Thursday, August 30, 2012

Far-out Cookies, Man...

I teach junior English in an urban high school in Baltimore. This week, our classroom was so hot and humid, and I was so impressed with how hard my kids worked, that I baked them cookies. I know, I know-- it's just the first week of school. But the kids were exceptional this week. And, because it's fun, I tie-dyed the cookies.

Cookies that I sent to Becky for her birthday!

 I'm not a purist when it comes to the kitchen. I like making the most of my time, and honestly, I haven't yet found a sugar cookie recipe that is better than this mix:

I found this particularly huge bag of mix at Costco for about $6. Not too shabby.

Mix your cookie dough together, and then separate it into 3 equal parts. Using regular food coloring, dye the dough (red, yellow, and blue) to the shade you desire. I would suggest going darker rather than light so that you can get some really cool, vibrant colors.

Divide each color into about 3 parts. You want to cut out the dough in small batches so that the colors stay vibrant and fun... and not muddy towards the end. Then, be creative! Experiment with how you smoosh the dough together for some really fun patterns. To get you started...

Make sure that when you start out, you don't really mix the colors together. You'll end up getting mud by the time you're finished cutting all of the cookies out.  By the time you roll out the dough the second or third time, the colors should be mixing and the cookies should be totally groovy, man. For my students, I just used a juice glass to cut out circles to make sure everyone got an exactly fair and equal cookie. Yo ucan use whatever cookie cutters you want. Maybe some sweet flower cutters?

Bake for 8 minutes at 375 (or until just the very edges get a tiny bit brown). You do NOT want to bake these so that the tops are brown, otherwise, the color dulls. 

Et voila! Beautiful tie-dyed cookies just because!

Annnnnd... now it's time for me to go make some English muffin bread. Time for that deliciousness to get in my belly!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sharpies are Awesome!

Tomorrow, I will post pictures of tie-dyed cookies along with directions for making said cookies. Today, though, I thought I'd share my favorite box decoration. I sent this to J as a second box, but I didn't take pictures of the inside of the box or what I packed inside. I can't even remember anymore, even though it was just over 2 months ago.

What I did love about this care package was the decorating I did on the outside of the box. Maybe it's obnoxious, but it was fun. And I was pumped to discover that my carefully crafted, and meticulously practiced doodling skills from high school and college were still pretty darn good!

I used Sharpies on the box. They seemed to be the best bet, although I'm sure that regular markers would work, too.

Now, it's time to make some cookies. I promised them to my last period class because every single kid worked on and completed the hour-long reading diagnostic without talking in the sweltering heat. I didn't once have to redirect a kid. That's cookie-worthy!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Day One is Done!

I'm sitting on my living room floor with a wine glass of water with the last Indiana Jones on (Legend of the Hidden Temple?)... whatever, it's the one with the skulls and Shia LeBouf swinging through trees with demon monkeys. But the first day of school is over, and it wasn't a bad one, so I can't complain.If you want to read the school part of my post, read on. If not, follow the bold letters and pictures to the care package portion of my post.

The morning started me out on the right foot. I was at school at 6:30 a.m. to look over IEPs, make seating charts, ready the room and steel my soul for homeroom  (because this is what having tenth grade homeroom is like). I walked in to the building and-- wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles-- for the first time in five years, I don't have homeroom! A tiny miracle, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

My new students were pretty well behaved-- cell phones, Chatty Cathys, and earphones seem to be the worst of the problems (knock on wood).These first few weeks are the honeymoon period-- almost all of the kids are on their best behavior, and the classroom is way too hot and humid for them to really act up. They just kind of shlump from class to class, leaving a trail of sweat behind them.  I'll see their true colors about half-way through September, but hopefully by then, they'll be so engrossed in the beauty of The Crucible that they'll forget to act up. (Again, knock on wood.)

You know what another miracle is? The post office. (Yes, this may be one of the worst segues ever.) It is amazing that it takes about one week for J to get packages (some have even gotten to him in five days). How great is that?

Care Packages!
Care packages are by far my second favorite part of J's deployment (the first favorite being Google video chatting with him). I've been collecting things, organizing, planning, and watching sales since Christmas (90%-off After Christmas sales, I love you). I love surprising him with care packages, and I like knowing that he doesn't feel forgotten. And, of course, it gives me the pleasure of spending money sans guilt.

I've noticed that, online, there only seem to be the same 10-15 care package ideas floating around. I'd like to add to that by sharing mine!

This is the first care package I sent J. Thinking that it was supposed to take 2-3 weeks, I sent it a week before his deployment date so he'd get a surprise about a week in.

Since it was my first care package, it was full of odds and ends that I thought he'd enjoy. I didn't take pictures of everything, but I can show you what I did take pictures of...

I sent J an "intellectual's devotional." Basically, it's a history-fact-a-day book.

Starbucks instant coffee

I sent cookies too, but I forgot to take pictures. So... here's a picture of the bag clip for the cookies!

Yep, I'm a nerd.

More instant coffee

Instant iced coffee

Nerd alert.
And yes, this also happened. Crayola fabric markers are the bomb, yo.
Easy-to-follow directions for this origami picture frame are here
From the front. Cute, huh?

There you go-- my first care package post. Let me know what you think. Now that I'm blogging, I'm going to be more thorough in my documentation of the care packages.

It's a school night, so you know what that means-- brownies and lesson planning. I'm out!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Inaugural post

The 2012-13 school year starts tomorrow, so tonight seemed like the perfect time to write my inaugural post for this blog. Each school year brings such promises, possibilities, and questions-- what will my students be like? will a bird crash through the biology classroom's window again? what books will my kids love? how many fights will I break up? who will be my class clowns? which ones will grind my gears?-- and difficulties. This year, in particular, will be a hard year because we have so much change happening within our school and the district. I can't say I'm ready for the emotional side of teaching this year, but I'm ready to get this school year on the road, since every day over is a day closer to July!

So here's the mushy stuff: In June, my fiancee deployed for a year stint in Afghanistan. I've known J for 8 years. Our friendship had a lot of mixed signals, one miserably failed date, one historical marker about barnyard artifical insemination, and a lot of dead ends (but that's a story for another day) but we had been dating for just under 13 months when he popped the question in May. It was the best day of my life-- even better than watching Penn State crush Ohio State in 2005 in Beaver Stadium. (The link goes to Tamba Hali flipping Ohio State Dude on his head. Watch it. It's awesome.)  I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend! What could be better or more perfect than that? (Answer: nothing!)

But, until J comes back, I've got a ton of things to get done, and inevitably, some time to fill so that it's not so lonely and so depressing waiting for him to return. My family's not a military family, and I've never really dealt with deployment so personally, although I've had friends and parents of my friends deploy. This is a first-time thing for me, and while I want to really believe J won't deploy again, I know that's probably not the case. It's funny how, just over a year and a half ago, I was completely single and very adept at doing everything by myself. Even when J was stateside, we lived 4 hours apart (or 6-8 hours depending on interstate traffic), so we didn't get to see each other every day. Now, it seems like the weekends last forever and my life is centered around the few minutes we get to chat at night. This blog is part of my effort to be upbeat and have an interesting year, rather than throwing a giant, year-long pity party.

As with everything-- as with each new school year-- there are promises, possibilities, questions, and difficulties. Maybe what I post here won't be particularly helpful to anyone, or even read (that's a real possibility), but hopefully at least one person who feels very lonely, very crafty, very teacher-y, or at the very least, bored, will get something of use from this. If not, it will always be something to look back on-- especially when J's back and we're no longer separated by 7,000 miles.

Here's to a new (school) year! May it be swift, educational, fun, and filled with possibilities.  Now it's time for me to go back to cross stitching and watching the last hour of Raiders of the Lost Ark.