Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas is coming!

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Actually, Christmas is probably my least favorite holiday. I think it has something to do with all of the pressure surrounding gift-giving. Don't get me wrong, I love giving and receiving gifts but sometimes the stress surrounding finding the "right" gift for someone can make me want to run and hide until December 26th. I do, however, love the decorations, the food, the music, the fun, and the special memories.

My mother always did a big display for Christmas. She sculpted and painted ornaments, crafted count-down calendars from paper, baked divine cookies and candies, and even made sure the tree looked JUST right. Magic was ever-present in our home during the holiday season... so much so I rarely worried about presents. When I was a teenager, I can remember my sister saying something about getting more than my brother and I did. She thrived on conflict. While perfectly happy with my haul, I had a moment of bitterness and began to feel terrible I hadn't received as much as she had. WHO DOES THAT?! I still feel guilty about my reaction, and even more so because my mother had overheard my outburst and took it upon herself to share that we had each received gifts totaling the same amount. It was like a knife through the heart. I honestly didn't care but I rose to the occasion and grappled with my sister who was happy to argue the issue. Even though that Christmas was almost 20 years ago, my mind still goes there as we prepare to shop, wrap, and set things under the tree.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The day is solely about thanking God for the many blessings He provides. Sure, amazing food and family are all a part but the day isn't complicated by anything except for maybe football. It is my sincere hope I do not allow myself to get bogged down by having to BUY a lot for our wee one as she grows. I hope she can savor the simple delights which make this season truly amazing. I hope she thinks less about what she got and more about what she is able to experience and give. I pray I am strong enough to resist the societal pull to kill myself to get her the latest trend and have the skills to help her learn to find satisfaction in the simpler things.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Rather than just trying to make a splash, soak in the season!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yummy Dinner!

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I am not sure about you but I tire of having the same go-to meals for dinner. While I appreciate the fact I need not think too intently about how to prepare some delicious, healthy dishes for my family, my palate yawns at the thought of having spaghetti with meat sauce AGAIN! Before leaving the office last night, I decided to scan the internet for a recipe for tilapia. We enjoy fish yet often don't think to feast upon it. I had everything the recipe called for at home, except dried basil (of which the recipe called for 1/2 tsp). Rather than stop at the store for one small jar of basil, I substituted the recipe with dill. I also didn't want to make fresh bread crumbs so I made use of some left over Panko in my pantry. Both proved to be positive alterations. While deceptively simple, we had a delicious dinner of baked tilapia plated with freshly steamed broccoli and my homemade applesauce. YUMM-O and super healthy... even the baby and the hubs enjoyed it!!!

Baked Tilapia with Butter Crumb Topping
4 - 6 tilapia fillets (about 1 1/2 #)
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (can use fresh)
3/4 - 1 tsp dried dill

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil a large baking dish with extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray. Salt and pepper fillets and arrange in dish. In a separate bowl, combine butter, crumbs and dill. Top fillets with crumb topping. Place into oven and bake for 15 - 18 minutes. Place under broiler for 2 - 3 minutes to brown the topping. Remove to a plate for serving.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Moving Forward

This morning, my wee one (14 mo.) made me grin from ear to ear through misty eyes.

Arriving at daycare, I pulled her from her car seat, placed her shoes back on her feet (she takes them off whenever we get into the car), and gave her a big squeeze before standing her on the brick path. We walked hand in hand, albeit slowly, to the provider's front porch. While we waited for the door to open, my sweet girl patted the pumpkins on display with genuine excitement. As soon as we heard, "Buenos dias, la princessa!" I helped her into the formal living room and removed her jacket. The daycare provider and I began our quick catch-up session but as she spoke I couldn't help but notice all of the little boys lined up on the gate corralling them in the play room. As she waited, Reagan began waving excitedly to her friends. Then, she turned and waved to me as if to say, "Bye Mom!" It was the most precious sight. (Sniffle, Sniffle)

She is definitely growing up and with her growth comes my realization that she is moving forward. It isn't easy to face but she sure does make me proud.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tasty New Snack!

I just tried a can of Blue Diamond's Bold Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds. All I have to say is, "WHOA! These suckers are DELISH!!" If you like the intensity of horseradish with a little saltiness of soy sauce, THIS is the snack for you. Far superior to the smokehouse almonds of days gone by, this new product in the Blue Diamond family makes almonds exciting.

28 almonds comprise one serving. While not exactly low in calories (1 serving has 170 calories), almonds contain healthy fats, potassium, fiber and protein. They are totally worth a try! Pick some up some Wasabi & Soy Sauce almonds in your grocery store's snack food aisle and enjoy!

I really do sound like a commercial!!

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Tagxedo - Another Techie Tool!!

I have to say, I really love playing with new resources. I found this particular site a few weeks ago while reading through edutopia's Back to School guide. If you have ever played with Wordle, you are going to love Tagxedo. Tagxedo lets you create word clouds generated from the frequency of words used in a document. What sets Tagxedo apart from other word cloud designing sites is you can select the shape in which your word cloud appears. For example, if you wish to convert the FFA Creed into a word cloud, go to "Create" across the top of the screen. On the left menu, choose "Load" and merely paste the entire FFA Creed into the text box. Then, you can customize the font, color theme, orientation of text or other characteristics in the left menu. To represent the final word cloud in the shape of a pig or perhaps the USA, go to "Shape" and make the appropriate selection.

Teachers may find Tagxedo helpful for struggling readers learning to extract meaning from a paragraph. Like Wordle, Tagxedo makes the words used more frequently much larger than others. English teachers may wish for students to enter their poetry into Tagxedo to create visually stunning representations of their work for posting around the classroom. Teachers may also use Tagxedo as a game with students to introduce a topic. By entering key words from the lesson plan or unit plan into the text box, teachers may have students try to anticipate the next topic of study.

I recently used Tagxedo as a professional development feedback tool. As you can see from above, I entered my faculty resume into Tagxedo. I had hoped to see where I was spending the bulk of my time. Those words I am not seeing, or those not appearing as large as others, may be areas I need to focus on for the coming academic year. Why did I choose the footprint shape? Because I wanted to see the footprint I was leaving on Agricultural education! The opportunities for this tool are limitless!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

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I really believe I am a rebel at heart. When I hear of a silly rule, I feel the need to find a way around it... or merely push my way through it. Many schools have tried to ban cell phones and texting during the school day but as a teacher, it is almost futile to fight against the pull it has on students. Rather than spend so much energy trying to win a losing battle, why not try to structure technology use for students? Not only does it seem possible to achieve, it seems like it would boost student engagement in the process.

Well, that is what THIS teacher thought!! Watch and celebrate what this teacher in Florida is doing by asking her students to text in class.

Texting in Class Video

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fountain of Youth?

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Yesterday, I had the chance to visit with a student teacher located over 2 1/2 hours from campus. The drive was not the fun part, although it was exciting to view fall harvest from the windows of the Escape. No, the fun occurred while witnessing this early career teacher interacting with her administrator, cooperating teachers, and students. She is doing an incredible job there already and it is only her third week of classes!

The entire student teaching group this quarter is one of those rare groups. You know the type. They take initiative. They help one another. They share without having to be asked. They are open, honest, caring. They provide support to one another, to the staff at their placements and to their students. Honestly, they make this whole professorial gig pretty great. I am well aware groups like this don't come along very often so I am trying to soak in the rich camaraderie and collegiality being demonstrated.

They also cause me to pause and reflect on my own career. What do I do to encourage collaboration among our preservice teachers? Do I demonstrate it in my dealings with others? Do I do all I can to help others? Do I push the boundaries of what I currently know and do? How can I improve? Am I willing to risk what is safe to make it so? These thoughts are coming at the perfect time... just as I am planning for the new quarter.

Ahh... working with young professionals can be soo invigorating!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just Because You CAN!

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This is an incredible waste of time but to be perfectly honest, sometimes we need to waste a moment or to... in order to collect ourselves.

So, squish away!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Make it Work!

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I absolutely LOVE Project Runway. Seriously, the show is the highlight of my week. Not only does it showcase some of the most incredibly talented people but it pushes those talents to do more than even they believed they could.
I often wonder what a similar concept would look like in the field of education. Perhaps teachers would design lessons that would pull students out of the classroom and place them in unique situations and settings. Perhaps the lessons would look more like problem based learning with students designing the learning based on a topic, question, concept or challenge posed by the teacher. Perhaps there would be deep engagement and on-task behavior on the part of students rather than frustration and resentment. Perhaps teachers would experience feelings of fulfillment over their career choice rather than feelings of doubt.

Rather than more accountability, standardized tests, and legislation education could benefit from Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn issuing a challenge to help it move to the next level. Who knows, for the first time education might just be in rather than out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fresh Tomatoes

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I just love the bounty summer brings. Although I live in a dump with a postage stamp yard and a poor climate for growing the vegetables I want, I do have plenty of friends and family with gardens and a desire to share the fruits (or vegetables) of their labor. My dad grows the BEST tomatoes which I recently turned into an incredible marinara and froze the rest for use this winter.

So, here here to the vine ripened, garden tomato. There is nothing like you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Easier Photo Editing?!

Okay, so I am not the greatest when it comes to editing photos. I mean, the whole thing kind of intimidates me AND it takes soo long to figure out. Well, a friend told me about Picnik, a free, online photo editing tool. Yes, I know there are other tools with many more bells and whistles but I just don't have the time to sit and play with them to (1) figure them out and (2) get my pictures the way I want them (if you know me you will know I am a bit anal when it comes to details). Picnik gives you a little edge to your work AND makes your pictures pop!

So, here is the before....

And here is the after.

Nice, right? In just 2 minutes, I was able to sharpen the face and make those great colors a little more vibrant. Give Picnik a try. You might be surprised by what it can do to quickly improve your pictures!

Imagine the Possibilities!

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Upon arriving at the office today, I turned on the computer and immediately dove into my email. I found a great video from a student related to Bloom's Taxonomy. Well, that video sent me searching for other little gems on an educational technology blog. Although it took a couple of hours, my scavenging was not in vain. I turned up this great tool for gathering audience feedback in real time.

As a teacher, presenter, trainer, facilitator, consultant... one often likes to know what the audience is thinking and to be certain the points made are clear and well-received. TodaysMeet allows presenters to accomplish just that! It also helps presenters answer audience questions as they arise. Imagine what this could do for students too afraid to ask questions. TodaysMeet seems to provide a space for members of an audience to communicate with the facilitator while he or she is facilitating, without disrupting the presentation flow. It also allows the facilitator the opportunity to tailor the presentation as it is delivered, rather than waiting until the end to realize they have missed the mark. TodaysMeet lets audience members communicate with the presenter via Twitter on their smart phones and internet. What a powerful tool!

I would imagine some ground rules or norms would need to be set to ensure the audience frames their comments and questions in a positive manner. I would also imagine the use of such a tool is not for the faint at heart. However, set up is rather simple. Just create a room, identify how long the comments should be saved, create a Twitter hashmark (#) identifier, and start "talking". It is THAT easy!!

As teachers, lets embrace the backchannel (everything going on in the room other than that which is coming from the presenter) and make our classrooms or meeting rooms more effective. I intend to give this tool a try during the fall and I would encourage you all to do the same.

Risk boldly my friends!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Divine Hot Beverage

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I absolutely adore coconut cream pie. The following is a tasty warm beverage for coconut cream pie hot chocolate. While August may not be the best time to sample, you can always save the recipe for a warm winter's evening. Once you have a taste, you will be dreaming up occasions where you can serve and enjoy. It may even become a new Christmas morning tradition!

Coconut Cream Pie Hot Chocolate
(Serves 4)

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 package (11 oz) white chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • Whipped cream
  • Shredded, sweetened coconut

Heat milk, cream and extract in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in chips and combine until smooth. Pour mixture into mugs and top with whipped cream and coconut. Serve and enjoy!

Note: This treat is equally delicious as a chocolate coconut drink as well!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beautiful Blogs

I just love a beautiful blog. I am not sure what it is about the colors, photos, or musings but I think my new-found affinity for the digital may be related to my love of gorgeous papers and divine pens. You don't even want to know how many cards, stickers, reams of paper, or boxes of pens I have stockpiled. It is astounding.

I last posted to this blog in November, 2005 as a way to share my experiences in graduate school. Alas, that didn't last. Homework, teaching, writing a dissertation... it all got in the way. Oh, and around that time I discovered facebook. Ah, facebook... the most divine time suck but such an amazing invention.

So, let's try this again. -- Take 2!

At right, I have listed some of my favorite blogs. I am sure there are more but here is a start. I absolutely adore The Pioneer Woman and if you have yet to discover her, put down what you are doing and go there now. You will NOT be disappointed. A friend introduced me to Enjoying The Small Things which left me bawling my eyes out in the middle of the night one evening. Feel free to check out this smattering of favorite blogs and let me know what you think. If you have other suggestions, feel free to share. I am always game for a beautiful blog!

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