Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I have had the busiest few weeks...in the very laziest of ways. I don't know how else to describe it! My days are full of gardening, hanging out with my boys, cooking, doing endless mind-numbing chores around my (thankfully) small and manageable home, and working. Yes, working. Teachers typically work all summer. But, here's the beauty of summer work: we only work on what we WANT to work on. So summer is a time of creativity, reflection, and productive output the likes of which you cannot fathom from the whirlwind that is our gig from September to June. I am having a blast and falling in love with all things classroom once again. Soon enough the boys head off during the days for their beloved summer camp, and I'll be giving two one-week workshops at the same time. So scheduling and rushing and real work looms ahead...but for now, I'm quietly and happily puttering around in this Land of Nod between the past and the future.

A few pics from our short, oh-so-sweet romp at DisneyLand. Every year we go, and every year it is better than the last year. This time, we met my brother's kids and his ex-wife for a day and we had a blast. Can't wait to see them in a couple of weeks.

 (fyi: that IS a space mountain astronaut t-shirt my honey is wearing. LOVE)
 The new CarsLand at California Adventure is sooooo gooooood! The new Radiator Springs ride is AWESOME!!!!!!!  

Do you want to hear about how we got there at 7am, for a park that opens at 8am, to stand in line for a fast pass that opened at 9am, so that we could get on a ride that didn't even open until 11am? And do you want to hear about how, when I picked up my family set of fast passes at 9:15am, they were already for a return ride between 3:15 and 4:15? Do you want to hear about how, when I met up with the rest of my family and we strolled by that very fast pass outlet not 30 minutes later....the entire ride had 'sold out' of fast passes for the rest of the day and night? The hapless folks who didn't leave their hotels at 6:30 am to get tickets (haha! #winning! wait.) had to wait 2 hours and 10 minutes in the standby line. Because of a fluke, our kids got to ride twice (and we each rode once) during the designated hour only using two of our four fast passes (one of the kids we traveled with that day had a pretty severe disability, and had a special pass that we all got to use). So we were able to gift two of our fast passes to a man and his son, as they took their positions at the end of that line.

 Scotty was all arrrrrgh matey! on this trip. He bought (I bought him) one of those scopes after one of our many turns on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (don't mind if we do go again, son, it is one of my favorites too!) and he was checking to see when the "pirate ship" was coming. It's actually their "Columbia" ship ride, but try telling him it wasn't a pirate ship.
Being a pirate is hard, lonely work. But well worth the sacrifices.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zucchini Bread*



My mom and I both planted zucchini and that was, I assure you, a tragic mistake. I may have planted two. Nobody needs more than one. And one to share? Probably about right. Already, I have a dozen of the squash ripening on ONE of my plants. At my mom's house the other day, I was rooting around in her garden (as you do) and pulled out a zucchini that was roughly the size of a three month old baby. You don't want to lose track of a squash for a week. They will balloon to Jurassic proportions overnight.

So I brought it home, because she was already dealing with more zucchini than she cared to, and really, squash doesn't taste as good when it gets that big. So I cut it up and made zucchini chocolate chip loaves. I've made 6. I'm about halfway through this one zucchini. Really, now.

I've immediately removed the loaves from my home, via friends and neighbors, and so far, I haven't eaten any. Of course, that could change, since six more loaves are in my future, though I'm currently out of chocolate chips so it will wait a little bit. I think I'll do four loaves and then make a couple dozen muffins.

Anyway, this bread smells so good, and looks so amazing, I'll share the recipe. It's an old recipe, not unlike other zucchini bread recipes, I have to guess. But it's the one my mom taught me, and it's a keeper. Same recipe for loaves or muffins, and the recipe makes two loaves.

This is a quick bread, and nothing could be easier. Mix dry ingredients together, mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, then combine wet and dry, add the walnuts and chocolate chips, then bake at 350 for 50 minutes (two loaf pans) or 25 minutes (muffins).

Dry ingredients: 3 c flour, 1/2 c sugar, 1 c brown sugar, 1 tsp each baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients: 3 eggs, 2 cups shredded zucchini (leave the skins on yum), 2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 c vegetable oil

1/2 - 1 c chopped walnuts
1.5 c chocolate chips

I use pam spray on two 9x5 loaf pans. Each is filled halfway, pre-baking, by this recipe. Yum yum!

(This freezes really well. I slice it first, so I can pull out a few slices at a time, and then wrap it in wax paper then aluminum wrap. Muffins can be frozen in freezer bags.)

* I had to look up how to spell zucchini. It is not, as it turns out zuchhini, zuchinni, or zuccinni. Just saying.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


We woke up this morning to a rather blustery day....overcast and windy, it finally cleared up around 2pm and although it's glorious now, it was just gloomy enough to require a quick batch of 'homemade donuts' in the morning.

"homemade" in quotes because they start and end with these:

For some reason, a package of these biscuits has been in my refrigerator. Easy enough to make biscuits at home, I can't account for why I would have these....a monster sale? left at a potluck? I have no recollection. If these are your biscuits, and we just ate them, I apologize.

Anyway, pop open a package (or three) and separate the doughy disks. I heated some organic vegetable shortening (healthy! #winning!) in the electric skillet. I have no authority in these matters, but used the 375 degree setting, in case you are inclined to try these but are as clueless as I am.

When the oil was good and heated, I plopped all ten biscuit doughs right in, browned for a minute, then used silicon tongs to flip them and brown on the other side for a minute. I pulled them all out and onto a paper towel, then rolled them in a bowl of sugar/cinnamon mixed together. No idea how much of either, I keep an old jam jar full of it for cinnamon toast, and I just used whatever was in there. Repeat from the top, when serving my kids.

That's it. Seriously. I didn't even bother with punching holes. And you know what? Not bad at all. A tasty (and more importantly....easy) impromptu treat for a dreary morning!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I love the fair! I even love the rides. We are at DisneyLand this week, and we take both our boys on every single ride....Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, Pirates....it just doesn't matter. We encourage the last car, the first car, HANDS UP EVERYONE, and I never bat an eye.

But there's something about a fair ride, isn't there? The "thrill" of these "thrill rides" comes from getting a close up look at the carnies who are responsible for transporting, constructing, and operating these creaky, broke-ass monstrosities. The excitement comes from not knowing if this thing is going to shake apart completely, hurling you across the park.

Good times.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Garden at the Farm

My parents have almost three acres of space at their farm, but this is by far my favorite garden on their property. It's a beautiful, meandering garden that is just exactly who they are. The rocks and wood have all been poached from different places they go motorcycle riding and camping...from Wilseyville to Pi-Pi Valley to the Apple Ranch near Yosemite. Here is where they sit quietly drinking wine and listening to the small fountain in the pond, where they battle snails and deer and wild turkeys, where they lovingly transplant and shape and tinker. They experiment with light and foliage and structure and it is a beautiful treat for all my senses. I often step out of my car and walk the paths of this garden, to the side of the kitchen (including the veggie patch and fruit "orchard" of a half dozen trees), opening and shutting each gate behind me, before I even venture into the house. They often find me here, and because my mother is crazy, she greets me with, "What the hell are you doing?" And it feels like home. So I tell her, "I'm visiting." I love that garden.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I am a bit famous, in some circles, for creating materials and curriculum for teaching mathematics... and then either losing it or giving it away. I am constantly either trying to REcreate something, or, sheepishly, contacting my colleagues caretakers with short cryptic emails that begin, "Hey! Do you have a file or hard copy of the decimals/percentages unit I wrote last summer?" I have no good system for keeping track of my work life....yet. But I'm closer than ever with my new discovery (perhaps you've heard of it) called binders. Yes, binders.

Before binders, there were boxes. I brought home 6 boxes of work at the end of the school year, that I needed to organize so I wouldn't have to recreate things for my Chicago experience. The Thursday before I left, my living room looked like this:
 (Don't judge me.)

Boxes are bad for me because they hide so many sins. Duplicates, randoms, and weird objects make their way into the boxes. Further confounding me, is that I can't figure out a filing system for the boxes. I've tried file folders, but my descriptions on the tab that shows are never descriptive enough and I end up having to pull and look through every folder to find what I'm looking for. By the way, whatever I am looking for, is never in the box anyway.

By Friday night, my living room looked like this. In the binders, are several hundred plastic sleeves. The binders are by topic. Some are mathematical ideas that I think are key for the grade levels I specialize in. Some are pedagogy ideas that I think are crucial for teachers of mathematics who want to teach math in a sense-making, problem-centered way. Finally, I have one for the new Common Core Standards for Mathematics, one for professional readings I like teachers to do in the workshops (my crowning jewel! oh how I was sick of looking for and asking for and re-copying previously highlighted copies of, these readings!), and one for the tools and materials of the consulting group I work with.

In the one remaining box seen on the floor in front, I have duplicates of things that were leftovers. And in the red train case are my presenters materials, from the mundane (scissors, my favored chart pens, emergency dry erase markers, post it notes, and index cards) to the crucial (ibuprofen and safety pins, because nothing says "I have to stand up in front of 60 people today" like a migraine, a broken bra strap or a missing button).

Here is why it is so great for me to use plastic sleeves in binders: I don't have to care if they're organized, as long as they are in the proper themed binder. I can so easily flip through the sleeves that I don't have to care what order anything is in. If it's about The Number System/Place Value, it IS in that 2" space. Period. It takes 30 seconds to flip through and find what I'm looking for.

Also new for the last week I did in Chicago:  I took one empty binder and started populating it with sleeves from SEVEN other binders! A post-it note at the start of each section of sleeves told me which binders they originated from. That's why I was able to pack for 4 days of work and 3 days of play in a city 1800 miles from home in one carry on roller case and my tech backpack.  It's also why I was able to put all the materials back into their original binder in less than 6 minutes when I got home.

I started the Binders Are Delightful And Super Systematic (or BADASS) organizational technique with my classroom last year, and I can't wait to fine tune it now that I've had this break through with my math work.

I'm going to organize the shit out of this!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Ten to eleven miles a day, and he positively loves it! I love vacations!!!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I had to put my quilt aside to get ready for, and travel to, Chicago.

But now I have the lovely task of binding to get back to. I know there are people who find this to be a tedious chore, but I am not one of those people. I get to use a thimble and I love hand sewing the binding into place. I love being curled up in a chair sewing, with my family near by, instead of holed up in the bedroom, with the sewing machine, away from everybody. Or worse, holed up in the bedroom with the sewing machine, AND my boys, laying on the bed and playing XBox...AND asking me to stop sewing because it's too loud.

I love you. GET OUT.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

While I Was Gone....

 My boy's room took a tween twist with the addition of this awesome electronic drum set. Please do not ask how much it cost. It embarrasses me. But, both of them play, and I hope will for many years, so someday I hope to share that it was a great bargain at pennies a day. ahem

 Erik did an awesome job taking care of and watering my gardens! It looked like this when I left for my Chicago trip. Really now!
Ohhhhhhhh pumpkins! I love them so. I didn't grow any last year, how I wept, but I've got 4 big plants from seed going this year, and I could just die. Look how sweet they are, I love them so!

SOMEBODY is digging in my cucumber patch. Probably the dog. I will cut her.
Squash! The zuchini and yellow squash are both thriving, but these summer squash are actually bearing fruit already. Yummy on the grill, just in time for July!

The greens confuse me. I need to figure out how these work. I checked the packages, and it says "harvest in 45 to 60 days" and I believe these were planted 40 days or so ago. I'm going to let it ride. Come on, no snake eyes!

The tomatoes have had the slowest starts, but I believe I can see real progress, finally.

I love coming home :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Home Again

Home after 7 days in Chicago. Still love that city! Now I'm doing laundry, enjoying the clean house and bountiful garden I came home to (good job, honey!), and settling back into all things home.