Thursday, June 9, 2011


Do you have any idea how easy it is to make jam? I had some frozen blackberries from  one of many blackberry picking adventures. (I planted three black berries on the hill above the artichokes...oh someday i will have my own patch!) But in the meantime, I have good friends and wild berries to keep me busy. 
 There are great directions that can be found here for preparing and preserving your own fruit jams. But if it all feels too fussy, there's no reason you can't just do what I do, which is 1) take fresh or frozen-from-fresh blackberries. Around 6 or 8 cups worth. Bring it to a hard boil (meaning, when you stir it, the boiling bubbles don't go down) and add a packet of low-sugar pectin.
 Let it dissolve, stirring constantly, then add 2 or 3 cups of granulated sugar. Let it dissolve, stirring constantly, then I use a hand masher to mush it all up while it's cooking for another 10 minutes or so.
Then I spooned it into jars and let it cool, jar lids on. Let that sit on the counter. Convince yourself that it will never set, that you'll be left with berry soup at the end of the day. Come back in a couple of hours and be pleasantly surprised that it actually worked, and the jam is, in fact, of jam-like consistency.

So store without bothering to water bath preserve them, I just popped these jars in the refrigerator. They'll stay for a couple of months, good as fresh, but they won't last that long anyway, so it was a good solution. I could also freeze it, pretty much indefinitely.

There are all kinds of snappy ideas about adding lemon (acidity helps it set) or using sugar substitutes (only an option with low-sugar pectin), but don't let that stuff intimidate you. You can just ignore it (I do, and my jam is still fab : )

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keep All Sissy Soft Suckers Off My Corner*

*Run DMC ~ Is IT Live

Teaching is not for the weak.  Nor is parenting. Nor is death. All three have collided for me this week.

In perhaps the most surreal moment of my week so far, I pulled up to my mom's car at my grandma's funeral on this drizzly Monday afternoon. Her windows were up and she was mouthing something to me. I squinted at her through the glass, and it became apparent that she was trying to tell me something. 

I could juuuusssstttt make it out.  "They all think you're baked." Alright. That's.....weird.

I'm down to the next 12 hours. If I can get through the next 12 hours, I believe I will be able to say that the last 72 hours were not so bad in hindsight.
From my garden! I'm looking forward to a lot more of this. Starting soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


During math the other day, I made a few puzzle-like items available to the students and invited them to explore a bit. Pentominoes, Tangrams, and Pattern Blocks are super fun and offer some really interesting and profound mathematics for kids to noodle on in interesting ways. I also had a box of dominoes, and thought that the kids might make some interesting connections around decomposing numbers (for example, a 7 domino may be represented as a 5 side and 2 side, or a 3 side and a 4 side, or a 1 side and a 6 side) which would be really super helpful for when I want them to do arithmetic without counting on their toes.  haha Not even kidding.

It took the dominoes group less than 15 seconds to begin a domino relay. You know what I'm talking about, right?

Do I really need to tell you how addicting these are?

The squirrels have become obsessed with making designs with the dominoes.

 This group of girls called me over every few minutes to watch the 
progression of their simple face to this fantastic vixen.

I am amazed at the level of intense focus and overall cooperation required to make a relay that 1) works and 2) stays up until you are good and ready to knock it down. 
This one minute video is a pretty accurate representation at the fascination with 
which they approach this task.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Love Notes

In a box, somewhere in my house, I know there are two treasures: a note and a card. Both are from my husband. The note was written to me in a college English class.  We did not go to college together, but when we were a-courting, he was taking a night class to finish up his degree and I, besotted and unreasonable, basically audited the class by sitting there mooning at him so we wouldn't have to spend one waking moment apart. I am a constant, attention-mongering pest when it comes to him; this was true from the moment I laid eyes on him, right up until I sat down to write this. For nearly 20 years, I've been poking at his neck and whining at him to talk to me, what are you doing, why won't you talk to me, and his response in 1992 was to drop everything and talk to me.  In 2011, his more measured response is a small smile, a 'what is it honey?', and usually a pat on my head to let me know he's about to move on to more pressing matters, like, I don't know, living his life. But in the early months of our love affair, he reluctantly wrote me a very silly, one page, passing-notes-in-class-kind-of-note, during an English class that he did not want (and I did not have) to take.

The card is a small field of pinkety-pink-pink flowers with no sentiment inside except the one line he wrote to me, the week before we were married in 1998.  What it says is between us, but I promise you, it is a love note.

I am a total sucker for a love note.  For reals. Erik has a set of love letters from me, written pages at a time, every day, from a one month return trip to my beloved Mexico that I took the summer after we started dating. This entire blog feels like a love letter to him and my boys, when the truth be known. He isn't moved to write me love letters (drats!) so I keep my treasures and gratefully accept the many tokens of affection that he does offer.

 I get dozens of love notes from my students every day. 

(I'm going to be totally honest, and tell you that some people ought not a be teaching; some people are damaged and unyielding and angry, and they should turn and walk away. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life, when I walked into one such teacher's classroom, early in my own teaching career, to find a proliferation of love notes taped to her desk. Teachers are given such a precious gift ~ a child's heart, for a whole year, and maybe even for a lifetime ~ and these love notes are a touch of humility, a reminder of the great responsibility that goes with that precious gift.)

When I had to explain to the students first, that I needed to be gone for a couple of days because my grandma was very sick, and then, that I needed to be gone for a couple of days because my grandma had passed away, I began to receive such an influx in love notes and sympathy cards that I had to actually take some home.  There simply isn't any more space in my classroom to house the sentiments. They go from the profound ("Sorry about your grandma hope you get better so you will rember (sic) her in all your heart xoxoxoxoooxxooooxo") to the sublime (a grave, with "RIP grandma rest in heaven" splashed across the tombstone, with the words, "Get Better Soon" headlining the note). A common theme is a student and I, holding hands and or ambling companionably over hill and dale, or through a field of flowers, a bright yellow sun our constant friend. I get books (Super B!) and drawings and notes and missives.

They are treasures.

I Am Lucky