Sunday, December 31, 2006

Name Brands Revisited

I posted a few weeks ago about name brands in the kitchen. As I made it through the holiday baking and cooking season, I came upon a few more that are definitely a step above their competitors.
For quick homemade salsas, soups, and pasta sauces, I prefer Muir Glen brand of tomatoes and tomato products. Unfortunately, I can't always find them around here. Cento is a good substitute. The Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes are the best ever. They are organicWhen fresh isn't possible, these are the way to go.

When making my toffee, fudge, or just a chocolate chip cookie, I prefer Ghirardelli chocolate chips. My favorite are the 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips for the rich deep chocolate flavor.

Of course, King Arthur Flour is the way to go when making high quality baked products. I haven't made bread or pizza dough recently, but when I do, I have to have my King Arthur!

That's all for now.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A couple of recipes

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas--time with loved ones, good food, and good things from Santa! Santa was good to me this year--I got a 32 inch flat screen TV. Awesome! I didn't realize how bad the picture was on my old TV until now. I also get all these HD stations that are just amazing. Now I just need to get satellite or cable so I can start watching all of my science/history/food channels again!

I came upon a hot sauce of a friend's recently, and asked him how he made it. It's surprisingly simple, and oh so easy to make. It's also super hot, but you can adjust it to your liking. It's addictive.

Hot Salsa
12 jalapenos
1 can whole tomatoes (Muir Glen Fire Roasted are best, but not necessary)
1 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder (or to taste)

Cut stems off of jalapenos and boil in water for 1 1/2-2 hours, until they are falling apart tender. Drain. Add to food processor with the other ingredients and pulse until the right consistency is achieved. Adjust salt and garlic as needed.

That's it. The hardest part is breathing when the jalapenos are boiling!
This is really good and will be the salsa I turn to from now on. I do want to try smoking the jalapenos soon--I have a huge grill and they'd be good this way to.

The other recipe is for peppermint fudge. It's addictive as well. I came across some Andes Peppermint Crunch chips a while back. They make a slightly minty pink fudge; a crushed peppermint topping gives them some crunch.

Peppermint Fudge
1/2 stick butter
6 oz. evaporated milk
1 1/2 c. sugar

Bring above to boil. Boil for exactly 7 minutes.
Stir in 10 oz. bag of peppermint chips and 1 jar of marshmallow creme. You can add about 1/8 t. peppermint extract if desired. Stir until blended. Spread onto parchment lined baking sheet. Top with crumbled peppermint candy. Let set for 2 hours; slice and serve.

**You can also use the Andes mint creme de' menthe chips for a slightly different flavor and brown fudge.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Wishing eveyone out there a wonderful, peace filled holiday.







Monday, December 18, 2006

Name Brands

I'm not one of those people impressed by name brands (Gucci, smucchi, LV, Coach, etc.). It's just a name...I especially hate the ones that have the name or initials plastered all over the prodcut (LV purses for instance). Now, I do like a good pair of Cole-Haan or Dansko shoes because they make my feet happy! But ultimately, it's not about the name brand.

The exception is food items. Yes, there is a time where brand does matter! As I was making dinner tonight (Pork Won-Ton soup over brown rice), it started thinking of the items that I really prefer a certain brand vs. whatever is cheapest. I use Better than Boullion for those times I need broth and don't have any in the freezer. It tastes better, has less sodium, and just takes up a small spot in my 'frig. I use chicken, vegetable, and beef. Another favorite brand that won't come as a surprise to 'foodies' is Penzey's spices. Yes, I have to mail oerder them but they are worth it! Actually, they are much cheaper than the stale stuff you can get in the grocery store. Some of my Penzey favorites are: Hot Chili Powder, sage, white pepper, all types of cinnamon, and their rosemary. I do have a cabinet stocked full, but those are some of the better ones.

Those are just a few of my 'name brand' favorites. I'll check back later to list some more! Right now I'm off to make a batch of regular fudge and then some peppermint fudge.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

There's nothing like real friends

...the ones that'll be there for you through thick or thin, or drive you home w/in 2 hours of meeting you because they realize you've had 3 too many gin & tonics. Friends...


And a quote:

"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it."
Jane Wagner

Friday, December 15, 2006

Disgusting

Click here to read a letter a principal in Illinois had to send home to parents.
Pure disgust.

Per my post earlier this week about kids these days...today we had a fistfight involving 3-4 5th graders. I don't know details...but heard it wasn't pretty. Even worse, a pre-kindergartener, a kindergartener (I think), and a couple of other kids were caught in the bathroom BEATING UP a non-verbal student with Down Syndrome, a sweet and unassuming 2nd-grader. I am appalled, thoroughly appalled and heartbroken.
I don't think the boy was actually physically hurt--a teacher came upon them fairly quickly, but I'm sure he is traumatized! Paddlings for those perps? Absolutely! I think if I was a parent and my child was one of the instigators, he'd be getting a paddling and then some. Seriously.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lots of cooking going on!

I feel like I've spent more time in the kitchen lately than I have in weeks!
Today was our 3rd and final Feast Day at school. My group chose to do a Taco Bar, and I signed up to do taco meat. Now, I like my taco meat dry, not saucy. I add cayenne, onions, and lots of cumin. If it's just for me, I add a can of drained/rinsed black beans to the meat. Yum.
Well, as most people like a saucier beef, I went on a quest to find a taco meat recipe. I chose this one from Cooks Illustrated. I cooked a little over 5 lbs. of meat. I also added a little extra chili powder and a lot of cumin.
As far as saucy meat goes, this was OK. It was spicy, which is how I like it, but I can do without soggy taco shells, so in the future I'll continue to make my taco meat more on the dry side!


Tomorrow is my turn to bring snacks for our pod. Fortunately, I have my TAs to help, so I'm only taking a couple things. I've made 10 lbs. of Mixed Nut Spiced Toffee the past few nights. I'm taking some with me to work. The rest has either taken to Bunko night, put in gift packages, or gone to my neighbor. Oh, and I've also eaten some. My other item for the pod is the Caramel Frosted Chocolate Chip Zucchini Sheet Cake. This is a recipe I made several times last year and then forgot about it. It is so moist, so flavorful, and actually pretty easy to do! There is a huge thread over at the CL boards on it if you want to read more. This is the type of recipe I'll keep going back to. I can't wait to breakfast to dig in!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It hits when I least expect it

I was folding laundry, my mind in a far off spot thinking about who knows what. Then it hits like a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky. I miss Dakota. With Christmas approaching, thoughts of what I am missing, what my parents missing is fresh in my mind. I realize that the Christmas holiday hasn't been the same since 2001, his last with us. We go through the motions but really, all our minds are on the emptoy spot with us and within us. I know he's not what Christmas is about and while I don't forget the real reason for the season, I also realize that the magic of Christmas is more real, more special, more fun when there are children around. Granted, he'd be 9 so not the little kid embedded in my memory, but still someone to spoil and to love and to make us laugh.

Christmases Past

1997

3 1/2 months old and oh so fragile and oh so precious.

1998
His biggest brother was the best--he loved him so much.
1 year, 3 1/2 months

1999 (I think)

With his papaw.

2 years, 3 1/2 months

2000
Ready to dig in.

3 years, 3 1/2 months

2001

Fully immersed in the Christmas spirit.

His last Christmas to physically spend with his family.

4 years, 3 1/2 months

Less than 7 months later, he was taken from us.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kids these days

"I'd be rid of 80% of my discpline problems if we we able to paddle them."
The above is a quote from a school administrator I know. It was seconded by another administrator. I know there are plenty who are against paddling, spanking, etc. because how can you teach w/ violence? However, as I see more and more kids (not my own students...they're really too young and have so many other issues) who have no respect for authority, who constantly torment their teachers and other kids...I can't help but wonder what a good old-fashioned paddling might do to stop that behavior in its tracks. After all, suspension doesn't do anything but reward the kid with a day home. In school suspension doesn't work either--what fun it is to not have to listen to the teacher all day!

I sat around and listened to my 60 year old dad and the above mentioned administrator talk about the good old days--when they were in school. They got into their share of mischief, but got the paddlings for it when they got caught. They have some dandy stories to share, like the one that resulted in my dad running outside and bawling because he got whipped so hard. But you know what? Neither of these men were scarred by this. They both have led productive lives; both served in the military (one for 20+ years). They admit that those licks were enough to send a message. They can sit back and laugh about it now, and admit that they deserved every last one of them!

What kind of messages are today's kids getting? I still see a lot of good kids out there, but there are some who you can just imagine wearing stripes in their future because they are continually allowed to be slapped on the wrist and then sent out to wreak more havoc...over and over and over...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Eve In Sarajevo

This is a video done with Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra...

TSO is one of my favorites to play come the Christmas season. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Season of Giving?

Today was the annual Santa Toy Run in my hometown. They got quite a few toys today and about $5,000 donated to go towards Santa's Workshop, a local charity. They start around 10:30, ride across town, and then set up in a parking lot where people can stop and donate. There was a pile of toys on the grassy median between the parking lot and the main street (for those of you familiar with this town--old Lightner's parking lot). So, shortly before I arrived, a red car was stopped in traffic. THey saw a back door open and thought someone was donating a present. A lady got out, grabbed a toy (a basketball) from the pile, and hopped back in and took off. Long story short, someone got a tag number, a police car was in the parking lot, they stopped the perp., someone made a correct ID, and the lady was arreested and will spend the weekend in jail. Over a $10 basketball that she probably took on a dare. Oh wait, it gets better. They found a baggie of cocaine in the car, so all 3 adult passengers were arrested. There was also a minor (what an example they were setting for this young man). Had this person needed help getting gifts for her family, these were the people she could have asked. What an expensive basketball this is turning out to be! Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Good Evening

In my last school district, I was told that once upon a time, if teachers wanted to go out for a happy hour after the end of a long week, they had to go to the next suburb over. Heaven forbid a parent or administrator see you having a margarita or a glass of wine after a long week!
I'm in a smaller town now, but don't really worry about things like that. In fact, tonight I went to a joint birthday party for a student of mine and his mom. Had a couple margaritas, shared some good food and conversation, and was duly entertained by a precocious 4 year 362 day old and his big sister. Fun times. And they wouldn't even let me pay for my own drinks!

Not much else to say from here...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

This is the first year I've had my own 'grown-up' Christmas tree. I had some small ones in college, but nothing to write home about. After I moved away from OK, I never had trees because I always left for Christmas. This year, now that I am not traveling more than 45 minutes, I decided it was time to have my own tree.
Last year, my mom and I began painting glass bulbs. I bought as many as I could find on clearance. I finished them up this year and thus had about 150 ornaments for my tree, and it was relatively cheap as ornaments go. I will take some of my favorites to attach to gifts, and then buy more bulbs at the end of the season to paint for next year. I have a handful of other ornaments that are sentimental in value, and they just sort of blend in with the others. I also got a real tree. I even got it up (about 7 ft) all by myself, though I'm sure if anyone would have been here to see they would have been laughing! That also explains why it's slightly crooked. Here's some pictures of the bulbs and then the final result.








Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot buttered rum is something that has often intrigued me. I mean, melted butter and rum sounds good, doesn't it? I've tried it over the years and I never did live up to its name. However, either my taste buds have changed or I've finally altered a recipe enough to suit my tastes.
I pulled out my 'basic recipe Bible', Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. His recipe uses water, and that just doesn't appeal to me. Using his as a very basic guide, here is how I made mine.

1 cup low-fat milk, heated
1 shot (1 1/2 oz.) rum (I used Cruzan Vanilla Rum)
1 t. real butter
1 t. sugar--I like brown but you could use white

optional:
dash of cinnamon
dash of cocoa powder

Last night, I mixed some of my chai spice hot cocoa mix in and it was pretty tasty. Tonight I just did a bit of cinnamon.

Mix heated milk with other ingredients. Stir to dissolve sugar and melt better. Serve.

It's that simple, and really very smooth. I need to be careful--I can't afford these calories every night! It's a nice drink to warm your bones, and I hope it will help me sleep tonight.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do you wear it on your head?

Or sit on it?

That is the question. One of my dear, precious, and cute kids (a 3 year old) got one of these stuck on his head today. He went to the restroom to wash his hands, and came out with the training seat on his head. It took a stiff pull and a loud 'pop' to get it off.


Monday, December 04, 2006

A recap...something to be thankful for!

Reference my post from 8/10/2006: It Does the Heart Good for the whole story.

I received word from his mom that this former student of mine sat down and ate Thanksgiving dinner with his family for the first time ever. He was able to feed himself his food while everyone took in their traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I have to admit, I got teary eyed when I read this. I still remember his mother expressing to me something to the effect that it was a dream of hers for him to sit at the table and eat dinner w/ his family.
It makes my heart dancing happy to hear of this precious student's continued progress. It definitely makes all those days I went home with baby food (sometimes mixed with dried oats) caked on my clothes. :)

I was supposed to head to Dallas this weekend and was going to visit him. However, the weather put a dent in my plans (see pics below). I'll head down there in January and a visit with him and his family will definitely be on my itinerary.

I admit, sometimes this path I've chosen has been difficult, most notably financially. of course, I can afford a car and home so in that I'm fortunate. However, I've had to scale back my way of living a couple times now. It's hard. I'd love a real vacation--I need it! Right now, it's not in the books. However, any times I miss the 'things' I used to have, I am quickly humbled by the notes I get like the one I mentioned above from my former student's mother. The knowledge of what he's now accomplishing is worth more to me than any vacation or expensive pair of shoes. :) I am fortunate.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spiced Blueberry Muffins

I made these last year (reviewed here) and have been craving them. I'm trying to stock the freezer with quick bites for those times I don't have time to cook, am out of my breakfast yogurt, or just want something different. I made banana pecan muffins a few weeks ago. So, I now have a couple different muffins stocked up. I think I will try some cranberry-citrus ones later this week.


Here is the recipe for the muffins. It's a Cooking Light recipe. I made a few modifications.

I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup of the regular flour.
I used brown sugar for half of the sugar.
I used LF cream cheese, because I am not a fan of the FF variety.
I used frozen blueberries (and maybe a few extra ones).
I used 1 t. cinnamon and also added 1/8 t. of ground cardamom.


They are still cooking, but smell wonderful!


The verdict: I can tell they are a slight bit grainier because of the whole wheat flour. Still, the blending of the juicy blueberries with the spiciness of the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom provides quite a flavor blast. This is recipe I will turn to again and again. I'm wondering how fresh chopped cranberries would work in the same recipe. THAT might be the recipe I make later this week!







Saturday, December 02, 2006

Snow


Snow. Lots of it (by Oklahoma standards). Steep driveway (when snow/ice is involved). Notice the tracks stop towards the top? Notice the ice at the bottom of the tracks? That was the 1/2 inch or so of freezing rain we got Wednesday night. As of 11:30 Saturday night, most of it is STILL there. My driveway doesn't get much sunshine.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Notice the unnatural parking position of my vehicle? Notice the mailbox nearby? I was a bit worried as I started the backwards slide. It's all good now though. I finally got the car unstuck. Then, after some driveway fun (i.e. getting a running start and driving up until the wheels started spinning) I finally got my car back into my garage. It's all good.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Commercial Debut circa 2001

Anyone from around/in Oklahoma is familiar with the BC Clark jingle. BC Clark is a jewelry store in Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City. Their jingle has been around for my lifetime plus about 20 years.

Several years ago, I was at the mall the day after Thanksgiving w/ one of my best friends, Carrie. For the record, I hate shopping on that day, but we decided to brave it. They just happened to be filming the commercial that day, so we sang it though we were cracking up through most of it (singing so isn't my thing, but after teaching a few years, I've gotten over the embarrassing part of it and don't really care how bad I sound). I never saw the commercial as I was still living in Dallas. Carrie never saw it either. However, my parents got quite a few calls that holiday season (and the next) of people asking if I did the commercial. It was quite humorous. Here I thought no one would notice.

I just saw this year's commercial and noticed the URL. Sure enough, my commercial is archived!
Here it is:
BC Clark Commercial

We are the 2nd to the last group and have a very short line "From BC Clark's". I'm surprised they haven't called me back asking me to come back for a bigger line. :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The great secret...
is not having bad manners or good manners...
but having the same manner for all human souls:
in short, behaving as if you were in
Heaven,
where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another."

George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Recipes

Following Alysha's lead at The Savory Notebook, I'm going to try and flag the recipes I would like to make from CL Magazine. So often after browsing, I end up putting the magazine down and forgetting about it until the next issue comes. This isn't a commitment to make these recipes, but if I actually think about it enough to keep track, maybe I'll try a few new recipes along the way, instead of doing my usual tried and true things.

So, on to the recipes I'd like to try. I've linked to those where recipes are available at the CL website.

Mini Bacon and Potatos Frittatas
Chocloate Peanut Butter Cake with Bittersweet Ganache
Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies
Curried Chicken Salad in Naan
Beer Braised Beef with Italian Salsa Verde

Wow, so there's not alot for me in this issue. There are a few more recipes I would try, but just aren't worth the expense or effort.

Here is a recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Taquitos from CL Nov 2006 that I made last night. I used my leftover chicken and turkey. I also used smoked gouda cheese for half of the choose, because it's at I had on hand. I added a jalapeno for some added kick. I prefer taquitos to be made w/ corn tortillas, but without heating them in oil, it's next to impossible to roll them up without breaking. So, I used flour tortillas. I had a couple of these for lunch today and my coworkers were envious. The rest are in the freezer waiting for a lunch or dinner on the run. I tripled the recipe so have plenty to last me a while. Because Joe at Culinary in the Country is a much better photographer, check out his picture if you must. He used chipotle flavored tortillas. I used plain. This is a recipe I will use again and again. I love having quick, easy appetizers in the freezer, ready to go at a moment's notice.

Mounds Cake

Here's what was left of the Mounds cake I took to school. It wasn't pretty, but I thought was pretty darn good!

Cake:
1 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup butter
3 eggs
2/3 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup water, divided

Preheat oven to 325. Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add cocoa and vanilla and mix until well-blended. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (I never sift). Add this mixture to cocoa mixture, alternating with the water. Pour into greased 9x13 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done. Mine took about 10 minutes longer to get done.

Coconut Filling:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
24 large marshmallows (I used most of a bag of mini-marshmallows)
1 14 oz. bag coconut

While the cake is baking, stir together the filling ingredients in a pan over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted. Pour over the cake while still warm.

Frosting:
1 cup white sugar
5 TB. butter
1/2 cup milk
12 oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate chips

Mix together sugar, butter, and milk in a medium saucepan. Boil mixture 1 minute, remove from heat, and stir in chocolate chips. Stir until melted and pour over cake.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Something that really pi$$es me off

I saw a graphic on a myspace comment that said "Let's get retarded this weekend" and included a picture of what I presume to be a Special Olympian running to the finish line.

I abhor the use of the word 'retarded' in everyday conversation, but to poke fun in such a careless, callous way as this graphic portrayed? To associate getting drunk, wasted, trashed, whatever--things a person has control over to being 'retarded', something children and adults don't have any choice or control over? To me that is just cold-hearted, narrow-minded, and thoughtless. It really made my blood boil.

Now to any of you reading this. Next time you go to say "Oh, that's so retarded" or some other similarly used phrase, think about what you are saying. Think about the people out there who truly are mentally retarded; what you say is offensive to them, their families, AND to those of us who know, love, and appreciate these people for who they are.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Success

Quote of the Day


"When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere."
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

My first turkey was a success! Nevermind that most of my family doesn't like turkey, won't eat it. I used Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey. It was moist and flavorful. I think next time, I'll use the same brine but have my dad smoke it and compare. I also made Grandma's Dressing (made seperately from the turkey--it's a chicken dressing that uses cornbread and fatty chicken broth that I made yesterday). I also took a cranberry salad, toffee, and fudge. We do dinner at grandma's house, so I had to load up the car and drive the 45 minutes to her house, but it worked out fine. It was much better than the 3+ hour drive I've been making the past 7 years!

Now I think I'm ready to join the Y like I've been intending on doing. :)

I had some visitors Wednesday. "My girls", students from my 2 years in Plano came to see me, with their mom of course. They have family in Oklahoma. It was great to get to see them and get some of those hugs and "I love yous".


I'll add that I spent most of that day on the couch--I've been sick and just needed a day to rest. Seeing their smiling faces was good medicine! They were scared of the dogs at first. You can see Peanut trying to get some loving too. I'm sure I'll be seeing them again soon!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Where, Oh Where...

Did my roasting rack go? Along with the other missing items (though I did find the corkscrews--all 5 or so of them I own), my Williams-Sonoman roasting rack is gone. Also missing is a cookie cooling rack. Presumably they are somewhere hiding out together.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm still cooking away here--we are doing our big family dinner on Friday. Today was dinner with friends of my parents. Good company, good food. Can't beat that!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mounds Cake

We had a potluck at work today, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to use my coworkers as guinea pigs for a new recipe. I found this recipe in Penzey's ONE magazine. It made me realize that I don't often make cakes completely from scratch. I usually do a doctored cake mix (such as Midori Cake--using the melon liquior). Anyhow, I digress.

This was made with a rich chocolate base. The batter was light and fluffy and somewhat thick.

While that is baking, you make the coconut filling of marshmallows, milk, sugar, and a bag of coconut. You cook until the marshmallows are melted. THis is poured over the warm cake.

Finally, the frosting is simply more butter, sugar, milk, and a bag of chocolate chips.

It really did taste like a Mounds! It got good reviews at school, though there was a small bit left. It calls for 9x13, but all I had was an 11x7. I would like it better in a 9x13, as it was a bit too deep for my tastes, but otherwise this recipe is a keeper.

I got a picture of the last pieces--so you can see the yummy coconut layer. I'll try and post later. I'll also be back to post the recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Holidays are coming!

A girl friend came over today and we got busy doing some holiday candy making.
Clockwise from top--
Cocoa Tassies with Peppermint Creme Filling--with a better picture at Culinary in the Dessert, Chocolate Chai Spice Snickerdoodles, Mixed Nut Spiced Toffee, and Creamy Fudge.
Mixed Nut Spiced Toffee, with recipes for both at the bottom of this entry.



I wanted to try the mint tassies to compare them to the Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies I made last year. I like the sandwich cookies better. This are good, but a little too gooey. Joe's (from the blog linked to above) looked much better. If I had a piping bag, I don't think they would have held their shape. Good and nice presentation, but not one I'll repeat.

The Chai Spice cookies are yum! I made them bigger this time--thus the irregular shape as the spread out and ran into each other on the cookie sheet. Maybe that was because they were the last thing we made and we were ready to be done!

The toffee and fudge are old standbys. It wouldn't be the holidays without them!

There was one more item I attempted to make--they are called Gold Nugget Bars. I cooked the 'cake' part for 5 minutes longer than it called for and it was looking as if it was done. Turns out it wasn't and when I went to get it out of the pan, it fell apart. I'm going to try them again this week. It involves a light yellowish bar being rolled in a powdered sugar/milk glaze, and then rolled in peanuts. You then drizzle it with melted chocolate and peanut butter chips. I also hope to make some gingerbread cookies for the freezer soon.

Until next time...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Funny

Conversation w/ a parent of a student today:

Parent: They make these vibrators that he likes; his outside therapist uses it with him.
Me: (thinking, do not look at TA or else you'll burst out laughing. Not that my mind is in the gutter or anything.)
Parent: Oh, that didn't sound so good (looks around).
Me and TAs: Burst out laughing, along with parent.
Parent: He likes it around his mouth.
Us: More laughter.
Parent: SOme of them even have smiley faces on them.
TA: Wow, that's even better!
Me: More laughter.

Thankfully, the parent was laughing with us. Not the kind of conversation you'd expect to find in front of a school. We all got a kick out of it.
You probably had to be there. :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chai Spiced Chocolate Cookies

ETA: 12/13/2008--I got 52 out of the recipe this time.

Oh my goodness, these cookies are WONDERFUL! I found the recipe on the CL Bulletin board when I was looking for a recipe for a healthy apple muffin. Go figure.

My notes: I made closer to 5 1/2 dozen out of this, so mine were a little on the small side. The sugar mixture that your roll the cookie in would be good with some cocoa and milk for a chai spice hot cocoa. My camera is at school, or else I'd share pictures.

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup butter -- softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large mixer bowl, combine sugar and spices; reserve 1/2 cup of mixture in shallow bowl. Add cocoa powder to mixer bowl; stir to blend. Add butter; beat at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at low speed until fluffy. Stir in flour and baking powder until combined.

Shape 1 tablespoon of dough into ball; roll in reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart. Bake in 350 F oven until edges are firm, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.


Source:
"Dierberg's Everybody Cooks, September 2006"
"42 cookies"

Finally...a Balanced Meal and a Bottle of Wine

Stopped by the liquor store today and got a corkscrew! I tried a new wine last week--A Cabernet from Bulgaria called Veni Vidi Vici (I Came, I Saw, I Conquered) and the Vineyard is Vini. I had several glasses at a get together and really liked it. At $8/bottle, this is a quality wine at a bargain price.

I'm finally getting back on the cooking track. Last night, I made pork potstickers from a tried and true Epicurious recipe. I deviated from the recipe a bit, but the basics are the same. I love making a batch of these (it only takes about an hour including assembly--maybe a little less) and freezing them. I pan fry them in a little bit of sesame oil until partly thawed and brown on bottom, then add chicken broth (@1/4 cup) and put the lid on. I cook them until the broth has evaporated. I then eat them over rice, or in chicken broth for a quick and easy wonton soup. Last night, I ladled chicken broth over brown rice and added 4 dumplings. Heaven!

Tonight was just a pork chop and veggies--nothing fancy, no recipe, but rib sticking good! Tomorrow will be a pork stir fry.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bits and pieces

4 big nuts and bolts

4 medium nuts and bolts

12 shelf pins

Wine opener

The above are among things I haven't found again since I moved. The first goes to my dining table. No biggie, my dad just measured and bought some more.
The 2nd are to attach my the rails to the headboard on my guest bed. I bought replacements.
The 3rd are to a shelf I have in my office. I found some that work at the local hardware store. No biggie. I'm sure they'll turn up sometime, perhaps when I move again?

Now the last. Dammit! I was ready to have a nice, relaxing bottle, oops I mean glass, of wine along with a relaxing bubble bath and a good book. Lo and behold, my opener is nowhere to be seen. Same for the little cheapo ones that you get in liquor stores. They are gone. I'm ticked. I liked that opener. I think it once belonged to an ex-boyfriend. It's irreplaceable.

So, I guess I'm going to go have a snakebite--Guinness and cider. Not the same, but it will do. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ever wonder?

What happens when you roast beef jerky over an open fire? It gets even tougher. But, if you dip it in beer periodically as you roast, it's not bad. Of course, if you've been drinking a bit as you do this, it's much better. :)

Also, what happens when you put whole pumpkins on a fire? Nothing really. They don't explode. You don't get instant roasted pumpkin seeds. But you will get cold once the fire burns out.

Just in case anyone was wondering. Ya know.
Oh, the girls were in town a couple weeks ago. We had fun. They are in Cancun now, along w/ a friend of mine from Dallas. No fair. Think about it--they are in Cancun and I'm learning what happens when you put a giant pumpkin on a fire or you roast beef jerky. Which would you rather do?

We froze our tails off at the OU/Colorado game. It was the first in 3 OU/CU games I've attended where OU won! At least I'm not the bad luck charm. :)
Getting ready for a night on the town. OK, so we went to one of my old haunts (In Cahoots, though now it is Club Rodeo) to do some country dancing. It sucked. Not the company, but the club. It's changed for the worse, or maybe I'm just getting old?


We at least had some kickin' boots to wear out. I think we had to have the best looking boots in the place. Mine is on the right. The big one. They were my early Christmas present to myself.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election Time

I hate elections. I hate having crap shoved down my throat about a person's opposition. Wouldn't it be much nicer if people running could focus on what they are going to do to make a difference, and let us inform our own opinions about the opposition without all of the mud-slinging?

To that note, I had out of state company here a few weeks ago. One did comment on an ad for the current governor, Brady Henry. She said it was a nice ad, focusing on him rather than his opponent. If only they were all that way.

Anyhow, I'm still registered to vote in TX. I missed the deadline to register here because I was working late. I intended to go in that day, but got engrossed in what I was doing and before I knew it, it was 6:00 pm. Who says teachers don't work long hours? So, I'll be watching the returns Tuesday night, but know that without voting myself, I have no right to bitch! Fortunately, I think the incumbent for governor will win and he would have had my vote.

The Evolution of . . . Me

13 years ago, I thought I wanted to grow up and work at a computer crunching numbers, with little or no people interaction. I was a math nerd. Still am in many ways. While I realized that that wasn't what I wanted to do after all, I still harbor some of those same personality traits that you'd imagine a math nerd having. I'm somewhat shy (my opinion), introverted. I'm non-confrontational to a fault. I don't have the best people skills, but that's not true across the board. I am generally good with the parents of my students. Anyhow, lately I still have times where I wonder if I got it right yet. I love working with the kids I do; while I could never have the patience to work with 'typical' children, I can be the most patient person you've ever met when working with children with exceptionalities. I still wonder if I'm the best person for the job. Is it normal to have these periods of self-doubt?

When I try and picture what I'd be doing if I weren't doing this, I definitely do not picture myself in my old world of banking/finance. That much I know. I can't picture myself in administration--again, those people skills aren't a strong point! I think more and more the answer is another degree, the initials PhD after my name, and a career as a consultant/professor. That makes sense. I just don't know if I have what it takes to get from here to there.

When I look at what got me from where I was to where I am, I'm continually amazed at the answer. Because of one child, my nephew Dakota, I realized I wanted to work with children with exceptionalities day-in day-out. One person changed the course of my life. There have been others along the way, of course, but none with the impact he had. I remember getting the phone call telling me he'd been born. I was hoping for a girl--he was my 4th nephew. I remember taking the phone call in my office of employment at OSU--9/11/97. I had a moment of disappointment when mom said it was a boy. Then she told me that he was med-flighted to OKC because of problems and my heart sank. I went to the bathroom and locked myself inside a stall and cried because this child I didn't yet know was not well. Little did I know then that it was the first of many tears I would cry over this precious child. But without him, without all those tears, would I have found my way thus far?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

School Days...and a picture

Here is our chili cook-off picture. Woohoo! 1st place won $100 and 2nd was $75. We are both donating the money back to Santa's Workshop in memory of a long time friend of dad's who recently passed away.




I just finished spending $1,500 last night. It was more difficult than I imagined it would be! I got to buy things for my classroom, courtesy of the district. My classroom is HUGE and there is a ton of stuff in there, but it's mostly a potpourri of hand me downs (so it seems). Some is not appropriate for 3-5 year olds. Some is not appropriate because it's so old and worn out! So, I'm looking forward to reaping the benefits of this little spending spree. From what I hear, the opportunity won't likely happen again in my time!

That being said, I've been thinking a lot about the discrepancy in the school district I am in vs. the one I came from. It's actually more of a state to state thing, though I was in a 'tax rich' district in Texas (Plano). I'm in an old building. I just had original pipes replaced in my room today-lots and lots of rust. Our school is about 40 years old? I don't think it's ever been updated. My former school is 26 is was updated around year 24 and feels brand new. It took me 9 weeks to get a ballast replaced (hence, part of my room was dark) at my new school. My student computers are still running on Windows 95. Granted, I did have some old Macs at my former school, but they had some great software for the level of students I teach. My room smells like funk most of the time. It's just sad. Then I think further back to my days in the banking world. We had art (photography) in our bank that had about a quarter million dollar price tag. It was beautiful to look at, but I think of what that $$ could do for a school! Wow.

OK, so it's not all that bad. We have a wonderful and active PTA who are very supportive. Our principal takes the time to listen and is a strong leader. We have some very caring, giving staff. We even have OU athletes give time out of their already busy days to come volunteer with our students. Of course, the most important reason I am there is for the kids. I'm up to 14 now. Some still try my every day. Some have families that don't hear enough positive about their kids. Some amaze me with the little glimpses they show me every now and then. And all of them now have a little piece of my heart. Poor district or not, high paying job or not, I'm right where I need to be.

Now, does anyone have a working computer they'd like to donate? Need a tax deduction? Have some old dolls that you want to get rid of? Old dress up clothes? I know where you can send them!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chili Champs!

My dad and I cooked in the 21st or 22nd Firefighters Annual Chili Cook-off this weekend. Dad was one of the founders of it. Last year was the first year he missed cooking (due to motorcycle accident). I've cooked in it since sometime in college, though missed the year I lived in FL. So, there for a bit we were placing every other year, but the past few years were in sort of a draught.
We took care of that on Saturday! We placed 1st and 2nd. I got the credit for 1st, though it was really a collaborative effort. We both stirred and tasted. He would tell me that one of our entries needed something and I would season away with my various bags/jars of Penzey's spices. The pot that won had my secret ingredient, something I just recently began adding to chili. I think it was the difference maker!

I should have a picture in the next few days. And Lula, if you're reading this, the 3rd place person was someone you went to HS with who happens to be running for County Assessor.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pretty Pretty

No time to post lately...so I'll leave some pics until I can sit down and wrap my mind around all the thoughts in there.
Here's one of my newest favorites...I may see how this one looks blown up. I only wish the leaves weren't in it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Guess Who is a Year Older???

Lula is on the downside of her 30s today. I've know her for 25 years now...wow, that's a lot of birthdays! Head on over and wish her a happy birthday.

Today is also my dad's 60th!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

You know it's going to be a long day when

you take a drink of Diet Dr. Pepper at 9 a.m. and wish it was something much stronger...

So, I got home and got something stronger. Now I'm going to go bake. I do that when I'm stressed. :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hair today....Gone tomorrow

So, I had a busy weekend in which I put over 600 miles on my car!
My mom and I left Friday morning to head to TX. Our first stop was to see 2 former students at their high school. Are these pictures precious or what? I miss those two.


Next, it was on to my hair salon in Dallas for a much awaited cut--notice the long hair in the pics above? A few hours later it was gone (11 1/2 inches!). I went to the guy who has cut my hair for the past 5 years. My mom helped. The 5 ponytails that were cut off are going to Locks of Love.






Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Halloween

So, my 3 TAs and I have been trying to figure out what to dress up as for Halloween. I've never been good w/Halloween. My creative juices just don't flow. We want to do something themed amongst the 4 of us. The three blind mice and the farmer's wife was thrown around, but that might be construed as a bit insensitive because I have a student who is blind. His mom would probably find humor in it....but I don't want to do there. Another is a jailer (me) and my inmates, but that one isn't appropriate either.
Someone suggested a Farmer in the Dell theme--I'll be the cheese! The others can choose between a mouse, cat, dog, farmer, his wife.

Any suggestions?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Beer and stuff

I am getting reeducated in the antiquated liquor/alcohol laws of Oklahoma. The beer that is sold in grocery stores is 3.2% alcohol. Have you ever tasted foamy water? Yep, that's it. If you want stronger stuff, you go to the liquor store. However, refrigerators are not allowed in liquor stores because that prevents people from going to their car and indulging. Well, I guess people could still indulge, but who wants hot beer? I found out Friday that none of the big 3 (Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Michelob) sell their higher point beer in Oklahoma. I can get the foamy water, but that's it. I was looking for Amber Bock and was SOL. Good thing I am going to Texas this weekend!

Oh Puleeeeze. I am watching a train wreck. I get 3 channels. So, The Bachelor is on and I'm really embarrassed to be of the same sex of some of these women! They are all gung-ho about meeting 'their prince' as if they are already heads over in heels in love with someone they've never met. Oh wait, it's a guy who is a Prince so of course he's wonderful. I wonder if they put some hard working, down to earth, middle class guy who drinks beer and plays co-ed softball, and is a widowed father on there if they would get the same reaction? Goodness, these women are sooooo shallow. It's a shame. Hmmmm--how would you like your occupation to be 'socialite'? What an ego...born with a silver spoon you suppose? And who needs furs in Houston? Oh wait, I guess socialites do.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A great group

This past Friday was our Jog-a-thon at my school. The students have been busy taking pledges and practicing for their big day to job. A benefit of being in a college town is that we get volunteers from the university to come help with student functions. Our liaison at the school knows many of the athletes and all it took was a simple phone call and they were there signing t-shirts and letting the students give them their 'autographs' as well. Too cute! Yeah, I know some teachers got autographs as well. I only got one picture--with a Jr. safety-Marcus W. I got autographs from a few more. All were very nice, polite young men.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

God must be laughing at me OR My perception was FAR from reality

So, when I accepted the offer of my current position back in March, I had concerns. I knew that the children with autism were primarily going to be placed at different campuses from mine and that I would get the overflow. My class is a Developmentally Delayed preschool class. Most of the kids are speech delayed. I thought my class would be made up of kids who were slow to talk, maybe a syndrome or two (Downs, Williams, Fragile X). I was worried that I would miss the challenge of working with the kids like I had previously. Get that? In other words, I was worried that my new job wouldn't present the challenges that I wanted. Oh my, how WRONG I was! My morning class is a potpourri of students and personalities. None fit into any kind of mold anywhere near another student in that class (not that I expect them to be alike). Each is 180 degrees different from the next. While I thought I would miss the challenge of working with students with autism, I didn't realize the challenges I would face with students with such different needs. I don't really know what I was thinking earlier this year--maybe I just wasn't thinking!
What brings all this up now? I was reading a report on a potential new student and just had to start laughing. Of course we'll get him-he fits right in to my morning class, which is to say he doesn't fit in at all! Bring 'em on! I'm ready for the challenge. :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Dog Blog

I took some shots of the dogs basking in the backyard on this 2nd day of fall. Harley is feeling much better and looking much better after the 15 pounds he dropped during his illness.







Check out Sweetnicks for all of the other cute dogs this week!

Flashback

I lived in Stillwater, OK for 2 years during my first round of graduate school ('96-98). It wasn't a pleasant time. School was tough--studying was my life, and I never grew to like the small town. Maybe it was because the school was OK State University, and having grown up a fan of the University of Oklahoma, it was tough to really get acclimated. Plus, I look awful in orange. Anyhow, one of my good memories from that time is Hideaway Pizza. It was across from the campus and their pizza was delish. My favorite was a Pizza of the Gods--olive oil & garlic sauce, topped with artichokes, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Of course, back then I didn't eat mushrooms, so I always subbed black olives. All this was covered in a provolone/mozzarella blend. I've dreamt about that pizza from time to time. Well, Friday I was driving around near the University of Oklahoma and what do I see? A Hideaway Pizza! So, though I was a little bit afraid of tarnishing that memory I have of that oh-so-good pizza, I could resist the urge to see if this Hideaway stood up to the original. I got my pizza to do (with the mushrooms this time) and brought it home. I stuck it in the oven to keep warm while I tended to some other things, and soon caught the smell--the garlic! Wonderful!
So, I'm happy to report that the Pizza of the Gods did live up to my memories. It was heavenly. I'll have to take some out of town friends there when they are here next month.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Soup!

So, lately I only bring my camera home on weekends--it's in a locked cabinet at school the rest of the time. However, I have gradually begun getting acquainted with my kitchen again! We're still having hot days, but the nights are getting cooler. To me, that means soup season! I've made soup 3x the past week--the tomato soup posted below (it wasn't as good as I remembered it being?), Spicy Sweet Corn and Poblano Soup (first made by Lula at a Supper Club and repeated by me many times since), and a Creamy Rosemary-Potato Soup created by me. I'll attempt a recipe below.
There's something about the crisp cool air that just screams my name. I love this time of the year, and living back in Oklahoma somehow makes me savor it more.

I have another new student coming next week, and yet another one coming soon. My students are all so DIFFERENT. Yes, of course they are, right? But more the underlying reason for their developmental delay...one is as of yet undiagnosed as to any medical condition that might explain his actions and behaviors. It's driving me crazy. I feel like I can't help him unless I know more, because what I know isn't enough. Right now we are dealing with a child who screams whenever he doesn't get his way or is put at a table for any 'teacher time' activities. He basically wants to run around like a tornado and do whatever he wants, otherwise he screams. He screams loud. We've tried ignoring-not reinforcing the behavior that gets attention. We've tried redirecting. We've been stern. We did turn off the water fountain he likes to play in. He didn't scream when he realized it doesn't work, but he did look quite perplexed. :)

On to the soup. All measurements are approximate (as anyone who has seen me cook can imagine). At first, I didn't think I was going to like it on account of too much rosemary, but when it was said and done, I was quite pleased. Nothing gourmet...but stick to your ribs good.

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
3/4 pound of white potatoes, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
5 cups vegetable broth (I used water+Better than Bouillon)
1/4 c. half and half
1 cup fat free milk
1 t. dried rosemary
S&P to taste
cheese for garnish (I used cheddar, but was tempted to use smoked Gouda)
bacon for garnish

Heat olive oil and garlic cloves. Add onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add diced potatoes and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender. Add rosemary. Use a stick blender to puree soup to desired consistency. Add half & half and milk and heat. Season to taste. Garnish with shredded cheese and bacon.

Guilty confession: I also added some of the bacon grease to the soup. It really helps the flavor.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soup Season!

Night time temperatures are going to be in the 50s soon. I'm ready for soup! Since I just cook for one, I like to make things that I can take to work or make 2 meals out of. This soup was a favorite last season and it's on the menu for this week-maybe tomorrow. I just need to make a run to get things for a salad and I am set!

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Cooking the vegetables at the high temperature of 500° caramelizes their natural sugars and deepens their flavor; the liquid poured over them ensures they won't burn. Prepare the soup up to two days ahead; reheat over medium heat before serving.


1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.
Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 120(35% from fat); FAT 4.7g (sat 3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 3.8g; CHOLESTEROL 23mg; CALCIUM 120mg; SODIUM 452mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 1.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g
Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2005

Friday, September 15, 2006

Snippets from my classroom

What a week! I got 2 new students this week. They are both in my morning class. Typically, my new students will start on their 3rd birthday, which is when they become the school district's legal responsibility per IDEA. Both of these students are about 4 1/2 which makes me sad for a couple of reasons. One is that they've missed 4+ years of early intervention services, and they really could have benefited from having help sooner. The second is that their time with me will be limited! I'll still have them for the rest of this year and next, so hopefully will be able to see much progress. One is a girl (poor thing, she's the only girl). She has no effect at all. I've yet to see her smile or laugh, which really makes me sad for her. The other is a cute red headed blue eyed boy. I almost got teary when I met him--he is too cute and unfortunately his delays are human induced. I know it happens in our world, but seeing the results of child abuse up close is heartbreaking. He is a very engaging and sweet little boy.

I had a meeting with some parents today that left us all in stitches. They were asking who K is. They thought it was a student. K is one of my TAs. Turns out there son really likes K and talks about her all the time. Funny that her name has stuck so well because the first two weeks of school he called her Leo! Anyhow, one night he was talking about her and said "Ms. B (me) changes K's diapers. K has big titties!" I don't know which is more hysterical--that he said this or that the mom felt she had to share this bit! I was giving this child an assessment recently. I asked him to draw a person for me, like his mom or dad. He proceded to draw a bunch of lines and circles. When I asked him to identify the parts he drew, he pointed to one circle and said, "That's my daddy's ass!" I had to look away and take a deep breath. He doesn't know what a chin, thumb, elbow, or knee are but he knows his daddy's ass!

I'm happy to report that Harley came home on Wednesday and so far is doing OK. He's still on meds, and has a checkup next week. I hope once he's off the meds that the same issues don't arise again because my checkbook can't handle much more! Still, Peanut and I are so glad that he's home and getting back to his normal self!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Birthday

Dakota would have been 9 today.
The more birthdays that go by, the harder is it to picture what he'd be like today.

Still missing you Dakota.

Love,
Aunt JJ

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Year Ago

Today is the anniversary of my parents' motorcycle accident. A year...Dad is still in a walking shoe, but shouldn't have to have any more surgeries. He hasn't worked since the week before the accident.

Cynthia and Clayton have had 1 new grandchild and have another on the way since they passed on. The 'gang' all went out to the cemetary this afternoon. I'm sure they toasted to Clayton and Cynthia!

Harley dog has been at the hospital since Monday. I'm hoping he gets to come home tomorrow. Friday, it looked like some tough decisions may be in the future if he didn't hurry up and respond already to his meds. Peanut and I visited him yesterday. While initially, the tech couldn't get him to budge to come to the room where Peanut and I were waiting, once he saw me he stood up and almost darted to the outside door! I got him in a room with me for a short while and just loved on him. He was quite tuckered out, so we grudgingly left. The tech was very happy to see Harley get so motivated over something! The report on the med front was good too, so hopefully he was starting to respond.

Harley is a dog who defies all logic. Really. Most of his health issues have been the sort that stump the vet. Right now, they are treating him for colitis, but pancreatitis or possibly something else as of yet unknown could be the culprit. Medically speaking, Harley is an anomaly. He always has the weirdest things happen to him.

Here he is Monday morning after spending a night in the ER. Notice he still has the port for an IV. Is that just pathetic or what?



Check out Sweetnicks for some cute and healthy (hopefully) pooches for this weekend's edition of Weekend Dog Blog.

Continuing With the Theme...Top 10 Things I Like About Living in Norman

10. The people.

9. I can afford more than a postage stamp sized lot here! My dogs can actually sprint across the yard if they want.

8. Buying local. I can get just about everything I need locally. I've even found a hometown pharmacist! No big box chain...someone who will come in on a Sunday morning for an emergency (I found this out from experience).

7. Being close to family. It's nice to be able to call mom to go shopping or dad to see if he can come help me with something. :) Mom's best friend called me to go shopping today--it's like having a 2nd mom around.

6. The University--it adds a lot to the culture of the community.

5. My job. Working with the younger kids is different, but is definitely fun and rewarding.

4. No traffic (except game days, but at least you can plan around that).

3. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to work, even though I live on the opposite of town as school.

2. I live on a quiet cul-de-sac where there isn't much traffic noise. There is undeveloped land very nearby and I can hear the locusts at night! I can also see the stars!

1. Boomer Sooner!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Top 10 Things I DON'T Miss About Texas

10. Air pollution from too many damn people

9. Texas pride

8. Too much concrete

7. Over $3,000/yr in property taxes for my cookie cutter cheapy house in the suburbs

6. It takes 25 minutes to get just about anywhere (OK, so I did live in the suburbs...which was part of the problem)

5. Cookie cutter cheapy houses. Everywhere. In neighborhoods where they cut down all the trees. Ugly.

4. Traffic. No matter the time or the day...you're going to get STUCK in it 95% of the time.

3. The Dallas "Attitude"

2. Construction. Everywhere. All the time.

1. The 6 milllion or so people in the Metroplex

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Top 10 Things I Miss About Texas

10. The cheap little Italian joint near my house. I would love one of their calzones right about now.

9. My Supper Club. While we didn't meet as often anymore, we always had a good time with good food, good laughs, and good company. So far, people treat me like a freak if they realize I am eating a home made lunch!

8. DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse). I hear one is coming in here though.

7. Sprouts. I was just getting used to having one-their produce was the cheapest and good quality to boot. And the chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels? Yum!

6. Central Market. Need I say more?

5. Night OWLS--family respite program I volunteered with. I am visiting them next month. :)

4. My students. Most of them. I will not forget them--they taught me a lot.

3. My neighbors. I had good neighbors. They were good to my dogs. And to me.

2. My friends there. You know who you are. :)

1. Children's Medical Center of Dallas--my volunteer 'job' there was the most constant part of the 7 years I spent in Dallas. I met many wonderful, professional staff there over that course of time.


On another note, think good healing thoughts towards my dog Harley. He has been in the hospital since Monday. :( He's on IV antibiotics and is also getting fluids. I visited him yesterday and it was just heartbreaking. I miss my Harley. So does Peanut.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The things they do and say...

This elementary school experience is something else. I crack up hearing what the little ones say as they get off the bus. I crack myself up when I put on my mean face and stern voice while on lunch duty for kindergarten lunch. I'm laughing inside at the student's reactions. I think I overheard a girl call me a 'meanie teacher' today. I would have reprimanded her but my hearing isn't great and there is a chance that's not what she said. Wouldn't surprise me though as she's a handful.
We had a fist fight on the playground yesterday during kindergarten recess. A girl beat up on a boy. A cute, curly headed little girl. I don't think that happened while I was in school! Thankfully, it wasn't my duty!
It cracks me up how often the kindergartners will come up to you to tell you they fell, they scratched their arm, they have wood chips in their shoes. My standard reply is, "Is there blood? No, then go play."

As for my students--they are still a ball. I saw some glimpses of progress with one student today. It's such a good feeling to see one 'getting it.' We're still getting them used to their schedules, routines, and such. There's also some 'crud' going around, though so far it's not the students. One TA and the SLP have both had some sort of virus, as have their children. Another TA has a brown recluse bite and we wonder if it happened in our classroom! Today, our students had a lot of sniffles and sneezes (and tears). Thank goodness we have a 3 day weekend!

OK, enough senseless rambling for now....just want to add that I LOVE my new job! :)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

One week down!

I survived my first week with little 3-5 year olds! It wasn't without drama, however.

My classes (a.m. and p.m.) consist of 7 boys total. They are some of the cutest kids you could ever gather together under one roof (and no, I'm not biased). They each have their own little "quirk" that makes them just down right cute.

One is quite the chubby thing. He has an infectious smile that just melts your heart. However, you must be careful because he knows how to use it to his advantage! Another keeps us in stitches with his karate kid poses. Now, this isn't what he intends to do...we haven't quite figured out what he's doing. But it did bring back memories of the karate kid. He'll just break into this pose and be real still, balancing on one leg, sometimes with a finger pointing up. You'd have to see it to get the full effect. Then there is my only 5 year old. He is interesting. He talks some, but mostly focuses on Freddy Krueger, Jason (from Friday the 13th), and various other boogeymen. Don't get me started on the lack of appropriateness for a child this age to even know about these characters...I also have a boy who doesn't like school much. His favorite word (or words) is "Nononononononono." I have my work cut out with him. He isn't yet fond of me--he's one of those that is going to take some time to get through too. He's a complex kid. I have one little boy whose smile just melts your heart. He has trouble talking because of a lack of motor and muscle control in his mouth but his smile speaks 100s of words. He is the most compliant and easy going little boy, happy all the time. There is a cute little tow headed boy who just smiles and talks in a quiet voice and is very eager to please. He pretty much goes with the flow. Finally, I have a very small boy, it's a miracle that he's even here really. He has a lot of issues to overcome. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly motivates him. I'm getting a ball pit this week, and am having a noisy box made for him soon. I hope both of these provide me some direction for which way to go with him. His needs are more significant than most of my other students.
My TAs and I have almost constantly been in stitches over the antics of our students. They keep us on our feet, but it makes for a fun and eventful day!

Happy 16th birthday today to my oldest nephew!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Big Pet Peeve

In the age of electronic everything, why can't people spell??? I am a special education teacher, and as such, I fill out a tremendous amount of legal paperwork. This paperwork becomes a part of the student's history and follows them throughout their school career. It also is sent to the parents. Anyhow, it just pains me to see spelling errors throughout this paperwork. I know typos do happen (and since we are always in a hurry, even more so). Spell check doesn't catch everything. Still, I've seen the same word spelled multiple ways within the same document. Last night as I was reviewing files, there was one page that had the student's name spelled about 4 different ways! I just cringe when I see this, as I can only imagine how the parent must feel. If it makes me feel the way it does, I'm sure parents are thinking, "And I send my child to this teacher to be educated??"
I'm sure that if I had the same amount of misspelled words on a presentation or report to be handed off when I was working in corporate America, my hide would have been out to hang! I don't think that would have been tolerated.
So people--use spell check! It's not that hard.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

They're Baaaccckkkkk!

After 3+ months of living as 'country dogs', my dogs came to their new home today. I went to my parents' house and gave them both a bath. They were soooooo dirty--most of Harley's fur was the color of an Oklahoma farm pond--deep dirt red. I had the back of my car open, and each of them hopped in upon finishing their bath. They were ready to go! After some sniffing around, the dogs have pretty much just vegged. They keep trading places between the new pillow and the cool tile.
Meanwhile, Kita (the Malamute puppy of my nephew's) has been looking for them ever since we left. Poor girl, she lost her playmates. She played with Peanut and did everything else with Harley (sleep, poop-seriously, and eat).

Check out Sweetnicks' site for this weekend's edition of Weekend Dog Blog--lots of cute pups over there!


Picture Carousel

Friday, August 11, 2006

I had a point...

There was a point to my long winded post below. I can't remember exactly what it was.
Maybe it was that even though I am scared to death of the first day of school (what in the heck am I going to do with a group of kids that age???), I need to remind myself that it will all work out. It's OK to be a bit nervous, anxious, or whatever. It'll all come together. It has too.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It does the heart good...

The last school year, I was told about a student I might be getting (maybe even mentioned it here). I observed him, talked to his mom, had a meeting to bring him to my campus, and quickly became terrified. OK, I was scared sh!tless. I mean, to hear it, this was going to be the most difficult student you can imagine-unlike anything my education or experience prepared me for. Negative behaviors galore: hitting 200+ times a day, likes to run (so dig out the tennis shoes and keep the doors shut), wears clothes that are difficult to strip out of or else he will, my hair was always in a ponytail because it can be pulled. I wanted this student, but in the back of my mind I was asking myself all kinds of questions. "What if I fail?", "What if his behaviors get worse?", "What in the HELL do I do with a student like this?"

I had doubts, but I also knew I was going to try. I had to. So began the most rewarding journey yet of my teaching career. I remember the first day we had him. He was terrified to get off the bus. He's non-verbal but can understand plenty. He looked out the window and saw yet another school and just didn't quite know what to think. Once in the classroom, he went about his mischievous ways. I actually didn't get him until lunchtime and then the last half of the day. I remember trying to do the bathroom routine myself. I'm optimistic that way. Twenty minutes and 2 pull-ups later (he tore one), I managed to get a male teacher next door to help me finish getting him dressed (I banged on the door from the bathroom floor, where I had been trying to reason with this child amongst much thrashing, hitting, etc). Those first few days, I was exhausted like I've never been before.

We finally got a new TA hired about 6 weeks after his arrival. We were still working with behaviors, but had somewhat settled into a routine.
The weeks after Christmas break are a blur. I had sort of decided to move during that time, though I knew I hated to leave him and his wonderful family. By the end of the year, we were seeing a lot less negative behaviors. He had made tremendous progress. I also worked with him over the summer, mostly focusing on eating and getting him to try new foods (he primarily eats baby food because of texture/chewing reasons). Through this all, I was gradually handing over the reins to that TA we hired--who became a friend through all of this. She was then hired to replace me. OK, I did hold on the reins pretty tight until the end, I admit. I didn't want to let go and miss the rest of the ride. My last full day in DFW, right after camp, a friend and I took my student to the dollar movies (it was my replacement's idea and we had already tried once before). It was a success! Another first for him that I greedily got to be a part of before leaving.
Other firsts I got to be a part of over the school year: first time to lick a sucker, brush his teeth, walk into school without sitting on the floor, go all day without sitting on the floor, go all day without hitting, first time to pee in a potty (I missed the first time, but heard about it. I did see the first time he did this at his home), first time to try a myriad of new foods. This summer I saw him reach out and give a 3 year old a high five while sitting outside the movie theater. Appropriate social interaction! It was awesome.

So, yesterday was the first day of school where I used to teach. I got an email yesterday from my replacement saying he did great coming off the bus and going down the hall. I talked to her last night. He had a wonderful day. It just seems like he's reached a point where he is going to 'grow up' so much and show his teachers so much progress. It brought tears to my eyes. It's moments like this that make my job worthwhile. I guess you'd just have to know him to understand, isn't that right CW? :)

I did have another point to make (to myself really) but this is long so I'll save it for later.

Monday, August 07, 2006

How things have changed

Well, after 4 1/2 days of mostly sleep, two trips to the doctor, and 2 new prescriptions (4 total), I am feeling almost back to normal, whatever normal is anyway. That's good, because tomorrow I report for new teacher induction.

Anyhow....every year at Camp Esperanza, we have to undergo a certain amount of training. We do a day a month before camp starts. Then, we all get there around 2 on a Saturday afternoon and have more training. Kids do not arrive until 3ish on Sunday. THat extra time is spent preparing, planning, and going through training sessions. The last couple of years, there has been more emphasis on child abuse. This year we watched a video and had a long talk about things that have happened, can happened, and how we as counselors need to procede. This year, it was gently suggested that there be no more lap sitting. So, I can't tell you how many times this week I had to tell a little 6 or 7 year old girl she could sit beside me, but not in my lap. Or, I would just gently lift her to the spot beside me. I hate that past abusers have made it to where it has to be this way now. These kids, some who are in the throngs of treatment, who are dealing with fighting for their lives, who are away from mom and dad for the first time, are not allowed to be comforted the way I was when I went to Girl Scout Camp as a child. We also have hug raids, but this year we were instructed to do 'side hugs'. Can't have any chest to chest contact, ya know. It just breaks my heart that the world we live in has come to this. That there are sickos out there who will (and have) take advantage of the situation to somehow abuse these kids. I know in the long run that this is the safest for both the campers and adults, but it really does break my heart. I wish I could say with more clarity what is on my mind--I'm always better at composing these things in my head than actually writing them.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I'm home!

Well, I've actually been back to my new home since Monday night. You'd think with all that time, I'd be settled in and ready to throw a dinner party, rightr? Wrong.
I can't find the bolts to put the legs on my table. Those (dad and cousin) who took it apart back in May swear they put it someplace we'd remember. I realized I had curriculum training Wednesday and Friday. I had to go to my hometown Tuesday evening. And the clincher? I've spent most of the last 2 days in bed on antibiotics, decongestant, and painkillers because I have the sinus infection from hell. My head hurts like it's never hurt before. Walking? Ouch. Sitting? Ouch. Even lying in bed hurts; thank goodness for prescription narcotics! I'm just up right now to get some water and finally change out of the clothes I wore to training this morning--I lasted an hour before I couldn't take anymore.
My yard needs to be mowed (any takers?), my house is a disaster area, and my classroom is pure chaos. I guess it'll all have to wait another day or two.
Oh, this has also stalled me from getting my dogs and bringing them home. They will need several baths each and I haven't been up for that. Bending over to scrub them? I'd pass out.
So, this too shall pass...once it does, I'll try and share some camp stories or reflections.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Camp!

I spent last week at Camp Esperanza, a camp for children (6-15) with or in remission from cancer.
My favorite camp quote went something like this:
"I used to think that camp was just to sort of build up our egos again, make us feel like we used to. But it's so much more than that. It's more like a lifestyle."

I liked that--the lifestyle bit!

Until there's a cure . . . There's camp!

More to come later.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

And I'm off...

I'm heading to Camp Esperanza in about 15 minutes! Woohoo!

I've spent 2 whole nights in my new house. Slept like a rock. So far, so good (except for that little issue with the air conditioner).

I'll be back next week with camp stories. As I'm in the youngest cabin (6-8), there should be some good ones!

Monday, July 17, 2006

And another year has past

Today (Sunday, July 16) marked the 4 year anniversary of my nephew Dakota's death.

Daktoa, you still inspire me daily. I can look at your picture and just smile. I miss you, but know you are so much better off with Jesus. Until we meet again...

My Tribute to Dakota (July 16, 2005)

Some more pictures, posted last year

Precious memories, how they linger.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gothic?

So, I posted a new,updated profile pic. It was taken at school for our summer school yearbook, so I'm sporting my low-maintenence school look--straight hair (no yet pony tailed), barely any makeup, and a durable t-shirt.
One of the TAs remarked that I was sporting a Gothic look. What the ??? Gothic? Me???

A Sense of Humor is Necessary

My job requires a sense of humor, or else you'll lose your mind. I love to laugh while I'm at work at all the little things that happen throughout the day. Granted, I don't laugh at the kids; it's just more of a light hearted, fun environment. Sometimes, things happen where you HAVE to laugh or you'll throw up, pass out, or some other unsavory thing will happen. I had one of those moments today. My summer school class is students aged 6-15 in the severe profound range. None are verbal; all are in diapers or pull-ups. They are an absolute joy to work with, but there are those moments....
One of our students had a poopy diaper. No biggie. He's not one whose hands wander. Stupid me decided to choose this changing to try and get his pull up down over his shoes. Not my brightest moment. I didn't see until too late that the poopy had spread into the shorts. Oops. Dirty shoe. So, I toss it aside, along with the shorts. We finish the task at hand. Once done, I go toss the shorts into the washer with some hot water. I just happened to glance into the washer..thankfully. There I saw a giant, soft FLOATY! I shut off the water and started laughing hysterically! I went into the classroom and hollered at my friend and replacement at SMS and told her to come look. She did and looked at me and started laughing. I was snorting...teehee. So, being the friend that she is, she went and got me a paper plate so I could scoop it up and into a trash bag. Problem resolved. I guess you had to be there...those moments are the times I'm thankful I can laugh at myself and those incidents that sometimes happen that can sort of throw you!

Friday, July 07, 2006

One more week...


So, a week from tonight I will be in OK preparing to move into my next home! I'm excited. I'm ready to have my own place again. I've been 'homeless' for over 2 months now. It's been hard, but I'm thankful I do have friends here to say with. So far, I've stayed at 3 different places...and next week I may stay at my cousin's house while they are out of town.

Summer school is going well. I've grown attached to a few more kids, and have worked with some wonderful professionals. It's been refreshing to work among such caring individuals.

The next month has me moving to OK, coming back to Texas to Camp Esperanza, heading back to OK to finish getting settled in, coming back to Texas the first week of August to consult to the distric I am leaving, and then reporting to new teacher inservice August 8 in my new district. Can you say HECTIC? It's all good though...I'm excited about my new job, location, etc. It looks to be a great last half of 2006.

Last month, 2 of my students (twins) and their mother came to my hometown for a bike rally benefitting Making Promises Happen, a camp for individuals with special needs. The girls have been to camp and gone snow-skiing as recipients of scholarship money that has been raised by people (including my parents) in my hometown. They had a great time. This is me with the girls and their mother (with my mother in the background).


So sweet!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Confounded!

So, I moved about 12 boxes to my classroom yesterday! I have a few more to go. I saw the room as a blank slate. Talk about overwhelming! I have some major organizing to do. My room is huge, which I love. That sort of makes up for no windows. I would like to move the teacher's desk--I see it as in the way currently, but due to hookups, I have to leave it in the general vicinity. So anyhow...I'm just totally confounded on how to set up everything. I'm more of a visual person--as in I have to SEE how to arrange it. That's going to mean arranging it, looking, rearranging, and so forth. Any tips from any preschool teachers? FYI, I'll be teaching a preschool class for children with developmental delays. I have some non-verbal children, vision impaired, possibly ED, and so forth.
I have a large counter with a sink, a VERY large irregular shaped room with 2 entrances (one goes directly outside-scary, but there are alarms on all doors). The walls are concrete--makes it difficult to hang things. The previous teacher hot glued ceiling tiles to the walls in places to use for bulletin boards, calendar, etc. I found these nifty little things at Mardel's that will help hang things.
I have several large furniture pieces to use to create barriers between areas. I'll have snack/art near the sink. Circle/calendar time will be where there is already ceiling tiles (for now). I have one area blocked off for when the vision teachers come, but I will try and use that space for something else as well. I'd like to have the sand table near the sink as well, as I want to also incorporate water play near that. Dramatic play/blocks will be together. I want a reading center with bean bags, chairs. I may put the ball pit there for starters. I want to incorporate an Active Learning area, or at least some aspects of one somewhere (see Lilliworks link below). I have at least 2 students who will benefit from some of the AL ideas.

Hmmm...funny how typing things out helps get my brain working. Since starting this, I've drawn a diagram and am ready to get back up there in the morning! I'm sure I'll have several rounds of trial/error, but at least I have a starting place!