Monthly Archives: April 2018

Teaching Tuesday: Spring break stretch

The stretch between spring break and the end of the school year is the longest block of time in the year. Unlike every other quarter, this particular time does not contain a single day off…at least not on our schedule.

In the first quarter we get Labor Day just about half way through the grading period. During second quarter we get Thanksgiving break, which makes winter break seem like it is right around the corner. During third quarter we get MLK Day and President’s Day, which initially eases us back into school and then gives us a nice break at the midway point.

But during the final stretch we get nothing.

At this point we’ve only finished 3 full weeks of the quarter and it feels like it might never end. I know this is due primarily to the fact that the end of the year is so clearly in sight. We feel like we are creeping toward it though, not sprinting.

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Chocolate Monday: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Happy Birthday Truffle bar

3 Cs birthday cake bar with confettiI am not generally someone who loves shopping. I know that according to pretty much every movie, TV show or book ever written, that as a woman, I am supposed to simply adore shopping. I am supposed to reach near orgasmic heights at the prospect of finding some amazing discount on designer shoes or purses or some such nonsense. Although I can name some designers, aside from the famous Burberry pattern, I’m not sure I could actually identify anything by a designer. Oh wait, does Vera Bradley count? I can pretty much always recognize her stuff. Not because I like it (I am not a fan), but because just about every teacher in the world has some sort of Vera Bradley bag. I have four different friends with Vera Bradley lunchboxes.

But as usual, I digress.

About the only time I actually enjoy shopping is if I am with my best friend. And then, it isn’t for the shopping, but for the company. I love being out and about with my BFF. As long as we are not in Anthropologie, she actually makes trying on clothes kind of fun. A part of each trip to visit her in Athens, Georgia means finding one of her college students to babysit my kiddos so that the two of us can have a few hours to have a semi-fancy lunch and hit downtown to look at the fun shops.

At one of our stops this year, we found a store that carries pretty much everything girly. There were clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, cards, soaps, lotions…if it seems like it should be in a boutique for women, they have some version of it. I’ve been in this store a lot, so I wasn’t really surprised at the majority of the inventory. However, when I saw a whole display of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate bars and truffles, I knew I would be making a purchase this year.

3 Cs birthday cake packageMy BFF decided to buy the box of truffles. Each night as we watched something fun on TV, she’d take out two truffles, cut them in half and we’d savor them. I don’t actually remember any of the flavors of them, but I do remember enjoying them. My contribution to our nightly chocolate fest was two of their chocolate bars. I grabbed the Sea Salt Caramel bar (not sure how I’d miss this one so far) and the Happy Birthday truffle bar.

The Happy Birthday bar is really pretty cute. I think the little pieces of candy confetti on the back are a nice touch. While it may not be quite the same as eating the delicious looking cupcake on the front of the package, I love that they did their best to replicate the experience by adding the confetti. Visually I love it. However, I am not a big fan of sprinkles or candy dots like this on actual cake. I don’t like the crunch they give desserts and I don’t like the strange, nondescript sugar taste they add to an otherwise delicious treat. These candy dots are no exception. They detract a bit from my enjoyment because they add a sort of useless extra crunch to the bar.

3 Cs birthday close upThe milk chocolate is smooth and creamy and I think the best part of this bar is the bites of simple solid chocolate. The filling claims to be a buttercream frosting truffle. I’m not quite sure what a buttercream truffle would be as I’ve never had another company claim to make one. The center of the bar definitely reminds me of cake frosting, but once again, not in the way I’d hope for. It is almost too sweet. It reminds me a bit of the poorly made, almost cloyingly sweet frosting that comes on cheap grocery store cakes. My kids loved it, but then again, they both love sprinkles on cupcakes and love those cheap grocery store cupcakes some parent always brings in for classroom celebration days. I find myself scraping the frosting off and then being sad that the cake is too dry.

I had high hopes for this bar as birthday cake is one of my favorite foods in the world. Sadly, this was not a happy celebration.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 3/10 (since I didn’t like it, it definitely made the $5 bar of chocolate seem way over priced).

 

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Free Reading Friday: Passionate Minds:Women Rewriting the World

Passionate MindsI was really excited to read Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World by Claudia Roth Pierpont. I found it in the discount section of Half Price Books. I’d read books by several of the writers featured in it and liked the idea of more insight into their works.

There is definitely some interesting analysis of their writings as well as some illuminating research into their lives. However, the author’s bias both for (and against) some of these women is glaring and in the few cases I am fairly familiar with, unwarranted. Of course every writer should look critically at their subjects. Of course they should not sugar coat the information or feature only the bright points of a subject’s life, but I felt a bit of her personal disdain for some of her subjects.

The writing is also more than a bit dull at times. I was a bit disappointed that after reading it I didn’t feel inspired to pick up that many works by these authors I had not already read. Mae West is the only author I hadn’t read anything by that I want to read something by. I am interested in reading additional works by Lessing and Welty, but that interest was there before this book.

I just feel this book could have been so much more inspiring and certainly a lot more passionate.

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Travel Thursday: State Botanical Gardens of Georgia

botanical garden main.jpgOn my very first trip to Athens, Georgia five and a half years ago, my best friend took my kids and I to the UGA State Botanical Gardens. It was early October and still very warm. Unlike all the gardens in Indiana, this one was teeming with vibrant colors and a plethora of thriving trees, bushes, flowers and herbs. We spent a good portion of the afternoon picnicking near the fountain in front of the greenhouse and then strolling through various gardens, marveling at the beauty of it.

My kids loved walking over the little bridge that led up to the Japanese garden. They laughed as they found tiny lizards running among the flowers in the planters on the bridge. They loved seeing all the butterflies flitting around the gorgeous flowers. They marveled at the giant flowers and leaves in the greenhouse. And, they nearly lost their minds when they found the giant stone ball floating on top of a spout of water that they could make turn with just a push of their hands. I’m not sure how long my best friend and I stood staring out over the gardens while they took turns pushing that ball around.

Although it was quite warm outside, the gardens were so lovely, that I hardly minded. They are, without a doubt, the most lovely spot I visited, not only on that trip but on any of my subsequent trips.

I wasn’t exactly expecting much as the gardens are tucked away behind hay fields and cow pastures. In fact, if not for a rather dull looking sign announcing their presence, I would have had no idea that anythings so beautiful could exist along that stretch of road.

Because the botanical garden is a great way to get not only myself  but my kids outside and working off some energy (and some calories from all that great food), we try to visit on every trip. Sometimes we do not have stellar luck. On our second visit, which was in March, five years ago, it was unseasonably cold. I’m not sure the temperature got above 60 the entire time we were there and most mornings it was so cold that when my kids and I tried to go on a walk, we could actually see our own breath. Before we got halfway around the circle my best friend lives on, we had to turn back because my ears were frozen. So, when we visited the gardens, even though we’d picked one of the warmer days and the sun was shinning, there were hardly any flowers to look at.

botanical gardensAlthough we did a bit of walking out to the trails, we spent most of our time in the greenhouse. Thankfully it is very lovely, very warm and has a fantastic collection of orchids, which I am fascinated by. Ever since I read The Orchid Thief and then watched Adaptation as part of a wonderful book to movie club my friends had back in our mid-20’s, I’ve found orchids captivating. Because their scent is one thing the book focuses on, I always get as close to orchids as possible, hoping to catch one of the oddly scented ones. I love the variety of orchids the greenhouse has on display.

On this trip, we picked a warmer, sunnier day to visit. While it could have been warmer for my tastes, it was just over 70 and spring was clearly in the air. There were tons of volunteers all around the gardens weeding, planting and generally tending to everything surrounding us. We all had a blast wandering all over the gardens because almost everything was in bloom. There were beautiful trees bursting with lovely purple, pink and white flowers. There were row upon row of tulips in colors ranging from pale yellow all the way to a red so dark I thought it might actually be black. The herbs in the physic garden were blooming and a slight rub of the leaves released wonderful scents.

botanical garden statueWe made it so far down the trails that we found some really awesome statues and art displays that my kids really liked. Not only did I have my camera out snapping pictures like a mad woman, but my best friend had purchased a Polaroid for my kids to use. They had the best time taking pictures of the flowers, the art and each other. My daughter struggled a bit to remember that it was not a digital camera, so she couldn’t take quite as many pictures as she wanted. Nor could she just erase them, but eventually she figured it out. The photo albums my BFF bought my kids are filled with pictures from our trip to the botanical gardens.

My only regret about our visits is that I haven’t gotten to see it in May, when my BFF says it is actually just exploding with color. Maybe one day I’ll get there during true spring. But for now, I’m pretty happy with the time we’ve gotten to spend there and I know that our next trip (which won’t be until October), we’ll be up for another run around the grounds.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Housework

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that had one of those cutsie signs which read, “Please excuse the mess my kids are making memories.” This was crossed out and below it it read, “I suck at being a housewife.”

This sign, totally hit home with me. I am a good mom. I am a good teacher. I am a good wife. I am a good friend. I absolutely, positively, without a doubt, suck at being any sort of housewife.

Not that housewife is a term I take too seriously. Considering that over 60% of households are two income households, I don’t know how many women can be the housewives that our moms and grandmothers were.

I spend 8 hours a day at work. On top of that, my commute is 1.5-2 hours. Luckily my kids are in the car with me, so I get to spend time with them (and sometimes they even want to talk to me). At least three days a week I try to stop by the gym on the way home and get 30-45 minutes in (they have an awesome childcare facility and my kids love playing there). I do pretty much all of the cooking in my house, which I’m not complaining (much) about, since I like cooking and my husband does like 80% of the dishes. But, that means once I get home, I usually sit down for 10-15 minutes and then start dinner. That’s at least a good 30 minutes of work. Then, I have to sit with my kids and make sure homework gets done.

By this time it’s usually at least 7 pm, which means about 40 minutes until we start getting ready for bedtime. This is time I usually try to sneak in some grading or reading or talking to my kids. Baths and bedtimes are usually done around 8:30, which leaves me about an hour and a half before I get ready for bed. Sometimes my husband and I watch a TV show and sometimes I grade. I also check social media and personal emails during this time.

Even if I wanted to clean (and I NEVER want to clean), there really isn’t any time. At least not if I want to keep my sanity and do at least one thing that’s just for me each day.

I know the weekends should be my time to clean, but, it’s just so hard to get motivated. I have to get all the laundry done (which I know is a type of housework). I also have to get all the shopping done and run all the errands we didn’t get around to on the weekdays. My husband leaves for work on Sunday at 7:30 am and doesn’t get home until 4:30 pm, so getting cleaning done while trying to take care of my kids isn’t always easy. I usually get a general straightening done, but as to deep cleaning…yeah, that rarely happens.

Usually the only time deep cleaning gets done is when I look at a room and realize I can no longer live in this filth! To be fair, it’s never actual filth, just a general need for a good bleaching/mopping/vacuuming/scrubbing.

I know some people find cleaning therapeutic, but I will never be one of those people. No matter how much I’d like a clean house, I just don’t want to be the one cleaning it. The thought of scrubbing the shower down or mopping the kitchen floor makes me quickly start looking for any grading I can possibly do. It has me running toward the gym…and I hate running. I was just not made to be a housewife.

 

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Teaching Tuesday: headphones

Students with cellphones and headphones are the current bane of my existence. At the start of this school year, our principal always reminds kids of the school rules. This year, a new rule was added: students are not allowed to wear headphones while walking in the hallways or in the classroom unless permitted by a teacher.

Now, this may seem arbitrary or like another way schools are restricting student “freedoms,” but the rule was actually put in place as a safety precaution. Far too many kids were messing with their phones and not paying attention to where they were going, which meant hallway collisions, which meant arguments and fights. AND kids weren’t able to hear announcements or teachers trying to talk to them.

I know this may still not sound like that big of a safety concern, but on Thursday, we had a lock down drill during 1st block. A students, who had gotten to school late had his headphones in and his music was so loud, that despite the fact that no one was in the hallway, he couldn’t hear the principal announcing the drill. He was in his own little world, just slowly dancing his way to class. The hallways were empty, but a teacher who has first period prep was sweeping the halls to make sure everyone was getting to a safety location for the drill. She called out to the student, who couldn’t hear her, and ended up having to speed walk to catch up to him, tap him on the shoulder and tell him there was a drill going on. He had no idea.

Because he didn’t have tiny earbuds in. He had gigantic Beats by Dre-style headphones on and as far as he was concerned there was nothing but him and his music around. Had it been a real emergency and not a drill, who knows what would have happened.

After the drill, our principal came over the announcements again, thanked the kids for their cooperation and reminded them of the cellphone/headphone rule. Without calling the kid out, he reminded them why headphones are an issue and why we do not allow them.

And yet, by the time I was in the hallway during passing period between 1st and 2nd block, I saw multiple students in the hallway, earbuds/headphones in, just cruising to their next destination. I told each one I saw to take their headphones out and they each looked at me like I was crazy.

On Friday I decided to do a little research. I kept track of every kid who I talked to about cellphones or headphones during they day. Between the hours of 10:00-2:05 pm (I didn’t talk to anyone before first block or after last block since technically the rule is only in place during school hours), I told 27 kids to either take headphones off their ears or put their cellphones away. So, in four hours, I was able to talk to 27 kids violating the rule, which is just about 7 an hour.

Of those 27 kids, only 8 of them were violating the rule during my 30 minute lunch duty. The other 19 were kids I saw in the hallway between classes. Five of the 27 couldn’t hear me the first time I asked them to remove headphones (not because I was too far away or too quiet–I am NEVER too quiet). I actually had to tap those 5 students on the shoulder to ask them to remove their headphones. Three of them got rather snotty with me, but complied (one went so far as to throw a hand up at me and say “whatever”).

Not a single one of them was one of my students.

And this doesn’t count the kids I saw with phones or headphones who I could not get to because they were too far down the hallway or turned into a classroom or bathroom before I reached them. I’d estimate the number of kids I saw violating the policy during those 4 hours (again, just one day after they were reminded of the policy) was probably double the number I talked to.

This coming week I plan on tracking this again. My principal is all about data, so I plan to give him some.

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Chocolate Monday: Sweetie Pie’s croissants

Sweetie Pie breakfast.jpgWhenever I am in Athens, Georgia visiting my best friend, stopping by Sweetie Pie’s is an absolute must. And not just once during our visit! Luckily, it is located directly across the street from the entrance to my best friend’s neighborhood.

Since my kids are fairly early risers, well, my daughter is, I am usually up before my BFF and her husband, so a couple of times during our visit, I get up, head over to Sweetie Pie’s and grab breakfast for everyone.

Sweetie Pie’s is fairly small. There is no place to eat inside the bakery and they have a limited number of pastry choices, but I have never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried there. Every day they have a variety of muffins, scones and sweet breads. Some days they have gigantic cinnamon rolls (I never get these b/c they have nuts in them and neither my BFF nor I like nuts in our cinnamon rolls) and some days they have croissants. To be more specific, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday they have croissants. Yeah, I love them so much that despite living 10 hours away from the place, I know they days they have croissants on the menu.

My son is a big fan of their savory ham and cheese croissant. Before she became a vegetarian, my daughter also really loved this one. Although it is never my go to croissant, it is tasty. The croissant is flaky and buttery, just like it should be. The cheese is not overpowering, but the slight gooeyness of it pairs perfectly with the melt in your mouth croissant. And Savie doesn’t skimp on the ham either. She doesn’t just dump a few ham cubes in there. She adds some thick, tasty ham slices to it. It’s a great dose of protein and pastry!

Savie also offers some super tasty almond croissants as well as some croissants with her famous Asian-infused flavors like thai coconut, red bean and green tea. However, my absolute favorite offering on her entire menu are her chocolate croissants.

SP close up croissantI LOVE these little pillows of heaven. I’ve had a fair amount of chocolate croissants in my life. While I’ve yet to have an actual croissant in France, I have had them at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France section of Epcot, in various cities in the UK, in places like Starbucks and Panera and even at a few local places, but these are my favorite ones.

 

How do I love them? Let me count the ways:

  1. The croissant itself is buttery
  2. The croissant is flakey
  3. The croissant is ever so crumbly (but in a super good way)
  4. The chocolate inside is slightly liquidy and gooey (unlike so many other places where the chocolate is pretty much solid like a bit of candy bar)
  5. The chocolate is a tad bitter, so it’s not too sweet

In short, it is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10 (mine looked a little overcooked this time, even though it was super tasty)
Value: 10/10

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