Monday, March 5, 2012

Snow Day Yipee!

I'm definitely as bad as my students and my son. We heard on the news that there was a possibility of snow for last night. So sticking with our typical tradition, we didn't want to jinx anything, Michael and I, as well as several other families that I know of, put our pajamas on inside out and backwards before going to bed. This doesn't make for a comfortable night's sleep. And I must admit, I went to bed planning on school.

I awoke ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Don't you hate that?! I rebelled and snuggled under the covers hitting the snooze at least once. It never occurred to me to look out the window. I just blindly got dressed to walk on the treadmill and headed down to the basement for my walk. While walking I watched a movie that Matt had left on the TV, Midnight in Paris. I love this movie! I walked for 30 minutes and headed back upstairs.

I quickly sat down at the kitchen table and created a quiz for the Count of Monte Cristo for my Honors English class before heading for the shower. (So if any of you are reading this, yes you have a quiz tomorrow over the reading - pages 192-288.) While typing my phone rang. It was school. We were on a two hour delay! YES! I jumped back on the computer to see if my son's school was also delayed. Sadly his was still on time. He was majorly bummed.

I ended up taking Michael to school instead of having him ride the bus. It's not often that I can drop him off at school. I came home, finally hopped my stinky, sweaty body in the shower, got ready, and graded some papers. I was just getting ready to head out the door to school when the phone rang again. It was school. CANCELLED! YES!

The rest of the morning I graded a stack of research papers. I so needed this time to grade. Unfortunately, I only made a small dent. For lunch I met my friend Amy at a Mexican restaurant in town and enjoyed a burrito and a margarita. YUM! I popped over to Pat Catan's for some crochet hooks and yarn. I'm teaching the Girl Scouts how to crochet on Wednesday.

The rest of the afternoon I read my Kindle until Michael came home. He was excited to see me home before him. Until he realized that I had a snow day and he didn't. I guess the pajama thing works. Thanks for the nice surprise of a snow day! I definitely enjoyed it!

So do you have any silly superstitions to make it snow for a day off of school? Please share!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cake Pops Yummy Yummy

Last Saturday I made cake pops (cake balls since I didn't place the cake onto sticks) to take for coffee fellowship at our church. I was tickled that people kept asking who made the cake balls. Adults and children both seemed to really like them. They were so easy to make. Here's how to make cake pops.

Here's what you'll need: a boxed cake mix any flavor. I used Devil's Food. One container of frosting. I used dark chocolate. I was in a chocolate mood. Can you tell? A 32 ounce bag of dipping chocolate. I dipped the pops in chocolate that I purchased from our local candy shop, Brummer's. It called for 32 ounces of chocolate, but I didn't end up using it all. You'll also need a 9 x 13 inch pan, two cookie sheets, a one inch cookie scoop, wax paper or parchment paper, a microwave safe bowl, and a spoon. 

Simply follow the directions on the back of the boxed cake mix. Mine called for eggs, water, and oil. 

Mom, if you're reading this...I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my mixer! My Mom gave me this mixer for Christmas three years ago. I've been a baking fool ever since.

Bake the cake in a 9 X 13 inch pan. When it's done let it cool. I baked this cake in the morning and let it cool all day. 

Once the cake is cooled cut it into fourths. Taking one fourth at a time crumble the cake into a bowl. Michael wanted to help with this part.

The crumbles need to be small. Once one fourth is crumbled add the next fourth and so on until the whole cake is in crumbs. 

Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the next steps because Michael and I were having such a good time making the cake pops. Once the cake is in crumbs add three fourths of the jar of frosting. Mix the frosting into the crumbs well. All of the crumbs should be moist. Don't use all of the frosting or they will be sickeningly sweet.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Use a one inch cookie scoop to get the pops the same size. I didn't do this the first time. Oh well. Roll the cake into one inch balls and place them on the cookie sheet. Once the cookie sheet is filled place it in the freezer for 15 minutes and then move it to the refrigerator. Keep the cake balls in the refrigerator and only take out a few at a time for dipping.

Next, melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. I found that when I let the chocolate cool just a bit it was easier to work with and covered more evenly. Drop one ball at a time into the chocolate. Using a spoon cover the ball with the chocolate. Don't stir the cake ball around since it might leave crumbs in the chocolate. Scoop the ball out of the chocolate with the spoon and tap the spoon on the side of the bowl. This helps the chocolate cover evenly. Let the cake pop slide off of the spoon onto the cookie sheet. Allow the cake pops to cool. We ended up with 72 cake balls.  I let them sit on the counter until the chocolate was dry and then covered them with parchment paper. The next morning I placed them in an air tight container to transport to the church.


These were so easy, but the process does take some time. I already purchased some sticks to make the cake pops next time. I also purchased some small cookie cutters to mold the cake balls into shapes. Easter is coming and I can see cake pop eggs, bunnies, peeps, flowers, and butterflies. 

Have fun making cake pops!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Mentor, My Friend

My first year teaching English at my present school was almost my last year of teaching. I came from a smaller private school where the teachers and administrators were kind, considerate, helpful, and gracious. At the private school we collaborated on a daily basis. The time to collaborate wasn't worked into our day; we made time whenever and wherever we could. We shared new ideas, asked questions of each other, and most importantly we trusted one another. We wanted to be the best teachers we could possibly be, and we wanted to help each other to reach that goal. This community of educators taught me what it was like to be part of a team, part of a family. Sadly, I had a difficult time making ends meet while teaching at this school and moved on to my current school.

During my first year at my current school, I was teaching five sections consisting of sophomore honors English, senior college prep English, and yearbook. I was also the advisor for the fall play and coaching JV cheerleading. Whew! What a new teacher won't do.

MaryJo, a cutting edge veteran teacher, saw that I could use some help. She approached me saying, "I would be more than happy to answer questions for you or help you in whatever way I can. Just so you know. I'm the black sheep of the family around here, and it might come back to bite you in the end." That was the day I became a black sheep too. Baaa! Baaa!

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MaryJo and I worked together that first year discussing curriculum, assessment, project ideas,... We shared our ups and downs in the classroom. From there we began teaching some of the same classes and worked together on curriculum maps and team teaching. We wrote curriculum maps for our courses, taught the lessons, and discussed what happened in our classrooms. We had great conversations reflecting on our teaching methods and the curriculum. What worked? What didn't work? How can we make this better for next year's kids?

We went to annual conferences and classes together: OCTELA (The Ohio Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts), Young Adult Literature, Wordpress for online school newspapers, NCTE (National Council of Teacher of English), MOWP (The MidOhio Writing Project), and NWP (The National Writing Project). I'm sure there's more, but you get the picture. After several years of going to these conferences to gain ideas to use in our classrooms, we began to present our own classroom ideas that were successful.

MaryJo and I became our own professional team. We wanted to be the best teachers we could be to help our students succeed. What I left behind and missed so much from the private school, I found in a black sheep named MaryJo. We have learned so much together over the course of 13 years. We've built a strong friendship.

On Wednesday, MaryJo retired. She taught k-12 for over 40 years. We threw a small surprise retirement party for her during lunch on her last day. It was difficult collecting donations from fellow teachers and administrators since MaryJo and I are almost always together. With the donations I was able to purchase several gifts for her. I also baked her favorite dessert, red velvet cake.

At our school we have a tradition of giving a wooden replica of the building signed by teachers and administrators. It's sitting in front of the flowers and cake.

MaryJo opens her first gift. It's a Kindle. She LOVES to read, but has run out of shelf room for her books.

This tote bag will come in handy when traveling to visit her grandchildren. She also received a matching wallet and Kindle cover.

Finally, MaryJo received a beautiful handmade quilt from one of our fellow teachers. This has also become a tradition in our building.

I'm going to miss MaryJo, my neighbor, my mentor, my friend. We would pop in and out of each other's rooms to share a new idea, a book, or ask a question. MaryJo, Mr. P, and I met each morning before school outside of Mr. P's classroom door to help "hold down the fort" in our hallway. Each day after school we'd sit in one or the other's classroom and share our day. We've had some of the same thoughts and finished each other's sentences.

Thank you, MaryJo. 
Baaaaa! Baaaaa!

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