Category Archives: Home & Family

Paul’s Elements Altar

My son Paul’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) senior exhibit will be 29 October – 2 November 2018 at the SJSU Herbert Sanders Art Gallery.

Please plan to see it!

Herbert Sanders, Industrial Studies #238
Department of Art & Art History
Art Building, San José State University
One Washington Square
Downtown San Jose, CA 95192
408-924-4330

For months, Paul has been creating an altar featuring the elements, out of carved ceramic, ash wood, steel, copper and bronze. His piece will demonstrate the wide range of spatial art skills he has developed.

Paul will also be selling his ceramic art again at the Peninsula School Craft Fair (920 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park, CA): 2 December 2018.

More about Paul’s work is on his portfolio website: Paul’s Element.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Making a Rock Garden

My daughter Jessica and I took a break from our professional and academic responsibilities to make her a new rock garden yesterday. When we travel, she and I interview rocks large and small which might want to come home with us. This summer, Jessica and I each brought home a selection of boulders. I used mine to extend my informal rock wall which is both decorative – and keeps the dogs from racing through my flower beds.

Jessica dedicated her new boulders to a rock garden next to the driveway and then used the decorative river rocks that we took out of where the rock garden was installed to trim her street side planting bed.  For the plantings in her rock garden, Jessica selected:

  • Lithops – also called living stones
  • Aloe – descended from a single plant I gave her in college
  • Portulacaria – also called elephant bush (both green and variegated with red stems)
  • Sedum – or stonecrop
  • Echeveria – also called hens and chicks, with pink edges

After tilling the soil below, taking out larger rocks, and digging in soil amendment,  we used pieces of slate and flat stones behind the boulders to create basins of top soil for the news plantings – and to direct moisture away from the side fence.  The stones form the bones of the garden, the aloes provide form and structure, and the smaller plants and seashells add color and contrasting shapes.  We added two potted succulents in green pots for height and variety.  Jessica will extend the garden further when she adopts new boulders during future travels.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman.

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Technical Women Inspiration Cards

My husband, John Plocher, just created a set of colorful inspirational PC cards for Technical Women, particularly TechWomen mentors and mentees. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a program which I helped to design in 2010-2011 and for which I have been a proud volunteer mentor since. John designs PC cards as a part of his model train hobby – so he regularly prints new designs for fabrication in Shenzhen, China.  These cards are 4″ x 2″ in size and have two holes in them so they can be hung as decorations. One side says Technical Woman / STEM Science Technology Engineering Math.  The other side says LEADER, with one of six quotes:

  • “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • “If it is a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper
  • “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
  • “Every girl deserves to take part in creating the technology that will change our world and change who runs it.” – Malala Yousafzai
  • “Yes, I’m a feminist, because I see all women as smart, gifted, and tough.” – Zaha Hadid
  • “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

John and I are talking about adding more colors and quotes.  Suggestions?

Here is how John made the cards – if you want to make some of your own.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Finished Shakespeare’s Henry VI

Since the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) Shakespeare Reading Group started meeting in 2012, we have read almost all of the Bard’s plays at least once.  We meet about every two months for a potluck dinner and to read a play – taking turns hosting.  Since April, we have been reading one of Shakespeare’s early hits, the three play history series on Henry VI and the Wars of the Roses.  Our group of 13 last night ranged in age from 92 to 16 years.  I am the group Mentor – sending out recommended reading and movie links in advance, assigning roles, and giving an overview on each play before we read.  The Rev. Stephenie Cooper prepares a role analysis to keep us from having too many readers being assigned roles who speak with each other. Melita Thorpe is in charge of the theater program for the parish. Some of us read from paper books and others from iPads.

The favored roles in our group are the evil characters.  Our 16-year-old reader of Richard of York (the future Richard III) enthusiastically murdered most of the other characters. John Watson-Williams, our 92-year-old reader, asked to read the role of the classic politician Warwick the Kingmaker.  I read King Edward IV whose unwise marriage to Elizabeth Woodville changes his reign.  My husband John Plocher read all of the messenger roles in his usual energetic and irreverent style.  We had a delightful evening!

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Chairs Carved by Ella Bolli Van Gilder

Thanks to my husband, John Plocher*, for reassembling and restoring one of the fumed oak chairs carved by my Great-Grandmother, Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder.  We found the chair in pieces in the attic of 2125 Broderick Street, my parents’ home in San Francisco, when we were clearing out the house for sale in 2012.  I have several other pieces carved by my Great-Grandmother – including another of her chairs. I am delighted to have one more.

Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder was a remarkable woman who early in her life worked with Jane Addams at Hull House – a settlement house for European immigrants in Chicago.  She later returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she married Walter Van Gilder.  They were both were enthusiastic craft workers (in the Arts and Crafts style) and gardeners, in addition to his founding and managing Van Gilder Glass Company.  My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, grew up in their house at 1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville.

* with help from John Gibbs – Workshop (Campbell, CA)

This is what the chair pieces looked like when we pulled them out of the attic:

Here is the chair today, after much effort by John:

1911 portrait of Ella Bolli Van Gilder:

1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville: photo taken by Eleanor Creekmore when she was 10 years old, in 1941:

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Images Copyright 1941 by Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, and 2016-2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Easter Egg Hunt 2018

Easter was on Sunday 1 April in 2017 (also John’s Birthday!) and as usual we had friends, family, and neighbors over for a potluck brunch and Easter Egg Hunt in our back garden and on WP668. The Associate Easter Bunny wrote a very difficult set of riddles for the adults to find the Gold and Silver Eggs.

Gold Egg
The clue has 3 words; each quatrain is a clue for one of them.

Birds circle in their dances, bright pinions
a-spinning as they whirl; making circles
and ovals and untracable-shapes to
describe with their sleek bodies this first clue.
The second clue is the colonial name
of an Alaskan burb, whose name now means
either a place for gathering potatoes
or snowy-owl in old Iñupiat.
Third clue: what do snakes and shells and people
and varicella-pox and cats and dogs
and lizards and chameleons and rats
and nematodes and bats do in common?
Hold up one finger, tap three on your arm:
that’s quatrain one and two. A charades charm!

Solution: The Gold Egg was in a brown paper bag behind a storage shed next to a yellow wheelbarrow.

Silver Egg
Literary references may require a search engine for non-English majors

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote |
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a
song. | queer / old balloonman whistles / far and
wee and bettyandisbel come dancing |
Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable. As
presently. As exactitude. As | [Here]
keys in hand, I’ll reach the landing and / you’re
there—the one lesson I never get right. |
It has taken / seventeen years. This trip,
these characters patterned / in black ink, curves |
having been previously hardened, tempered
or sprung. Precision Steel’s inventory |

Solution: The Silver Egg was in a brown paper bag tucked into the end of a leaf spring under the WP668 caboose.

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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson (with one from Jessica Dickinson Goodman).

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