Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apple Picking Time

This afternoon, Matt, Michael, and I drove to Burnham's Orchards for our annual apple picking. Since we moved to Vermilion nine years ago, picking apples at the orchard has become a family tradition.

I remember when Michael was no bigger than the goofy looking red apple. He always ran up to the apple sign to see how much he had grown since the previous year. Boy times have changed. This year I practically begged him to stand next to the apple. Being 13 he thinks this is so uncool.

Our next stop on our visit was to purchase the makings of a scarecrow. Michael picked out jeans, a blue and red flannel shirt, and a burlap bag with a happy face painted on the front. We took our materials to the stuffing station where we tied off the legs and arms before filling them with straw. We even received a birth certificate for our scarecrow. The scarecrow enjoyed riding around in the wagon Michael pulled behind him.

From the scarecrow station we visited the bees. I think it would be lovely to have a bee hive in my backyard. There are so few honey bees around these days. We have tons of flowers in our flower beds. I think bees would love to live in our yard. I wonder how difficult it would be to keep them. I purchased a half gallon of honey. Did you know that you can freeze honey? The woman told me that I could keep the large container in the freezer and take it out to refill my small container as I needed it. Learned something new today.

Michael pulled the wagon with the honey and the scarecrow towards the apple trees. We picked Golden Delicious, Johnathons, and Golden Johnathons. Michael was the first to eat an apple right from the tree. Matt and I followed suit. I picked my apple and shined it up with my shirt. The apple was crisp and sweet - delicious.

Our next stop was the pumpkins. Well we side tracked to take a picture with the John Deer tractor for Boppa. Matt and Michael selected some small pumpkins for decorations while I purchased the Indian corn and apple cider. The boys also decided that we needed corn stalks and a bale of straw. We seriously need a TRUCK. We had to put the back seats down to fit the straw bale and corn stalks.

When we returned home Michael and I set up our scarecrow, straw bale, pumpkins, mums, and corn stalks in the front yard. Matt went in the house to fix dinner, chicken and noodles - yum.

After dinner I baked my first apple pie. I'm not too crazy about the crust. It was one of those already made pie crusts. I think it was a little dry. We just finished having a piece of pie with vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

What a nice fall day.


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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another Summer Comes to a Close

I can't believe I'm actually saying this. I'm happy to be back at school. This is the first time I can remember being ready for summer to be over and school to begin. Maybe it's because I had such an awesome time with my freshmen last year. What a fun and energetic group of kids. I will miss them. All though many have already come to visit me in my room. Several have asked if they can still check books out of my classroom library. YEAH!

Reading is so important to me. As you know last year I had my students keep a reading notebook. In the notebook they tracked all of the books that they read as well as wrote about their books. They read 10 minutes each day at the beginning of class. I tested the kids each nine weeks to see if they were growing as readers. I'm excited to say that the majority of reading scores went up, up, up. In fact the largest jump was four grade levels. YES!

Well this year I'm sticking with reading, but also adding more writing. Instead of just a reading notebook, students will be keeping a Reading and Writing Notebook. Here's how I changed things up a bit.

Students are still reading 10 minutes each day of a reading week. They also choose any book at their reading level that they want to read. They record their book on their reading log when they begin a new book and when they finish they write the date completed as well as E for easy, JR for just right, or C for challenging. They may still abandon a book if they don't like it. This is still a difficult concept for kids.

Some new things that I'm trying are tracking how many pages students read rather than counting the numbers of books. This week I had students count how many pages they could read in 10 minutes. We then multiplied that number by 6 to see how many pages they could read in an hour. Then we doubled that number to see how many pages students could read in two hours. From there students created a simple book mark with the days of the week listed down the front. Each day they read they write their beginning page number for that day. At the end of the week, actually Monday in class, we'll calculate the pages they read for the week. If they read for two hours then they should easily reach their page goal for the week. I'm taking this as a homework grade. The only way a kid will receive a zero is if he/she didn't read at all. If they at least read one page, then they will receive half of the points.

I'm placing an enormous amount of trust on students' shoulders. I explained that I can't possibly sit with all 144 of them and watch them read every day. I also didn't want to have parents sign off each week saying that their child read. My students are freshmen now, young adults. I explained that I'm trusting them. It's common courtesy which is my number one rule in my classroom.

Students have a page tracker glued into their Reading Writing Notebook for the first nine weeks. On Mondays they simply transfer their page numbers from their bookmarks to their page tracker for each week. I send my classroom page tracker around the room each Monday and students transfer their page numbers read each day with their total for the week. This is what I will place in my grade book.

We're also placing all notes on reading like our short story unit in our Reading and Writing Notebooks. This week students will be working in their notebooks on character, setting, plot, tone, etc. It should be review. On the left hand side of the page they taped or glued the notes I gave them. On the right hand side of the page is where they will reflect on what they have learned. For example, on the right hand side of the page next to plot notes students will write major events from the story on post it notes and arrange them in a plot diagram. I got this idea from researching interactive notebooks. Learning on the left and reflection on the right. We'll see how this goes.

The idea is to alternate between reading and writing every week. So far we've spent a ton of time setting up our notebooks and reading. We'll finish our first short story this week and then we'll move into some writing. I'll keep you posted on how things go. Hopefully we settle into a routine soon.


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ohio Berries Make Yummy Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Father's Day!

I woke up my husband. Once he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and drank his first second cup of coffee, I asked him what he wanted to do today after we went to church. He said the Ohio berries are in. Let's go get some before they're all gone. He's so funny. Like all the berries in Ohio would be gone if we didn't get them today.

After church we headed to Aufdenkamp's Farm Market just outside of Vermilion to pick some berries. However, the Fish Festival Parade was marching toward our car, so we had to make a u-turn and head to Aufdenkamp's via the back roads. Side note: The Fish Festival is held annually in June for three days Friday through Sunday - great food, lots of vendors, and games for the kiddies.

In the end we didn't pick our berries. We purchased a flat, eight quarts, of fresh just picked today strawberries. Matt decided with so many berries that we should not only bake strawberry shortcake, but also make strawberry preserves. It's father's day, and I said we would do whatever he wanted to do today. But that's a different story for a different blog post.

Once we returned home I began baking the strawberry shortcake.

I want to share the recipe for strawberry shortcake with you. I adapted it from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. Here goes:

Ingredients for the cake:                         
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk (I used coconut milk.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for cream filling:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Ingredients for berry filling:
  • 2 pints (4 cups) ripe strawberries, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 9 1/2 x 12 baking pan.

To make the cake: 

In a small bowl, combine the self-rising flour and the all-purpose flour. Set this aside for the time being.

Using a mixer on medium speed you cream the two sticks of butter. This should take about 3 minutes. The butter will look smooth. 

Add the sugar a little at a time and beat until fluffy. This takes about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added.

Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract. With each addition beat until it's incorporated. Do not overbeat.

Use your spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure all the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter in the cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for one hour.

To make the cream filling:

In a mixer, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. (I only make enough whipped cream for the number of pieces of cake I'm going to be serving. The cream melts, and I don't like to refrigerate cake because it dries out.)
To make the berry filling:

Gently toss the berries with the sugar until they're evenly coated.

To assemble the cake:

Cut each person one piece of cake, about two inches by two inches. Next slice the piece of cake horizontally through the middle so that you have a top and bottom. Spread a good amount of whipped cream on the bottom piece of cake. Add some of the berries to the whipped cream. Place the top of the cake on the whipped cream and berries. Finish off with whipped cream and berries on the top of the piece of cake and serve. 


It was delicious. I hope you enjoy some fresh Ohio berries before they're all gone. Have a wonderful week.


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Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Habits Baby Steps

I decided to create some new habits once summer began. I'm starting small with just three habits for the first week. These habits focus on the bedroom, kitchen, and me. I got the idea, at least the one about the kitchen, from A Bowl Full of Lemons.

1. Bedroom - The moment I get up and out of bed I make it. Even before I visit the restroom or let Bella out, I make the bed. It takes a mere five minutes. I pull up the sheets and the comforter then place the pillows on top. A made bed makes the room look a little more tidy. Plus it gives Sebastien a nice place to curl up for a cat nap.

At night when I'm getting ready for bed, I put on my pjs and place my hubby's and my dirty clothes in the hamper instead of piling them on my floor. I'm We're clutter bugs. Growing up I drove my Mom crazy with my clothes spilling from several different piles all over the floor of my room. Dirty or clean, it didn't matter and typically I struggled figuring out which pile was which. Gross. Right? That bad habit lingered. Until this week. When you walk into my bedroom, you can see my floor, clothes-free.

2. Kitchen - Before I go to bed, I wash the dishes. So far it's been nice not having to face a  HUMONGOUS pile of dishes in the morning. Sometimes when I let things go, like the dishes, they pile up, literally. You know, like the clothes in my room. Then I feel overwhelmed and angry that the dishes are piling up in the sink and on the counters. Angrily, I wash them all. However, since I've been washing the dishes each night before bed, I'm not feeling overwhelmed and instead of feeling angry, I have a feeling of accomplishment.

Once the dishes are finished I wipe down the counters, then the kitchen table, and finally the stove. Everything is shiny and the kitchen smells of lemons. I love it. When I wake in the morning and go into the kitchen to make my coffee, I feel like the day is off to a good start.

3. Exercise - I have struggled with my weight since high school. We joined the YMCA in our town and have been going twice a week. Well, Matt and Michael have been going twice a week. I seemed to stay later and later after school. As a result I couldn't make it to the YMCA to fit in my workout. So now I'm back to twice a week to begin. I want to increase it to four days a week. Not necessarily going to the YMCA, but walking or riding my bike.

So far I've discovered that if I do a little bit every day then things don't seem to pile up, and I don't feel so overwhelmed. I can also have people pop over, like my friend Amy when she and her darling daughter delivered their pet hamster Nutmeg. Michael is hamster sitting. Typically, I would be running around like a crazy lady putting things away and cleaning up before people came over for a visit. When Amy called to come over with Nutmeg I said "Come on over any time." I didn't run around like a crazy lady. The house was tidy. Tad-dah!


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Friday, June 7, 2013

Peonies and Pitchers

I love flowers. I think I get that love from my grandmother, MomMom. MomMom spent hours working in her flowerbeds and formal garden. In the backyard the boxwood hedge of MomMom's formal garden sheltered several pink peony bushes. The lush pink peonies framed the two back corners of the garden, one on each side behind the fountain. 

When we moved to our little blue house in Vermilion, MomMom gave me a start of one of her peony bushes to add to my flowerbed. We planted the tiny sprig in the flowerbed under the windows of our back porch. That first summer it didn't bloom. However, the next year numerous purple peony sprigs peeked up through the soil. It's been seven years since we first planted MomMom's little peony sprig. Now my pink peony, luscious and sweet, bursts with beautiful pink blooms. I love the smell of peonies. When the blooms begin to open, I cut some to bring in the house. 

This year I placed them in MomMom's blue pitcher that used to sit on top of the cupboard above the oven. It was one of the mementos I brought home. I just love fresh flowers, especially in pitchers.

Last night, after washing the dishes, I snuggled under my blue and white blanket on the couch next to the glass topped table where the pitcher of peonies sat. I sipped my chamomile tea, smelling the aroma of the flowers, thinking of MomMom and remembering her fondly.

What a nice way to wrap up my day.


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Week's Midweek Confessions

Once again I've been following Elizabeth at E, Myself, and I. Here are my Midweek Confessions.

  • Monday I got up and made Michael ride the bus to school. I stayed in my pjs until noon. Noon. I just vegged (spelling?) on the couch all morning. All though I had been up since 2 a.m. (See below for the details.)

  • Remember the cat puke? Yeah. It's. still. there. under. the. bed. 

  • I spent two and a half hours at the salon yesterday getting my hair cut and colored. I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep in the chair. I had the head bobbing thing going on. My head jerked back and hit the hairdryer. People stared. My face turned red. I finally asked for a cup of coffee. It helped - a little. When I got home I peeked in on Michael who was home from school. He was sound asleep in his bed with his glasses still on his face. What a great idea! I took a nap myself. Ahhh!

  • Speaking of sleeping. . . if you haven't noticed, I've been TIRED all week, and it's only Wednesday. Sunday night at 2 a.m. Bella, my Yorkie, decided to sit in the kitchen and cry. Repeatedly. She's been a bad girl so she has been banned to the kitchen during the night. It's not that awful. She has her bed, food, water, toys, and piddle pad. Last night I caved. I let her back into the main part of the house for the evening so I could get some sleep. What kind of a message am I sending my dog?

  • I tried to create a new habit this week. I got the idea here: Daily Cleaning 101. I need all the help I can get as you well know from reading about the cat. Actually I began this new habit on Friday evening. Each evening before I go to bed, I take about 15 minutes to wash the dishes, wipe off the sink, counters, table, and stove. It actually makes me feel happy at the butt crack of dawn in the morning when I walk into a clean kitchen. I said trying in the first sentence. Yesterday I didn't take the time (15 whole minutes) to clean the kitchen. Now I'm faced with a sink full of dishes and takeout bags on the counter. And I'm still in my pjs. And tired.

  • People who don't support their local schools make. me. ANGRY! Last Wednesday I went to the school board meeting to hear the doomandgloom about our school's future. I also listened to the doomandgloom on our last day of school. I'm TIRED of the doomandgloom. We HAVE to pass a levy in August. We've already made cuts. TWICE. It's SAD. Great, young teachers lost their jobs because the May levy didn't pass. Programs are being cut. What kind of an education will our kids receive with 30 + students in the classroom? How do you say no to kids? I know. Hard economic times. I've felt it too. If the levy passes, it'll cost about $25 a month. That's dinner at McDonald's for my family. I can give up McDonald's once a month. It's definitely better for my health. Hmmm . . . Get healthy! Support your school!

Wow! Where did that energetic angry outburst come from?

What are you confessing this week?


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Midweek Confessions

I've been following Elizabeth at E, Myself, and I for quite some time. Here are my midweek confessions. . .

So to start off this week I totally messed up my check book balance. How I could forget about writing two pretty large checks is beyond me. It doesn't help that we spend money like we're millionaires. Now we have to keep things pretty tight to the belt for the next couple of weeks. Not a nice way to begin summer vacation.

Monday night or Tuesday morning take your pick, the cat,  Sebastien, started making hackinguphairball sounds. Typically he doesn't hack up hairballs; he pukes up his food instead. We think it's because he's such a HOG and eats too fast. So I heard the heaves and ran out of the bedroom to find him. Mind you everyone else in the house was asleep. I found Sebastien in the living room so I tried to grab him and take him into the kitchen. It's easier to clean cat puke off a linoleum floor. He evaded me and ran right into Michael's bedroom and under the bed. As I tried quietly to coax him out, he puked. Did I clean it up? No. I was not about to go under the bed and clean cat puke up and wake Michael in the process. It's still there. I figure it's easier to clean it up once it's dried. I'm such the housekeeper. I am not my mother in this regard.

In my last post, here, I told you about MomMom's fountain and how we placed it in our back flower bed. Well, Matt used a metal spike pounded into the ground to help support the back of the fountain to keep it from falling over on that side. After the boys left for football conditioning I painted the goose (also mentioned here). Then when Penelope the goose was finished I sat in my chair and listened to the sounds of my beautiful fountain. While I sat there I noticed that the bowl of the fountain wasn't even on all sides. Being the perfectionist that I am, I went over to the fountain and moved the bowl so it was centered on the pedestal. Unfortunately since I moved the bowl it no longer rested on the metal spike that was supporting it. My husband noticed it the next day. So far the fountain hasn't tipped over, but I just can't seem to leave well enough alone. Matt is just waiting to say "I told you so."

This week is finals week. My honors class had their final on last Friday and it was an essay exam. Your basic read the article and right a five paragraph position essay. They had all week to prepare and they could use their notes, an outline, and the article. They just had to do the writing in class. When I should have been grading their essays this weekend, I spent my time catching up on my reading - all the blogs that I follow - as well as writing on my blog. Where are my priorities?

Lastly, I procrastinated again. It seems to be a theme for this past week. I missed a whole week of GH so I sat and watched five episodes in a row. Matt had to work that morning and wouldn't be home until two-ish. I told him I'd have the messy kitchen cleaned by the time he got home so we could have our cookout. At one I finally moved from the couch and began cleaning up in the kitchen. I had to move fast. I turned on Pandora radio to some 80s music and jammed while I rocked out the kitchen. Music always makes me get things done faster and it makes chores a little more fun. When Matt got home he thought I spent the entire morning cleaning the kitchen. I'm good.

What are you confessing this week?

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Bringing Home Memories

If you recall, I told you that I received MomMom's fountain. This fountain has been around since 1969 according to the stamp on the bottom of the bowl. MomMom and PaPa sold these fountains at their floral shop, Switzer's Holiday House. 

This fountain sat in a place of honor in the center of MomMom's formal garden in the backyard. Since MomMom passed it's been living in the shed in the backyard. Until last summer when I helped PaPa put it together and place it in the front flower bed. At that time he reminded me that one day this fountain would grace my flower bed. He just wasn't ready to give it up yet because it reminded him of MomMom. About a month ago, the fountain came home with me.

Two weekends ago Matt and I set up the fountain to make sure it works. We had a difficult time getting the bowl to balance in the pedestal. It seems that an animal, maybe a raccoon or squirrel may have clawed up the bottom of the bowl making it a little tipsy. We placed it on the concrete stoop just outside of the garage. Matt used several shims to get it level. But at least it works.

Matt and I cleaned the fountain up as best we could. I began with Soft Scrub. That didn't work at all. Then I went to Magic Eraser. The Magic Erasers lasted all of five minutes each. They did take off some of the gunk. Mostly the plastic material of the fountain was covered in rust stains. Probably from the well water at MomMom and PaPa's house. 

We purchased spray paint and decided to give it a fresh coat. I chose an off white. We sprayed two coats on each piece, the pedestal, the bowl, and the cupid. (At least I think it might be cupid. He is carrying a quiver at his side, but he doesn't seem to have any wings.)

Ta-dah! Doesn't he look fantastic?! We ended up purchasing a stone slab to help the fountain balance. I learned how to use a level. WOOT! We ran electric out to the back flowerbed and filled it up with water.

We sat and listened to the gentle splish splash of the water as it poured from the leaf Cupid holds in his hands. We sat back in our chairs to admire our beautiful fountain. While we were sitting there all tranquil, Jack our black lab went up to the fountain to get a drink. Grrrrrr. If he thinks this is his new water bowl, he has another think coming. This dog has a mind of his own. 

Do you remember the other new addition to our family? This is the goose that used to sit on MomMom and PaPa's front porch greeting everyone who came for a visit. She used to dress in the most outlandish outfits depending on the holiday. My family used to joke about what the goose was wearing whenever we got together. MomMom and PaPa purchased her somewhere up here by the lake on one of their many Sunday drives around Catawba and Marblehead. 

Matt used Scotch Brite pad to sand off the old dusty paint. This was definitely not a job for me because of my asthma. Dust drives my allergies and lungs crazy. Sorry I didn't get any photos of Matt sanding.

This is the goose after the second coat of white spray paint. She used to be a tan color, and I thought white would really brighten her up. I'm thinking of coloring the edges of her feathers with a touch of grey. Paint not the Grateful Dead song. Although I love that song and that band. So sad Jerry's been gone for ages. It's just not the same. I ramble.

Yesterday after we finished the fountain Matt and Michael went off to football conditioning. I decided to paint the finishing touches on my goose. I gave her a yellow bill with matching yellow webbed feet. I painted her eyes blue like MomMom's eyes. Next weekend I'm going to paint the base either a green to match the grass or a grey as if she's sitting on a rock. Still pondering that one.

The goose's name is Penelope after a character in the book called The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. The story is set in modern day and flashes back to WWII. The story reminded me of the time when MomMom and PaPa were young. MomMom stayed home with her newborn baby (my mother) while PaPa went off to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

Now Penelope sits in the grass just outside of our back door greeting us as we come home each day.

What have you been working on in your neck of the woods?

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Monday's Musings

Here are my Monday Musings for the week. Enjoy.

What I'm thinking: That I'm missing my MomMom and PaPa. This Memorial Day is the first one that PaPa hasn't been here to celebrate. He was a WWII veteran with the 99th Infantry at the Battle of the Bulge. I miss him and my grandma too. 

What I'm reading: Reading from some of my favorite blogs: attic 24, e,myself, and I, A Life in Ordinary, ...

What I'm listening to: A whole week's worth of GH is in the background as I write this.

What we're learning: I'm learning I need a routine in my life in order to get everything accomplished. I think I'll do some research on how to get myself organized so I can keep up with my house.

What I'm watching: Since I'm listening to GH I must be watching GH as well. I have a whole week's worth of GH to catch up on. I love taping my show, or do I say DVRing, and watching all of them in one afternoon. I can zip, zip, zip through the commercials. Do you know there's about 35 minutes of show and the rest are commercials.

What's cooking: We're cooking out this afternoon when Matt gets home from work, hotdogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and salsa, . . . YUM!

What I'm buying:  We went to Wildbird's Unlimited yesterday and bought bird seed because our birds are eating us out of house and home. We also bought a new hummingbird feeder, and I made hummingbird juice before hanging the new feeder in the backyard. We also went grocery shopping. YIPPEE! Groceries.

What I'm thankful for: I'm thankful for all those people who gave their life so that our country can remain free. Thank you to all of you who serve in the military. I'm also thankful for my church family. Thank you for making the spaghetti dinner possible.

What I'm creating: I finished painting my grandma's goose. She has new white feathers, yellow bill, and yellow feet. It's been awhile since she's had a facial. I've named her Penelope. I still need to paint the base green.

What I'm planning: I'm planning on going to Fostoria this weekend to help my aunt with my grandfather's house before the auction takes place on June 8. That will be a sad day. Watching all of my grandparents worldly possessions go to other people. 

What we did this last weekend: Matt and I went for a bike ride. We rode to the beach and around town. We've NEVER been bike riding together before. We went again today when we went to the Memorial Day Parade. Michael marched in the junior high band. He plays the drum. We also finished putting my grandmother's fountain together and placed it in the back flowerbed. I love it!

What I'm looking forward to: I'm looking forward to this Friday to celebrate the beginning of summer with colleagues and friends.

A picture to share: 

Matt and Michael riding home from the Memorial Day Parade.

What are your musings this Monday?

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