Monday, January 31, 2011

Photo #31/365: My Personal Trainer

Last week I finally moved off the couch and started to exercise again. I know that many of you are regular members at a gym. Let me introduce you to my personal trainer. Her name is Leslie, and up until last week, I hadn't let her out of the DVD box in about a year. Funny, but she hasn't changed a bit. It may not be much, but at least I'm doing something. I can hardly wait until it's nice enough to walk outside.

If you're interested, this is Leslie Sansone, and the DVD is Walk Slim.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photos #29 & #30/365: Belated Birthday Celebration

Lisa and Colin were here for the weekend. They drove down from Minneapolis to prepare a birthday dinner for me. Lisa was in Phoenix running the Rock and Roll Marathon on my actual birthday, so they decided to celebrate my birthday with me this weekend. They prepared a great Mexico dinner, we hung out and watched movies. It was a great weekend.

We are all big fans of coffee shops (even though I don't really drink coffee) so before they got on the road this morning, we spent some time at Smokey Row. It was a great backdrop for some family photos.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo #28: More Veggies

This is another photo from the Hy-Vee produce department. It's about the only place you can go to see something green around this time of year.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Photo #27: The Allergist's Office

It was time for allergy shots. Every three weeks I get two, one in each arm. I've been getting allergy shots for a long time. They have made a huge difference in my life. I don't sneeze as much, when I have allergy problems I don't get as ill, and I can even be around a cat . . . . . for a little while.

I took this photo as I was waiting to be called into one of those little treatment rooms. I kind of like the way the numbers outside the rooms line up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Photo #26/365: Peppers

This time of year, it can be difficult to come up with a good photo. The days are frequently gray and cloudy, the snow is dirty, the plants are drab and barren. When in doubt, I head to the grocery store. There are lots of colorful things there, especially in the produce department. I loved this display of colorful peppers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Photo #25/365: Testing AGAIN!

In the twenty-four years that I have been teaching, I have never been required to do as much testing as I have this year. January has been particularly test intensive. We started out with district reading and math benchmarks. Then we administered the district writing assessment. Now we are doing mid-year ARIs (Analytical Reading Inventories) which are given one on one. Sometimes I really long for the old days when I got to teach reading and math, and choose which tests to give.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Photo #24/365: Music In the Snow

On my way to school this morning, I noticed this snow guitar in a yard just one block from my house. By the time I came by in the afternoon, it was overcast and beginning to get dark, so my photo does not do it justice. I thought it was a pretty impressive snow sculpture.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photos #21, 22, and 23: Celebrate!

Photo #21: New iPads

These photos are unrelated, but I'm doing a little catch up with this post. Photo #21 is a shot of our new iPads. Our building recently purchased 24 new iPads to be dispursed to classes in the building. I am still housing the original ten iPads that we purchased last May, which means my class gets to use them most days.

Photo #22: Staff Celebration

December is such a busy time, that our staff waits until January to hold a get together. This year we had dinner at Okiboji Bar and Grill in Ankeny. We had a good turn out and lots of fun. Unfortunately most of my photos were too dark, but this a great shot of two of our kindergarten teachers. Our third teacher returned from maternity leave on Friday, so she was more interested in getting home to her new baby than hanging out with us. I can't say that I blame her.

Photo #23: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I've been wanted to bake these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies for awhile now, and I finally got around to it this morning. This recipe is from Angela Pritchett (my cousin-in-law). This recipe is from her Mom, who recently passed away. Angela is remembering her Mom by sharing her recipes and memories through her blog. You'll find the recipe at Recipes from my mom.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photo #20/365: Handsome Dog

I got to spend most of the day with this handsome dog. Bailey likes it on the rare occasions when I'm home sick. We take lots of naps, and that is his main occupation.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photo #19/365: New Calendars

It was time to go calendar shopping. After all, we're already three weeks into 2011. I always wait until calendars are on sale at 50% off, so you have to wait until after the beginning of the year for that to happen. This has been easier the previous two years, because my son worked for Day by Day Calendars then.

The calendar business must be hard hit by this digital age. While I like to have a few calendars around the house, I no longer carry a planner. Instead I use Google Calendar on my cell phone and computers.

It took me awhile, but I finally settled on a bird calendar and a dog calendar.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Photo #18/365: Homework

Today I took some time out of my day to visit another classroom in our district. This teacher is running a paperless classroom, and I wanted to learn more about how he is doing it. I was pleased to see that I am doing many of things that he is doing, like using Google Docs and Google Forms. I picked up lots of new ideas too, especially the way he is using his class blog to post work and provide links to students.

Mine is definitely not a paperless classroom. This stack of papers is my homework; papers I brought home over the weekend to be corrected. I'm trying to move more in the direction of being paperless, but the big factor is available technology. The classroom I visited is a special education room with enough iPads and laptops for all the students. In my room, with 28 students, it takes a couple days before I can rotate everyone through our computers and iPads to complete an assignment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photo #17/365: Tea Snob

My name is Barbara, and I am a tea snob. I started as a kid drinking Lipton, and have long since moved on to the more elegant loose teas. Though I enjoy a cup of English Toffee Cappuccino, I have never really been a coffee drinker. I have always liked tea, but for many years I drank it only iced. While it seems pretty revolting now, as a kid, that tea was usually instant tea. I always drink it straight; no lemon, no sugar, no milk.

Now I am much more selective about what I will drink. I even make my own tea bags and carry it with me. In restaurants, I usually request hot water and provide my own tea. Each morning I brew a mug of tea to take with me to school. I carry tea bags of various flavors, so I can make additional cups of tea throughout the day.

I am a regular customer at Gong Fu, where my favorite teas are Constant Companion, Absolute Almond, Black Mango, and Tour de France. My daughter provides me with tea from the Tea Source in St. Paul, MN. My favorite tea there is Moon Over Madagascar, but I also like the Tropic Storm. Along with the tea is the paraphernalia that goes with it. Tea pots, and special steeping cups, spoons to measure the tea, and baskets for steeping. There is nothing better than savoring a cup of tea at the perfect temperature.

So do you think I have a problem?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Photo #15-16/365: Birthday Bash

I've had a great weekend celebrating my birthday. Jacci took me out to dinner at the Outback in Ankeny, where I had a delicious steak, and she gave me this beautiful bracelet. I can keep adding beads to the bracelet as I go. I love glittery things!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo #14/365: Teach From the Heart

This is a Sentsy Warmer that I received as a gift at Christmas from one of my students. I'd never seen one before, but it melts scented wax with a light bulb, and makes the house smell really wonderful.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photo #13/365: Paper Dragon

This colorful paper dragon is part of the second graders' Core Knowledge display about China. My whole class was very impressed when we came down the stairs for lunch today. I knew that I would find my photo for the day here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photo #12/365: Double Baby Shower

We had a double baby shower tonight after school. Heather has already had her sweet baby girl, Evie. Theresa is expecting a baby boy around February 4th. Besides our two moms, little Evie came to the shower, but she slept through most of it.

Beautifully wrapped presents full of cute little baby things, colorfully iced cake, homemade mints, and pretty plates and napkins. Baby showers are always fun!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Photo 11/365: Is School Cancelled?

We had a very crazy start to our day. We woke up to seven inches of snow this morning. I stayed in bed for awhile watching to see if there was any chance of a snow day. While many other districts had delays and then cancellations, there was no mention of Des Moines, so begrudgingly I got up and got in the shower.

I continued to watch the news as I ate breakfast, with no mention of Des Moines Schools. Shortly after I arrived at school, however, calls began coming in from parents, telling us that one of the local TV stations and a radio station had announced that school was cancelled. By this time it was 7:40 and the high schools and middle schools were already in session. Most teachers had arrived, and we had children in Metro Kids Care. The young musicians pictured above were taking their strings lesson.

It turns out that school was not cancelled. The announcements were made in error. At first we heard that the website had been hacked, but it turns out that there was an error at the television station. There was a mix up of codes, and when Webster City cancelled classes, it went out that Des Moines was cancelled. It was just a few numbers but it had a big impact for more than 30,000 students. Here is a screenshot of the announcement that is currently on our district website.

Surprisingly, I ended up with all but three of my students, so we had a pretty normal school day. We did have inside recess, of course.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Photo #10/365: Lego Car Races

I walked through the office tonight, just as the Lego Club members were lining up their newly made Lego cars for a race. This was the first session for the latest group of Lego Club attendees, many of whom are from my class. They build the greatest things, and I always like to stop by and snap a few photos.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Photo #9/365: Pet Peeve of the Day

My only outing for today was to drive out to Costco. Most people know that I love Costco. When I go in, I always take a few bags with me. These are special Costco shopping bags, large enough to hold the larger packages that you find at a shopping warehouse. I always take two or three in with me, but it never fails. The clerk always piles all the groceries into one bag. Just because it will fit, doesn't mean I can actually lift it! Why do they do that? First thing I always have to do is repack the bags when I get to the car.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Photo #8/365: Iowa State University

Today, I helped Michael move up to Ames, where he will be a student at Iowa State University. We crammed everything into the car that we could. He will be living in a townhouse that is part of university housing. It's small but cute. He and his friend, Laura, will both be starting classes on Monday. They have been students at DMACC. This is a great opportunity for them both. Work hard, Michael!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Photo #7/365: Make a Bookmark

I set up a station for people to use stickers and stamps to make a few bookmarks. I envisioned doing this only Monday and Tuesday, but some were such works of art that it took all week. Kids don't have enough opportunities to do stuff like this anymore. It was amazing how quiet the kids were drawing, gluing and stamping when it was their turn to work at the station.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Photo #6/365: Is This Pencil a Distraction?

I have a reputation for being a strict teacher, and I do have high expectations. The truth is, I don't like to make more rules than I have to, so I ignore as much as I can. Such was the case with the Silly Bandz craze this past fall. When the Bandz did start to cause some problems, they were banned by the school before I had to do it. But there is always something unexpected in teaching.

We were practicing our spelling today when I noticed this student, hard at work with her giant pencil. It was almost bigger than she is. I opted for ignoring it. I did ask her to use a normal pencil for her reading test, so she wouldn't be distracted. She was happy and it didn't cause any problem, though her closest neighbor may be in some danger of being wacked by it. I wonder if it will be back tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Photo #5/365: Chicken Noodle Soup

There's nothing like a nice steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter day. This bowl of chicken noodle soup was my lunch today. I made it earlier this week in my crockpot. I have been trying to cook more at home, and eat out less. Having things planned out ahead is important, because by the time I come home from work, I am usually not in the mood to cook. I like to use my crockpot when I can. This recipe was super easy, and there's nothing better than coming home from work and having your dinner almost ready.

Nancy gave me the recipe when I was visiting her last week. It is actually a Sandra Lee Recipe from the Food Network. I cut the original recipe in half, and it still made a lot. I also used some frozen turkey that I had in the freezer, so it works with either turkey or chicken. It was delish, so give it a try!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves: 4

1/2 rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
1 teaspoon fines herbes
Salt and pepper
1 cup egg noodles, cooked

Remove the skin from the chicken and cut up the meat. Put the chicken into a slow cooker along with the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir in broth, mushroom soup, and fines herbes and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours. When soup is finished, stir in egg noodles. Adjust seasonings and serve.

I had trouble finding the Fines Herbes. The Fines herbs are a blend of chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon. Spice Island is the brand I purchased, and I found them at the Dahl's on Merle Hay.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Photos 1 thru 4/365: A New Challenge

It's the beginning of a new year and a new challenge. After completing the 2010/365 Photo Challenge, I knew that I wanted to continue with a photo blog. It has had a very positive impact on my life. At first I thought, maybe a would just post a picture or two each week, but when people on Twitter began talking about taking on the 365 Challenge for 2011, I knew that I wanted to be part of it again.

I am trying a few new things this year. I'm posting my photos to a website called I also continue to post my photos to Flickr. While those are fun ways to share my photos, for me the writing that went with it is an important part of this photo challenge. I debated whether to start a new blog, but decided to keep everything in one place and continue with this same blog. You will notice that I have slightly modified the blog name. So here we go again! I can't seem to help myself. Here are my first four photos of the year.

Photo #1: Thank You Cards

I had a wonderful Christmas vacation, and I really did take a vacation from school. In spite of all my good intentions, I did not touch any of the work I brought home. On the last day before vacation, I took eight thank you cards to school with me, which was not nearly enough to respond to all the gifts I received. Instead I brought the presents home with the idea that I would open them on Christmas morning and write a thank you card as I opened each one. That didn't happen. So on New Years day, I made cards and finally got around to writing them.

Photo #2: I Love Dogs

This little sculpture and the painted box that it's sitting on, was one of the gifts I received. It is a well known fact to all my students that I am a dog lover. They can relate to this, because most kids love dogs too!

Photo #3: Loyal

Photo #4: Fly Like an Eagle

Photo 3 and 4 are parts of the table in our school library. This table was painted by Sticks Furniture, and it was purchased close to twenty years ago, as a memorial to one of our students who was hit and killed by a car.