Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Daily Classroom Board

School is winding down for me, finally. I really love being back in school. For the most part, I love learning and to be honest, I'd love to be a permanent student. But, that's just not realistic (or economically feasible!)

While I'm almost done for the semester, D and the kids are getting ready to head back to school. A big change this year is D is moving not only schools, but school districts. He gave up tenure, which is a very scary thing, to be at a school further from home, but one that will hopefully not give him so much stress.

That also means he has to set up his classroom in a new school for the first time in six years. He has a lot of ... stuff...

I love him and he is a great teacher, but his classroom before was a bit much. Posters...everywhere...even things hanging down from the ceiling. I found it to be scattered and well...over stimulating. Less is more!

After all my "suggestions" and pinning ideas for him he very graciously agreed to let me take over the classroom decorating.


The first thing I introduced him to was Washi Tape. And I had to reassure him that it was perfectly fine to go on the white board.

I really love how the blue just pops off the black butcher paper. I wanted to use purple, but ... well, he had to draw the line at "girly" colors...

This is the only dry erase board he has in the room. It is at the front right next to his SmartBoard.

The desks are set up in a horseshoe shape, a configuration D said he'd "try" just to humor me. I really believe he's going to like it. He can do a quick round of the students and be just a few steps from anyone needing help as he teaches from the middle.

Anything to get him out of the traditional "rows of seats" mindset. He completely nixed the "E" configuration.  At least with this, he can group the kids together a bit easier.

I'm sure I won't think this is as much fun once I have my own classroom. For now, it's great to have his to practice on!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brownie cupcakes with lavender icing

This year for the big 4-0, my wonderful Leelee decided to break out her baking skills again. Usually I have angel food cake, pretty much every year. Leelee has been trying to break me of that and this year she succeeded ... Mainly because I was too busy doing the school thing to worry about birthday cake.

I headed off to my night class on American Realist Writers and tried to stay awake. I came home to find a complete cupcake flop. I'm not sure what went wrong, but it was gooey and sunken. Edible only because it was chocolate.

The next day, she tried again while I was at school working on a research paper (History of Educating Women in the United States and Projections for the Future). For some reason she didn't think to look in the freezer for butter and ended up substituting plain shortening. I was very pleased with the result! It was more cake than brownie, but just barely. Paired with a lavender icing...just a wonderful combo! So very glad I planted lavender this year.

This recipe originally called for dried lavender. I've never seen dried lavender in stores. When substituting fresh herbs for dried, you typically need to triple the amount of dried herbs. Fresh herbs are generally better, in my experience, so I tend to go with fresh even if the dried is readily available in stores.

Brownie Cupcakes with Lavender Icing
adapted from Martha Stewart
  • 3/4 C plus 2 T  flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 tsalt
  • 1/2 C plus 2 1/2 T Shortening
  • 3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 large room temperature eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract 

 Lavender Icing
  • 1/3 C milk
  •  1/2 T fresh lavender
  • 3 C powdered sugar
  • Purple gel-paste food coloring 
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. 
In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt butter and chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Beat chocolate with an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Beat in Vanilla and reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
Divide batter into muffin cups. Bake about 18 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

To make icing:
Bring milk and lavender to boil. Remove from heat and let set for about 10 minutes. Using a strainer or cheesecloth, strain the milk and throw away the lavender. Quickly whisk in the sugar until smooth, then strain again. Add the gel-paste coloring.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Painting cloth shoes

It happened.

I had a birthday and I was none too happy about it. I keep hearing that 40 is the new 30. When I was 30, it was the new 20. All I know is I don't like this getting older thing.

So, for my 40th birthday, I decided to do something very kid-like. I attended my very first Con. And I went in Cosplay!

For those not familiar with Cons or Cosplay, it's short for convention and Costume Play. Basically, I dressed up in a costume and hung out with other people in costume, played video games and pretty much nerded out.

I also had a major pity party. It was the only party I was going to get. My best friends all moved away. There was no one to throw me a big party. D was at scout camp...again. He's there every year on my birthday. My kids woke me way too early with their bickering. Needless to say, I was more than a bit cranky all day.

But, I got to wear a costume, so...you know, that tends to make things a bit more fun.

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Leelee and I got to hang out all day. I should be pretty happy that my teenager wanted to spend time with me. And in costume, no less! Definite parenting win.

Also in the parenting win column for the week: the kids' new obsession with Hitchhiker's Guide! The older kids watched the movie and now Danger Girl plans on reading the books... Once she finishes all the Harry Potter books. She's read four of the books the first three weeks of summer vacation. She is trying to rack up as many AR points as possible.

So, back to the cosplay... I dressed with items from my closet to create a sort of steampunk gothic lolita look. Steampunk plus gothic plus japanese lolita. Pretty darn fun!

The only think I didn't really have were the shoes.  Lolita shoes can be very cutesy or completely over the top. A basic lolita shoe is a blinged up ballet flat or Mary Jane. So that's where I decided to start... With a grubby old pair of ballet flats.

Next, I turned to my trusty stash of chalky paint...I typically mixed 1 C paint with some plaster of Paris and water... Except this time I added a bit more water.  It was definitely a more soupy texture...I'd say condensed tomato soup after adding the water rather than a tomato bisque, being more creamy.

Two coats of paint later...

I was really expecting the shoes to be stiff, but they weren't. The paint hasn't cracked at all.

I'm definitely filing this tip away for trying on other shoes. It definitely gives new life to an old pair of shoes. I'm anxious to try adding a second color or design. So many possibilities!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BLT recipe round up

It's getting late in the evening, the kids are gone and I've got the munchies after a marathon homework session. I don't want just anything right now...I really want a nice juicy tomato and some salty bacon. I'll even take some lettuce. Bread is completely optional.

Basically, I'm craving BLTs.

And there's no bacon in the house. I have plenty of L & T, but it's just not the same with out the bacon. Without the bacon, well...it's just a salad.

Instead of going to the store for bacon (which would actually require putting on pants, shoes and a bra), I created a recipe round up of amazing BLT inspired dishes.

I bet you're craving bacon now, too (you're welcome)! And don't forget to follow my BACON board on Pinterest.

BLT with a Twist from Passports and Pancakes

Easy BLT Dip from Smarty Pants Mama

Vegan (yes VEGAN) BLT Salad from Cookie + Kate

No tomato, but watermelon instead from Healthy. Delicious.

Buffalo Chicken + Avocado BLT wraps from Half Baked Harvest

Spicy Chilled BLT soup from Framed Cooks

Caprese BLT Panini from Cooking for Keeps

BLT Pancakes from One Ordinary Day

Caesar BLT Salad from Big Sis Lil Sis

BLT Pasta Salad from The Cheese Pusher

BLT dip from Lemon Tree Dwelling

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

BLT Panzanella from A Family Feast

Grown Up BLT Grilled Cheese by The Corner Kitchen

BLT Pizza from How Sweet It Is

Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Sandwiches from ME!

As a bonus...how about some bacon for dessert?

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weight loss update

It's been about nine months since I started losing weight and I'm now about five months since breast reduction surgery.

The weight is still coming off slowly, which is good. I'm keeping up with diet changes and regular exercise. The university has a wellness center and I plan to spend time exercising up there before class. 

I've dropped 40 lbs. I am hoping to drop another 10 before the end of the year. That's about two pounds every month. 

And this is me now... Totally loving the sassy new hair, too!

The crazy making part is I still look in the mirror and see a fat girl. But, when I look at the before and after pictures, I'm shocked at the difference. I just don't know how to get my brain to see the new me in the mirror.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thanks-a-lot S'mores

Let's be honest, who really has Girl Scout cookies left?

I know mine were G-O-N-E within a few days of buying them from Leelee's friends. I bought an embarrassing number of cookies. The whole situation was made worse when I subbed her friends' classes and they had cookies with them...

Last week, I had a nice surprise in the office. A student brought me an end of the year gift and included the most appropriate Girl Scout Cookies: Thanks-a-Lots!

As if there's any way to make the cookies better...I decided to use these short bread and chocolate yummies in place of chocolate and graham crackers for our holiday S'mores

It was a great way to wrap up the school year with the kids at home. The older ones finished finals and began summer a few days before the younger kids. 

We needed to celebrate!

It's so hard to separate s'mores from camping. The kids begged D to set up the tents in the back yard and soon enough, we had a very nice camp out happening behind the house. It was pretty authentic, complete with screams about spiders and complaints about mosquito bites. In the last week, they've slept outside more than inside. 

I've lost any traces of optimism about actually getting on a real camping trip this summer. School has made it completely out of the question for me...unless we camp somewhere with WIFI. Honestly, that defeats the purpose of camping for me. When I camp, I want to get away from it all.

Maybe I can talk the husband in to taking the kids camping and I'll just stay home and do schoolwork...

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Picasso Lesson

Things are winding down with the school year. I'm finishing my last two weeks in the Spanish class. I'm really going to miss these kids!

The kids, for the most part are so D-O-N-E with learning vocabulary.

To change things up, we are learning, instead of about famous Hispanic artists. We looked at art from Salvador Dali to Frida Kahlo. But, we're mainly focusing on the prolific work of Pablo Picasso.

These are grade school kids, so we aren't going heavy in to his art and what it means, but we are looking at a few awesome pieces. This is also a great time to discuss naming customs in Spain. Picasso's given name is pretty long and it brought up a lot of questions from the kids as to why or if Picasso got in trouble, his mom had to yell out the ENTIRE name!

I created this grade school friendly Picasso Power Point. It includes guided questions and instructions for creating our finished art projects.

I couldn't do a lesson on artists without the kids creating their own art. The instructions are very basic.

Lesson: Learning About Piccaso
Grades: K-5
Time: 25 minutes for 5 days
Objective: Teach children about Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, introducing them to cubism and surrealist art and Spanish culture.

Day 1: Dropping in on Pablo Picasso Video
Day 2: Getting to know the World's Great Artists: Picasso and begin power point
Day 3: Finish Power Point. If time allows, continue discussion of other Hispanic Artists: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dali.
Day 4: Pencil Sketches
Day 5: Oil Pastels on Cardstock

The first day of drawing, the children create their self portraits in pencil. Just a basic sketch. The younger kids may need help. For the kindergarteners and first graders, it works best to trace their profiles. Many of the older kids preferred to work this way, as well. We started with a profile first, then completed the front view. Next, the children outlined the pencil in black. Since I only have 30 minutes with my classes, this is as far as we got on the first day of creating.

On day two, students chose five colors to work with and colored, with crayon, very carefully (you know how some kids like to rush!) their drawing on the white paper.

Day three, students used their draft on white paper as a guide to recreating their portraits with oil pastels on construction paper.

In addition to the power point, we also spent a class watching Dropping in on Picasso. It's definitely geared towards the younger set, but it was a nice way to review for the older kids and introduce Picasso to the younger ones.

The big task next, for me, is to find a way to adapt this whole lesson for the secondary set and tie it in with modernist literature. That ought to be fun ;)

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