Tuesday, August 30, 2011

tales from the schoolyard

  • School started yesterday and I am wiped out! This always happens the first week of school. I nearly fell asleep at my desk after school grading papers today. 
  • My feet hurt because of new shoes.
  • The kids got blisters from their new shoes.
  • Cute new shoes can be a rough deal ~ but oh, so cute.
  • The kids were so excited to start school. The excitement is not waning.
  • Stephanie is a pro now at this middle school gig. 7th grade. Wow!
  • Heather is in 4th grade. Like me. But not in my class. Her teacher is on maternity leave until October. Heather is not happy about that, although she does like the sub.
  • Moving back to 4th grade has been a positive experience so far.
  • They get my jokes and twisty sense of humor.
  • My class seems sweet and so far they are behaved. Good behavior will continue because it's what I expect.
  • The one child whom I was most afraid of having in my class just may turn out to be a favorite. Go figure.
  • Students from last year have the good sense to come say hi to me and tell me they miss me. 
  • There are first day pictures of the kids. So adorable. I'll post them this weekend.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

what's black & white and cute all over?

I've made a few of these pouches lately with either red or yellow ruffled flowers. Recently I was asked to make a pair and she said any color flower. So I took myself down the the store and found this cute pink and black polka dot. While I was making hers, I made an extra set.

I couldn't stop. I made a checkbook cover.

And another checkbook cover.

Then I went upstairs and made a black & white card with a little spot of color. The pink was a coincidence.

And one more card.

There's something really striking about black and white with an accent color. I may not be done with this theme.

Here's a little sneak peek at what's going on inside my classroom. Uh, it appears to be black and white. Maybe I've been thinking of my classroom all along as I crafted. Hmmm.

I'm sure you can guess what the theme is this year, right? I took some before pictures and will take loads of after pictures for you. I'm having lots of fun making a cute environment for the kids.

The pouches, checkbook covers, and cards have been listed in the shop. Do you want a pouch with a different color ruffle? Let me know.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

lettuce wraps

For several years now, the teachers in the 2nd grade have taken turns bringing lunches on Fridays. So each teacher had a turn every six weeks. It made for a happier morning every Friday knowing that I didn't have to worry about what to pack for lunch. I will miss these lunches!

Anyway, Helene would bring lettuce wraps every once in a while. We'd ask her how to make them and she'd him & haw around a little and tell us the basic ingredients. She didn't really use a recipe, so she had a hard time telling us how to make them. 

I tried them a couple of times and finally came up with a combination that suits us. We tried hamburger, ground chicken, and ground turkey. We liked the ground turkey the best. 

Be forewarned, like Helene & much to the dismay of my husband, I don't measure with this recipe. I just go with it until it seems right.

You will need:
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • mushrooms (5-10 mushrooms)
  • water chestnuts (I use about 1/2 to 2/3 of the can)
  • cilantro
  • garlic (can be fresh or jarred)
  • onion powder
  • teryaki sauce
  • soy sauce
  • potsticker sauce
  • lettuce (iceberg or romaine hearts)

Chop the vegetables. I like to chop the mushrooms quite small so they blend in well for those family members who seem to think they don't like mushrooms. I give the cilantro just a rough chop.

Spray a skillet with non-stick spray and start browning the meat along with the mushrooms.

When the meat is mostly cooked, add about 1/2 a teaspoon onion powder, the equivalent of a clove or two of garlic, and the water chestnuts. You want the water chestnuts to stay slightly crunchy, but you do want them to soak up all the flavors that are about to come to the party.

I like the pieces of meat to be pretty small. For years I wondered how to accomplish this until one day it dawned on me to use the potato masher. Brilliant! I didn't need to use it this particular time, but I use it frequently on ground beef. 

After several experimental batches of lettuce wraps, this is the sauce trifecta for me! Start by adding about 2 tablespoons teryaki sauce and one tablespoon each of the potsticker and soy sauces. Then? You'll just have to taste it and add more of what you feel it needs. I almost always add more of each one. Let the sauces hang out with the meat for a bit, you know, everyone getting to know each other.

Just a few minutes before you are ready to serve it, add the cilantro. I would have never thought to use cilantro in an Asian dish ~ it just screams Mexican food to me. But it adds a bright layer of flavor that cannot be left out.

Serve with either iceberg leaves (like that very famous restaurant) or on hearts of romaine (like Helene does). I like the romaine & Greg likes the iceberg.

You can experiment with this meal so it better suits your tastes. You can add different vegetables, like shredded carrots. Or how about a little bit of chopped peanuts. Sesame seeds? Get daring & make it your  own!

And there you have a satisfying meal that is figure friendly and health conscious. Your stomach will thank you and your hips will not betray you.

Linking to:


Monday, August 8, 2011

menu plan monday ~ august 8

I went grocery shopping today, after I spent a few hours at school in what seemed like an unairconditioned room. I was hot and hungry by the time I got to the grocery store. That may have explained how the almond M&Ms ended up in the cart. And possibly how I let Heather talk me into the onion bagels with onion & chive cream cheese that weren't on the list. Dang!

In ended up going $22 over our grocery budget today. But while I was checking out the cashier asked if I'd do her grocery shopping cuz when she spends that much she only has three bags. I'll take that as a compliment.

Part of the reason I am able to stay anywhere near the grocery budget is the fact that I do have a list and a plan. I gave in to the bagels, but when Heather asked to have Chinese chicken salad for dinner this week I was strong and told her next week because I already have a plan.

This week we're having:

  • orange crumbed baked chicken (new) with mashed potatoes & gravy
  • chicken pot pie
  • vegetable soup
  • chicken quesadillas with corn salad
  • sour cream chicken enchiladas
  • pork chops & grilled corn 

What's on your menu? I'm linking up with orgjunkie.com. Head on over to see what everyone else is cooking this week.

Tomorrow, I'll have a recipe for you.


Friday, August 5, 2011

overheard conversations

Yesterday, I was reclining on the couch reading a book. The kids and their neighbor buddy were at the kitchen table having a snack when I hear these snippets of a conversation:

  • She's always reading a book.
  • She makes reading goals...and makes them.

Clearly, Austin asked about my reading habits and the girls were happy to supply him with information.

And I managed to completely avoid a h.u.g.e. project I'm working on by starting and finishing a book in a mere 20-hour period.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

you know you're a teacher when...

You know you're a teacher when going to the teacher supply store and walking out with new bulletin board trim makes you feel a little giddy inside. 

How could this not be the start of a great year?

I've been to school twice this week ~ moving furniture and organizing my library. Moving grades and moving rooms this year means I have extra work to do. But really, there's something about that August 1st trigger that starts all the teachers thinking and itching. A little furniture shoving and bulletin board decorating is truly the only way to settle the nerves.

But I am conflicted because I'm not really ready for summer to be over. I'm enjoying the lazy days of sleeping in, hanging with the kids, dollar movies, and spontaneously visiting friends who've just had sweet babies who need a special Auntie cuddle.

Here's to just a little more summer!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

you've got to read this!

I might have a little bit of a crush on this man!

Oh, it's okay. Greg knows all about it.

Plus, it's purely educational.

His previous two books are truly motivational and so quick to read.  This one is no exception. I saw The End of Molasses Classes on Amazon a few months ago and pre-ordered it right then and there.

This has been a perfect book to read just before the beginning of a new school year and the beginning of my new-again 4th grade experience. Even though the summer has done an amazing job of refreshing and reenergizing my spirit, reading a back-to-school book helped really get me in the mood for teaching. It reminded me of why I chose teaching as a profession in the first place ~ because let's be honest, it wasn't about the prestige and the money!

Ron Clark's approach to education is grounded, yet unconventional. He may bust a move on the tops of desks and have an amazing electric blue tube slide in the middle of his school, but he demands respect and hard work from his students. And they are glad to give it to him.

Teachers ~ I challenge you to get this book now and read it before school starts! Even if you come away with only one idea you can integrate into your classroom, it will have been worth the money for the book and the time to read it. You will not be sorry. I'm pretty certain, though, that you will come away with more than one idea.

Parents ~ This is a good book for you as well. Right in the middle, Ron Clark addresses some of your concerns and ways you can help your child be more successful in school.

I'm looking forward to more *Tales from the Schoolyard* posts, are you?