Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Back to School: The Washing of the Shoes
Monday, August 27, 2007
The Zucchini, it loved the rain
I have used zucchini openly, without subterfuge, in chocolate zucchini cake, sliced it thin with potatoes and a little basil and grilled it (mmm), and of course, the ever popular zucchini bread.
(--adapted slightly from the Good Home Cookbook)
Mom's Melt-in-your-mouth Zucchini Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup oil
2 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
(Optional add-ins: chocolate chips, raisins, craisins (dried cranberries), walnuts: 2/3 to 1 cup each)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.
2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Combine the oil and sugar in a large bowl and beat until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the zucchini and vanilla extract. (Add optional ingredients here) Add the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans.
4. Bake for about 1 hour. Test with toothpick for doneness.
5. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely before serving.
6. Guard the kitchen carefully. The aroma will attract random teenagers and neighbors to knock on your door, remarking, "Ooh, something smells good!"
Tips and options: I've made this with egg substitute, and I've had success reducing the oil in a variety of ways. I've used 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/4 to 1/3 cup oil. I've also tried 1/2 cup oil and 1/3 cup butter or margarine (sticks), softened.
I haven't tried this recipe as muffins yet. Maybe tomorrow -- I just picked two good-sized squash today. Stumble It!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Oh, the compost, it happens.
Husband added a batch of wet grass clippings after he mowed the lawn last. This usually works great; the heat of the pile increases, speeding up the process, and the grass itself decomposes quickly. This time, though, the Week of Constant Rain hit the Midwest.
The additional moisture made the grass clump together, develop mildew, and stink.
The continuous rain made any other dry ingredients that were set aside, well, just as wet as the grass clippings.
The result: Eeew.
Today I'll add the usual kitchen waste and stir what I can to separate the clumps of green and, um, grey-green. If the sun stays out, there may be hope for a few dry stacks from the beyond-bloom daylilies and other past-their-prime perennials.
But even if I don't "fix" it, eventually, next spring some time, I'll have a pile of luscious, deep brown compost to mix with my garden soil. No complaints here. Compost, no matter what I do, will happen. Stumble It!
Friday, August 24, 2007
Ah, my dearest '98 Pontiac Transport
We've been through a lot together, you and me. We've driven the family on trips, taken vanloads of kids to movies, taken our turn in the grad school car pool, and even moved a child to college. Well, I've got to be honest. There are good and bad points in our relationship.
On the good side:
You're roomy. We can seat eight, including the driver. That's come in handy many times.
You're heated and air conditioned. They're both important in our fair state with its weird weather.
The dark green color absorbs heat in winter, but the lighter colored upholstery doesn't overheat in summer.
Mom Car you may be, but Husband has transported equipment to model train shows and Amigo's big recumbent three-wheeler fits in the back, too. You're an equal opportunity vehicle.
You've shown some real longevity, still dependable after 105,000 miles on the road.
But then again, on the other hand:
You know how Amigo asks for the Transport Weather Report, and I read the temperature printout and compass reading to him? Well, it would be nice if the temperature were accurate more often. Today you thought it was 54 degrees outside, but the real temperature was closer to 75. I'm not asking for heat index or wind chill; a simple ballpark figure would do.
What's with the radio button getting so finicky? I seem to be the only one who can turn it on or off in one try.
Oh, and the wipers and cruise control along with the high beam control all on the left turn signal bar, that's a little too much. Next model, please put a few controls elsewhere for easier handling.
But overall, my dear minivan, I must say our relationship is stable. My complaints are minimal; they're issues I can live with.
If I went to AskPatty, the car site for women, I'd give you a pretty good review.
AskPatty has recently launched CarBlabber, a place for women to write about their cars - the good, bad, and ugly - and to learn what other women think of their own cars. Or, in my case, to Blabber about the Mom Van. :) Stumble It!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Why do I own a world map that includes the USSR? The Soviet Union collapsed before I started teaching!
Where's the coffeepot in this building?
How many boxes do I need to open with my fingernails before finding my scissors?
Why are so many boxes are labeled DESK? Do I really own that many pens and paper clips?
How is it that the posters that took up four large drawers last year all fit in one drawer now? Oh, I guess I missed a box. Or two.
In which corner does my flag go?
Where's the nearest printer? And where's the color printer?
Can I fit my four computers on two tables so that I have room for books and kids in the Book Nook corner?
Can I throw away the ancient styrofoam cups stored in the cupboard?
Did my supply order come in? What do you mean, what supply order?
Where is the file of my sent emails under budget?
When can I go home?
And the rest of the story: Yes, I threw away the outdated map. The media specialist led me to the printers. I re-wrote the missing purchase order, using details from my files. We have a gem of a secretary, and she started the wheels turning as soon as I gave her the specs. Hopefully, I'll have everything soon after school starts. Stumble It!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Zucchini: the Stealth Vegetable
Monday, August 20, 2007
Damage control -- a book review
Damage Control: Women on the therapists, beauticians, and trainers who navigate their bodies is none of these, but it has moments both as light and as serious as any Spin Doctor could imagine. Editor Emma Forrest collected essays from women, both ordinary and well-known, about the specialists, the "intimate strangers" who deal with their every whim and may end up knowing their deepest secrets. It's a book that covers not the beauty industry, but women themselves: self-image, confidence, trust, and more.
Damage Control is divided into sections.
"Hair Grows (or you live and you learn)" reminded me that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; many, many women covet the hair they don't have. Got curls? Desire straight. Got straight? Pay big bucks for perms. For what purpose? These essays vary in tone from the content to the heartbroken, from the traditional beauties to those who seek to recognize and find peace with their own style.
"Fidel Castro's Filthy Nails (or On Beauty Etiquette)" has a catchy title, but its contents have more to do with nails than with dictators. The surrogate therapist role appears here; the professional who listens to the heartaches, the highs and the lows of life while fixing hair or skin or nails. Examples are sprinkled throughout showing the way some women develop lifetime relationships, friendships that rival family ties, with stylists and other beauty professionals.
"Fix Me" and "Unhand me, Fiend" continue delving beneath the surface of the massage or the facial, telling of the personal discontent that leads many women through years of body work, chiropractic, reflexology, even plastic surgery.
"Wax Poetic" deals with exactly what it implies: Waxing. Hair removal. Not just legs and underarms....Looking for details? Sorry. My mother reads this blog!
The bookcover is clever and eye-catching; my artist/photographer daughter picked it up, admired the design, and paged through the chapters. The introduction is thorough and thoughtful, setting the tone for the collection as a whole. As I read the book, I found myself approaching one or two pieces at a time, then sitting back and thinking about them. This is a book that could live on my shelf for a while, one I could pick up now and then to read on part or another, not feeling pressure to hurry or rush.
Harper-Collins Publishing sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for reading it and posting a review. I'm due for a haircut soon. I think Rachel, my stylist, would enjoy it, so I'll pass it on to her. Stumble It!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
(Colliding) Seasons Greetings
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Back to -- school supplies!
Think of the basic 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reuse: a good quality backpack will last several years, reducing your time investment and your frustration while you reuse it. We sent Amigo's Jansport backpack in for repairs last summer, free of charge. It's worth the investment. Recycle your children's art projects. When you're done displaying them on your own refrigerator, send them to Grandma's refrigerator door.
Stock up. That sounds backward, but it isn't. School supplies are cheaper right now than they will be in January when your child's science folder breaks into pieces. Buy two of everything now. You'll be glad later.
Reuse. Scissors, rulers, pencil cases, binders, and more, can last for more than one year. I used hand-me-down supplies when I went through graduate school. Honestly, I never bought a folder or binder or notebook; we had plenty in the house already. It was fun using La Petite's old pencil case from middle school, decorated with sketches and doodles of rabbits, when sitting in a serious curriculum theory class. The professor probably wondered why I kept smiling.
Read the sale ads. I stocked up on supplies for my class' Writers' Workshop last week at Target. They had composition books at 2 for $1, while the office supply store down the street still priced them at $2 apiece. Tar-jay had cute notebooks, too; I went back later with La Petite. She bought color-coordinated notebooks in several sizes for her upcoming journalism classes.
Writing this post reminds me that I have work to do. I need to browse through the reading textbook for fourth grade before I relax and do any pleasure reading. Back to work; I'll be setting up my classroom soon. Stumble It!
Friday, August 17, 2007
Another recipe: Depression Cake
Oops, sorry, you fainted. I'll start over. Are you sitting down?
I've been drinking less coffee lately. I keep finding myself with extra coffee left over, and I don't like to waste it by pouring it down the sink. I can pour small amounts into the plants on the deck, but there are limits. I don't want my petunias shaking from a caffeine high in their hanging basket.
Here's a recipe that lets me use up as much as two cups. You can replace the coffee with water, if you prefer. I think the coffee gives it a richer taste. If you don't have leftovers, make two cups of instant. Decaf, half-caf, or full strength, it doesn't matter.
(Named for a historical time period, not a state of mind)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups strong coffee
2 cups raisins or currants or chopped dates
½ cup applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
Powdered sugar for garnish (or serve with whipped topping)
Preheat oven to 350.
In large saucepan, combine granulated sugar, coffee, raisins, and applesauce. Simmer 10 minutes. In large bowl, blend remaining ingredients, except powdered sugar. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture. Pour batter into well-greased and floured 13 by 9 pan. Bake at least 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with whipped topping.
Adapted from a recipe in a California Raisin cookbook put out at least ten years ago. Stumble It!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
10 Ways to Leave your... Zucchini
10. Give them away to neighbors and friends.
9. Give them to relatives.
8. Place a few on the neighbor's front porch, then ring the doorbell and run away.
7. Grate a little into spaghetti sauce. Stew. Soup.
6. Go to the farmer's market and sneak yours onto the vendors' tables when they're not looking.
5. Grate some for the freezer. You'll love it in January.
4. Feed some to the rabbits, wild or pet.
3. Convince the neighborhood kids to use a big one as a baseball bat.
2. When someone tries to give you a zucchini, insist they take two tomatoes in trade.
1. Offer a zucchini "free with purchase" at your rummage sale.Stumble It!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
Not just a metaphor: The Juggling Act
Beyond the window behind Deb, on an entrance road that passed rather close to the building, a juggler appeared. Yes, a juggler. Big yellow shoes, baggy black clown pants, bowling-pin style clubs spiraling through the air. Sara and I exchanged glances, then looked back at Deb and tried to concentrate. The juggler walked on, and a parade of dog-walkers following him. This group of people -- it had to be at least 75 to 100, just counting the two-legged folk -- strode along as though they were marching for a cause (which was probably the case!). By this time, Sara and I could no longer look at each other. The longer the line went on, the closer we came to laughing. When the dogs and their humans were fading away, a helicopter landed on the campus lawn.
Yes, a helicopter.
Deb had no idea.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning of this one is the setting, with Deb telling her story. The middle? The ongoing parade outside the school. The end would have to be the part where we told her what was going on during her presentation. Sara and I held onto our sanity and our drama skills to at least feign focus until Deb was done. Then, during our break, we told her the whole story. I was wiping tears from my eyes, and so was Deb. Truth is stranger than fiction, and this was one of the strangest things to happen to us during grad school.
Yes, we are still friends. Deb's a fabulous teacher and a great juggler herself, a mother of three and teacher in a low-income school in our fair district. Her sense of humor took her through this whole cycle of grad classes, and served her yet again when we let her know what kind of distraction she'd been fighting and she hadn't even known it.
As the school year looms closer, and my personal juggling act gathers momentum, I always think of Deb, and the juggler who started the whole crazy parade outside the window. This story has smile value, and that's enough for me. Stumble It!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Funday Sunday on -- Saturday night?
What to watch?
The answer, sports fans, is obvious.
Score update!! Both Brewers and Packers won Saturday night. doesn't Damian Miller look cute in his Cheesehead?
Friday, August 10, 2007
A Family that Plays Together, Stays Together
You could play baseball or backyard croquet.
You might go biking. Every nice day.
But what if it rains? And what if it snows?
Turn on TV, sit around, blow your nose.
When the sun doesn't shine,
And it's too wet to play.
You might sit in the house, on that cold, cold, wet day.
You might talk to each other. Or dance 'round the room.
Or play the piano and sing a good tune.
And if all that low-tech can't give you a smile,
There's always the Wii, and its Boogie for style.
This post is brought to you in conjunction with Parent Bloggers Network & EA's Wii-Boogie, a family gaming experience. Shake it. Sing it. Create it. Stumble It!
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
School Supplies and More
To get ready for school:
Read through new Reading curriculum.
Sign up for training in new social studies curriculum kits.
Read through new science units.
Buy workshop materials for Reading and Writing workshops.
Read new math curriculum.
Find articles on CGI math.
Read new Writers Workshop materials.
Prepare new classroom. (Oh, my, this is going to take DAYS)
Get a key to the new room.
Organize teacher manuals.
Organize book nook - reading corner.
Maintain sanity by doing as much of this as possible either outside or with classroom windows wide open and coffee (hot or iced) on desk. Stumble It!
Monday, August 06, 2007
More Random Thoughts
First things first:
HERE ARE THE RULES… We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.- Players start with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.- People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blogs about their eight things and post these rules.- At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people who get tagged and list their names- Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they are tagged.
1. We have pet rabbits because I am allergic to cats and dogs and because my daughter loves rabbits.
2. My house is a cluttered mess right now because we are preparing for a rummage sale. A little clutter is okay, but we're way past that level now. It's outrageous.
3. My popcorn addiction is almost as strong as my coffee addiction. Almost.
4. I'm a bit frustrated with my weight. It keeps going up, and I keep developing health issues (back, foot, wrist) that prevent me from working out or doing my favorite exercise, walking.
5. I didn't go to BlogHer. Maybe next year.
6. Our house is old, built in 1890. I'm eternally grateful that Husband knows how and is willing to handle most minor repairs and even some of the major work.
7. I'm beginning to turn my thoughts toward autumn and the start of school. I will start reading the new curriculum manuals as soon as the laundry is done. You'll just have to use your imagination to estimate just exactly when I'll get to reviewing the curriculum for my new grade level.
8. I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I have read all of the books, and I'm now joining my son (age 15) in reading the last one together. The movies are good, but they don't stack up to the books.
9. I prefer healthy cereal for breakfast, with fresh fruit on top if I can get it. My husband calls it "Nuts and Twigs."
10. I love freebies and super bargains, and my favorite place to find them is the lovely Mir's Wantnot.net.
I tag -- oh, so many people have done this one already!! Leave a comment if you haven't been tagged yet and would like to participate. The more the merrier! Stumble It!
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Overlapping Seasons make for a fun weekend
But today, we'll exchange our green and gold for Brewers Blue, and (hopefully) watch them keep their spot at the top of the National League. I rarely buy overpriced game-day souvenirs, but if something turns up that would be perfect over the fireplace, it might just come home with us. I have enough souvenir cups, but if it's really hot, I'll get another. We have great seats this time. Who knows -- maybe we'll come home with a ball!
Win or lose, let's hear it for those sausage races!
Update: The True Blue Brew Crew started out with a bang and ended with a fizzle. The Phillies came from behind to tie in the 9th, and moved ahead in the 11th. The Brewer Dudes never caught up. Well, the Chorizo won the sausage race at the seventh, and the choir that performed the national anthem sang so well they gave me goosebumps. The positive outweighs the negative. Stumble It!
Saturday, August 04, 2007
It can't be August already. Turn that calendar back.
I haven't accomplished all I should have in June and July. I didn't take Amigo to the orthodontist yet, I didn't write my first novel, I didn't use the new lipreading software I bought, in fact, I haven't loaded it yet. And it's August!
That's a problem with being a teacher. In my line of work (elementary classroom), we put our hearts and souls into our work from mid-August until mid-June, and then expect to pack in a year's work of leisure time in 8-10 weeks. No wonder I'm getting this feeling of failure!
But if I look away from the to-do list and focus on the Ta-Da! side, it looks better. Really.
- I packed up and moved all of my personal/professional classroom materials to another school during the last week of school in June. It filled one and a half minivans and took three large cart-trips to get it all in the building. Most of that? Boxes of books.
- I cleaned out my current room and handed in the keys. Oh, that took more out of me than I thought. Handing over the key after seven years was a toughie.
- I've taken at least one bus trip each week with Amigo. He needs to learn public transportation because he will not be able to drive, and we sure have fun riding downtown to the library or to have lunch.
- I sat with a pet rabbit as he died, and comforted the daughter who loved him so much.
- I helped Amigo pack for camp, and picked him up, sweaty and happy, a week later.
- I spent a weekend in Chicago. (No, not BlogHer, darn, but it was really fun.)
- I planted, watered, weeded the garden, and the results are showing. We're eating fresh tomatoes on every salad, and I've cooked fresh green beans in the steamer. The bunnies are getting fresh lettuce and parsley, too. Mmmm.
Okay, there's more, but I feel better now. There are many miscellaneous list items I didn't accomplish, but there are enough important pieces on my "Ta-da!" list that I can feel good about my summer. I think I can slowly start working on getting ready for school. S-l-o-w-l-y.Stumble It!
Friday, August 03, 2007
Ten signs you might be a Harry Potter fanatic
- You mutter Alohamora as you turn a key.
- Your daughter frequently asks, "So, Mom, who dies this time?" whenever you pick up the book.
- You get irritated when the family wants supper because you don't want to stop reading.
- You're nervous leaving the house without a wand. After all, there's a war on!
- You think Lumos as you flick a light switch.
- You find yourself quoting Albus Dumbledore at the strangest times. "Nitwit. Oddment. Blubber. Tweak."
- You watch the movie The Patriot and wonder when Lucius Malfoy dyed his hair black.
- You go to cash a check and wonder why no one else notices that the goblins have the day off at the bank.
- You try to find 4 Privet Drive and 12 Grimmauld Place on Mapquest.
- The waiter looks at you strangely when you order "elf-made wine".