Monday, December 19, 2011
I have been wanting to cook the baked chicken tenders from the Spark Cookbook (page 184) and finally had time to make them today. They were delicious!
First soak the tenders in a little milk mixed with vinegar (buttermilk probably works, too) while you mix up the panko, herbs, and cheese. I used romano cheese.
Then coat the chicken with the bread mixture while to oven is heating. When the oven reaches 400, pop them in and cook them for 20 minutes. Easy Peasy!
While the chicken tenders were being prepared, I made up a batch of Israeli couscous shiitake risotto. I used whole wheat pearl (Israeli) couscous.
I cooked it covered, using a combination of water and chicken broth while preparing the vegetables to add to it at the end of cooking.
I chopped shiitake mushrooms, sliced a carrot very thin, and chopped some onion then sauteed them in a little bit of olive oil.
I added these to the couscous after it had finished cooking, stirred it in, and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavors could blend.
While everything else was cooking, I steamed some Brussels sprouts. Right before serving them, I drained of the water and sauteed them lightly with minced garlic and fresh lime juice.
The entire meal was tasty and nutritious. Two thumbs up for this meal from Mike and from me.
Friday, December 16, 2011
The dreaded holiday concert was a huge hit last night. The children had a great time, and it was a parent pleaser. I have to admit, I was worried about it because after missing almost a week between having the flu and my aunt's death, we were way behind on practice time. All of my students played the ukulele and sang the Dreidel song. There were a number of songs the children sang, but I was really proud of my beginning ukulele and guitar students for playing and singing in small groups. They exuded confidence and loved performing. They have gotten a lot of compliments from parents of children in all of the grades for their performance.
Today was our cookie exchange. I mentioned in an earlier blog that the children and teachers draw names to see who they will secretly make a cookie for. Then we all try to make the perfect cookie for our recipient. This is one of the children's favorite traditions.
Here is the cookie I made for the delightful 3rd grade boy whose name I drew. I was holding my breath hoping it would hold together. It is about 3" by 4". Unfortunately the photos came out blurry.
Not all of my students chose to or were able to complete their kitties by today. I brought in my sewing machine today to help them wrap up their projects. The ones that got finished are super cute and the children who made them are really happy about them.
Each kitty definitely takes on its own unique personality, just as the children who made them do. This was a difficult project and the children felt very accomplished by the end of the week.
Now I get some much needed vacation time. I am looking forward to having time to reclaim my exercise and practice time.
I am enjoying my new Fitbit. Last night was the first time I got to try out the sleep monitor feature. As I knew it would, it registered multiple segments of not sleeping. I hope that vacation will bring full nights' sleep instead of the fitful, interrupted sleep I have been getting.
I did not accomplish my step goals today. I got in my morning walk and was normally active with teaching, but I had a dental appointment after work and it was too dark to do my long walk when I finally got home today.
My treats to myself for vacation include a massage, a visit to my acupuncturist, and lots of time with my guitar. I am hoping to also accomplish some major organizing both at home and at school so I can start the new year fresh and unencumbered by clutter.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Sometimes I really wonder about myself. I have added so much onto my busy teaching load with this kitty project. The children are so excited and enthusiastic about it though.
Sewing kitties with 16 children is certainly an interesting challenge, but they are learning so much. While some of the children have a basic knowledge of hand sewing already, others still need to learn to thread a needle, or even tie a knot. With clogs and velcro fasteners, some of them do not even tie shoes. So along with learning how to stitch, understand patterns, turn small pieces right side out after sewing, stuff small pieces, make darts, and embroider, they are also learning some pretty basic life skills like tying. Not knowing how to tie a knot is one of those missing skills I would not necessarily have learned children of this age were missing if we weren't sewing.
Then there are those other life skills that come out in a relaxed and shared atmosphere that is created in a giant sewing circle.
M: "I think I will make mine with a really long tongue hanging out."
Me: "Who are you making it for?"
M. "My sister." (His sister is 14 years old.)
Me: "Do you think your sister would like that?"
M. "I don't know, I don't really know my sister." (He does)
Other kids: "Your sister would hate that."
M: " But I think it's funny."
Me: "When we make something for someone, it is about the other person more than about us."
S: I'm making this one for my baby sister. She'll love it. I'm going to make another one for me."
Other Kids: "Can we make more after vacation?"
One of our school traditions is our cookie exchange the day before we go on vacation. The children and teachers each draw a name and that person is the recipient of a very special handcrafted cookie. It is a secret so the week of the cookie exchange is filled with guessing who each cookie is for and friendly teasing about who has who for the exchange. I tell the children there are two times a year when I lie; April Fool's Day and the cookie exchange. If they ask me if I drew them, I will tell them 'yes.'
Yesterday we formed the cookies from the dough and baked them. The older children love to individualize the cookies they make and spend time with their artistry, while the younger ones love to make a giant circle and slather on the frosting.
Today we will begin decorating the cookies.
This is the Stella cookie I made for a different year of our cookie exchange. I have posted it before.
I hope this year's cookie will turn out as well.
One of my students recently got pigmy goats as pets. They came to visit us on Monday. How very cute they are!
My step counter tells me that by the end of a school day, I have usually taken 5 - 6000 steps. That would be approximately 1.5 miles between 8:00 and 3:00. I don't count those 'miles' as my walking miles because I am not making continuous long strides, although I do count them in my daily steps. I like my step counter, but I took the plunge and ordered a FitBit which will not only count my steps, but will also count calories burned. I am interested to see how it measures calories burned for playing my instrument as compared to the fitness tracker.
One of the compelling reasons that drove me to buying the FitBit is that it measures sleep. Sleep has been an issue for me, not just falling asleep, but staying asleep and my general quality of sleep as well.
Of course another compelling reason is that I am a Gadget Geek (thank you, Dad!)
I am excited because when I looked at the tracking, my FitBit should arrive today.
Just a slice of life from a busy teacher.
I hope your week is busy, entertaining, and positive.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Thirty-six years ago when I was a La Leche League leader and Lamaze childbirth instructor, I was called to the home of a young woman who was having a difficult time getting started nursing her newborn daughter. As it turned out, she was a fellow artist and quilter and we hit it off immediately - the start of a lifelong friendship.
Kathy made toys and quilts for her children, and also made the most amazing quilts as art for walls. In recent years, she has begun writing children's books. I bought a copy of her book, 'Calico Kittens' for my granddaughters and had them signed by the author. I didn't realize when I bought the books that they have a pattern in the back for making the calico kittens.
This was a happy discovery because I love having a related toy for a book when I give books to young children. I copied that pattern, and then thought to ask my class if they would enjoy making calico kittens, too. I told them that sewing isn't just for girls and that some of the boys might like to make on for a sister, or for their kindergarten partners. One of the 6th grade boys immediately piped up that of COURSE sewing wasn't just for girls, and we were off. Every child but one wants to make one, and I'll bet that come tomorrow, he will change his mind. Of course, he doesn't have to if he doesn't wish to.
So today I made my first calico kitten for one of my granddaughters to go with her book. I wanted to get it done before tomorrow so the children could see the prototype. I'll make another one with the children so I can instruct as we go along.
I thought she came out pretty cute.
I bought a quantity of quilting fat quarters so the children would have a selection of fabrics to choose from. JoAnn Fabrics was having a decent sale on them, definitely a plus.
I have to say that while I was sewing this kitten I was wondering what on earth I was thinking. Making these with 16 children? Yeesh!
It will be a fun activity for the last week of school before winter break though.
Here is a link to Kathy's book in case you are interested in one.
Friday, December 09, 2011
As much as I try to keep my stress levels low, they tend to skyrocket this time of year. I have made many adjustments in my schedule to keep stress management strategies in place.
Here are some of the things I have been doing in terms of stress management.
Call me an ostrich, but I don't watch the news for now.
Cut back on work related responsibilities
Get enough sleep
(Do you like those pacifiers? )
But life interferes with unavoidable stressors anyway.
Taking my son back to the airport - I won't see him for another year probably.
My beloved aunt dying. She was like a mother to me.
Getting on the plane to Philly and back - MAJOR stress as I am terrified of flying.
Not having grieving time. Day after Yve died, I was back at work. The following week (this week) work, plus faculty mtg. plus board meeting, plus committee mtg. plus field trip.
A student who is having major meltdowns.
My dear friend who kicked back ovarian cancer last summer, has learned that it has returned.
My step daughter is in crisis with drug addictions.
Not easy stuff.
How I'm handling it:
I joined the Stress Buster Challenge Team.
Keeping a stress journal. This blog is actually an on-line entry for today.
Still trying to get in exercise. No less than 10,000 steps per day since I got back from Philly. 12,000 today, plus an hour of rollerblading, and including a walk in the snow with Stella.
I am planning another Lie-Low weekend. The plan is to get to Body Pump, which I have missed for a few weeks, pamper myself, play music, and take it easy.
Trying to stay on target with my original stress management program.
This evening after writing my blog, I plan to read, then play my guitar, then read a little more before bed.
I loved Dorrie in 'Finding Nemo.'
"Just keep swimming!"
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