways. My favorite was the volcano I built from a teacher’s desk and step stools. I had the kids climb up the lower bookshelves across the desk and down through a model of a volcano. Inside it showed how it worked.img109

I always had places under tables for the kids to crawl into, a cave or a mine shaft or underwater became fascinating places for self discovery. One I put a mirror in the back of a shark’s jaw so the kids saw themselves in it. when the kids came in, I wanted them to be transformed into a place, not another classroom. They left carrying lots of art projects and experiences they never would not have had if they had not attedned that day. I found that kids love tools and am writing a book demonstrating all the tricks I used over the years to excite primary and pre-schoolers in learning centers designed for self discovery. I also used to go around the country training teachers on how to accomplish this kind of teaching. I miss it.

I still do this kind of adventure but not on such a large-scale anymore. Most schools do not have empty rooms nor time or funds for this kind of exploration. My suitcase science is done in the classroom and I have collected fabulous stuff for kids to touch and learn about. I include art in my labs so  it has more meaning than text-book learning. To me, being dyslexic, hands-on is more effective in learning about science. I went to my granddaughters school and found they had very little science (and lots of math and things that would be on the standardize tests) in the younger grades. To me, teaching to a test does not make for future scientists.

As some of you may know, my philosophy is that we find our vocational interests early in life (around seven) so it is imperative to get our young kids involved in the sciences. Our country needs future scientists and engineers, they need to be introduced early for kids to find a passion in these fields if we are to contiue to be a first-rate nation.  Kids knowing and playing with technology today keeps them from experiencing nature and developing lifetime skills. I may be the only person anti-computer for kids under fourth grade, but I look at things in a different light. Mark my words, no kid today will graduate college not knowing how to use technologhy. But we need to curb it as well as the other screens in their lives so they can become successful adults. I fear tasteless TV, videos and cell phones are taking over their lives and we will pay for it in the future.

Value and Contrast are the keys to successful artwork

Slide7This may look like a lesson in using no color, or black and white photography, but it goes farther than that. I am just using photos that do not have a lot of color so not to confuse the issues here.

I took a special class in color theory last year and learned about how to see value and color in a different way. Understanding KEY has to do with using objects that can be charted within the values chart. You get to decide with each painting or a photograph whether you want to have something with lots of contrast using the full range of the chart from blackest to whitest, or choose just black & white with not many other values between.This is the most dramatic I feel, and is very stark.highkey

HIGH CONTRAST is exactly that, using the blackest and the whitest, not much inbetween.

When using objects that are closer in value range, you go into color KEY. If you use the lower end of the values chart (darkest values), it is called LOW key. Using more lighter whites, (the higher end) is called HIGH key. And of course you can keep it in the mid range, a softer contrast that will create another kind of mood. When painting, we try to add shadows and more contrast, but there is something to be said about pieces where the contrast doesn’t pop out at the viewer. The shadow contrast photos here are really only 2 values, but not the blackest and whitest ones. Slide3

Usually we use a range of 1-13 values, number one is the blackest. I used 7 but you can guess the ones between each of these. The objective is to create a mood by the values in your piece. These below have an atmospheric feeling because they are low in contrast and are pretty much high key.

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Look on this chart and see the differences in the range of what you can do with this knowledge. Night photography can be challenging but look what you might be able to accomplish. Photos in the darkest, (low key) make some things pop. If doing a painting, this can be effective also. Generally we like to light our paintings in natural light, but by making the sky dark, you can try to create something different from what you are used to doing. Keep the colors in the same range which will read the same color when done correctly.colorkey

So, how about trying to take some photos or do some paintings in different contrasts and keys now.

Below are some of my “pieces parts” that I love to shoot for. I also use the design element of LINE and TEXTURE a lot in my abstract-like photos. Slide6 Slide5 Slide4 Slide8

Now add the color and see what happens. Remember how the old black and white movies were so vivid? Once the color came in, the spirit of the filmed changed a little. So when doing your photographs or paintings check out the range of values and see how you too can get in the spirit and create moods (or mood swings! LOL)

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