Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Life Skills Classes

Does your school teach some variety of a life skills/character education class?  I've been in schools that do and schools that don't (or schools where we try to incorporate it into classroom instruction).  My first school offered both a "middle school success" class and a once a week advisory class, where we did things like teach our students how to lead their own conferences with their parents.  At the end of each 9 weeks, the kids' parents had to come in and have a student-led conference with their child and one of their child's teachers.  It was a lot of prep work, and there were many more aspects to the conference than simply the child's grades- attendance, behavior, volunteering, extra-curriculars, etc. These kids were learning how to present themselves in a manner appropriate for interviews, public speaking, and meeting important people.  In other words, they were learning another vernacular.  It's my opinion that these sorts of skills are vital to success after high school.

The reason I'm writing this post is because I see kids in the community as I'm going to class, running errands, or just be-bopping around and am constantly reminded of the benefits a class like this could have.  For starters, every day I watch at least one kid touring Clemson (middle/ high school age) walk up to a crosswalk, look at the flashing sign, and then mash the button to signal a need to cross.  Sounds proficient, right?  Well, it would be if they realized that they could already walk when they're mashing the button.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen this while the walking man is counting down to the time in which you can't cross.  This isn't really what I think they need in life skills classes.  I think they need things like: etiquette, study skills, note taking skills, interview prep, place setting, BUDGETING, keeping a bank account, interacting with people who are being rude and customer service training.

What I'd really really really appreciate from y'all is some feedback.  What types of life skills does your school teach (AT ANY AGE)?  How much is incorporated into the regular classroom, and how much is separate?  What would be an effective way to start a program like this at my school?  Can this be done during elective time once a week?  Pretty please with cherries on top, respond and let me know.  I don't want to send my kiddos out to the world unprepared. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dogs Aren't Like People

I found myself explaining to the five year old that lives on the street behind me yesterday that "dogs aren't like people."  She absolutely didn't understand the concept that dogs don't hurt people without reason...at least normal dogs, like mine. :)  I explained to her that they love their friends and family just like people do, but that they aren't vindictive and don't try to hurt your feelings or your body just because they can.  They might bite when they're scared, but generally won't hurt you unless you hurt one of their people or perhaps the pup itself.  This girl loves my pup, Kiawah.  The kiddos call her Kiwi- something I started for all the little ones we encounter who haven't got a prayer of being able to pronounce Kiawah.

It was wonderfully refreshing to experience a little bit of the world through the eyes of a 5 year old.  Kudos to my early childhood friends that do this on a daily basis!  I still don't think I could handle a room full of them 5 days a week.  She is this incredibly curious, sweet, literally had me laughing out loud, wanted to hold my hand and get over her fear of dogs just so we could "be friends" kid.  It was adorable.  In addition to this girl, there are another handful or two of kids in the neighborhood who seem to be so curious.  They're constantly looking for help while playing girls v. boys "Cops and Robbers" or 500.  They also now know me as Ms. Amy, the lady with the "G" on the door.  I love that my neighborhood is safe enough for the kids to run around in and close-knit enough that the parents let the kids run from house to house and yard to yard.  I also love that the kids tend to hang out outside, even though it's pretty toasty during the day.

What's not to love?
I'm so looking forward to this new neighborhood and our new place!  Maybe I'll make some grown-up friends here, too.   I'm so excited to be here, in this place, meeting these people, and I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity and the strange turn of events that led me here.

The countdown is on! 2 weeks and 1 day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Television in Your Home

I was in line today at the movie store standing behind that woman who just wouldn't stop talking to the cashier, make her purchase, and leave.  Since I was stuck there, I started listening to her conversation.  It was all about how many TV's they have in their house.  how many TVs they HAVE to have in their house.  Because TV is clearly essential, right?  She was saying that maybe once the kids move out and they don't have to have as many TVs, they'll do some sort of upgrade thing with their TVs.  Apparently, this family needs a TV in each of their four childrens' bedrooms, the master bedroom, as well as one in each common room (kitchen, living room, family room).  I can't imagine a life with this many TVs in the house.  Perhaps this is because, growing up, we weren't allowed to have TVs in our bedrooms, and my parents never had one in theirs.  During my teen years, we got the HUGE privilege of getting to have a TV in the 'teen room,' which was our family's den/ family room.  If my brothers were watching Indiana Jones or Star Wars for the 9,764,381 time, I could go into the other room.  Sometimes, obscure NFL games were on in one room and chick flicks were on in the other, etc.  We were so glad to have 2 televisions because that way if we didn't like what whomever had control of the remote was watching, we had the option of going into the other room and watching something more pleasing.  Rarely was one person in front of the TV alone, however.  Family movie and game nights were always spent in the same room.

I had a TV in my room in college because, well, it was a dorm.  I thought I liked this, so I took my beautiful 13" TV with built in VCR courtesy of my great-grandmother and her old nursing home furniture into my post-college bedroom.  It did little other than gather dust, so I had my parents take it back to their house after about a year.

I don't understand the 'need' for so many TVs in one home.  In fact, I see it causing many problems.  The family isn't spending time together, though you could argue that watching TV together isn't quality time anyway.  I disagree- my Mom and I bonded extensively over Gilmore Girls every Tuesday night at 8.  When there is a TV in each child's room, it encourages them to spend time alone, makes it harder for parents to supervise what they watch (even with parental controls), and a number of other possible side effects I just really don't understand.  For instance, the Hopper from Dish TV.  I can maybe understand you wanting to take the movie you were watching into the bedroom.  But do you really need to be able to pause the movie in the living room and then go grab the popcorn out of the microwave in the kitchen and pick up the movie in the kitchen before heading back to the living room couch?

What do you think? How many TVs do you 'need'?  Do you need cable/ dish/ whatever other method for getting a zillion channels is out there?  Somebody explain to me the benefits of this woman's family having so many (7 or 8 by my count) TVs, cause I just don't see it.  Oh, and if you use bunny ears, please let me know how they work for your family, because I'm seriously considering them.  The only thing I'm worried about is this fall's football season.... we don't have a lot of bars in town, and I want to make sure I can watch the games that are important to me.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Treats All Around- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

My dog and cat love trying to get the remains of my milk and my ice cream.  Today, they got to try puppy ice cream.  It looked like a single serving ice cream cup, but it was really thick and definitely didn't melt quickly.  We took it out to the deck just in case it got messy.  I'm happy to report that they both loved their ice cream, but sorry to report that there's no way I was going to taste it and share the info with you guys.


After their treat, I decided to have one of my own.  I realized it was Sunday and I am way behind schedule on eating my produce, since I go to pick up the next installment on Wednesday.  I saw a picture of quinoa stuffed peppers on Pinterest...unfortunately, the recipe didn't seem like one I'd enjoy.  I looked around and ended up combining a couple of recipes.  I wound up with this: 

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers: 
Serving size 1 stuffed pepper- approximately 250 calories
roughly 8g Fiber, 12g protein, 3g sugar, something like 6/7 WW points

Ingredients: 
* 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
* 2 tsp. olive oil
* 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
* medium tomato, chopped
* 1 cup corn kernels
* 1 tbsp chili powder
* 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
* salt to taste (I didn't add any because of the beans)
* can of black beans, drained and rinsed
* 4 large peppers (could be bell, poblano, etc), seeds removed

What to do: 

* Preheat oven to 400* and prepare non-stick baking pan or spray your pan to prevent sticking
* Cook Quinoa.
* Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 minutes. Add tomato, corn, chili, powder, cumin, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until corn is crisp and tender, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in quinoa and beans.
* Spoon filling into each pepper.  Arrange in a single layer in the baking tray, add (1/4 cup) water to the bottom of the tray, cover, and bake for 40 minutes.
The ingredients...though I didn't use the cheese
* If you want cheese on top, use Mexican mixed cheese or cheese of your choice, sprinkle over the top of each pepper and bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
The filling, minus quinoa and beans

The pepper filling.
See? A variety of pepper types.  The little green upright pepper is powerfully spicy.
PS- if you know its name, please let me know! 
The finished product.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summertime Menus

Lots of people are finally getting into the swing of their summertime food preferences.  It's hot, so everybody seems to want things cool and refreshing.  I thought I'd join the party and share some of the things I've been eating that are mostly healthy and tasty, as well!

A dirty, farm-fresh haul!
Salad- organic mixed greens, squash, assorted heirloom tomatoes, assorted peppers,  and some feta cheese for protein.

Super simple lunch- some crenshaw melon and leftover edamame (oh, and chocolate almond milk!)

Tomato, mozarella, and basil sandwich.  A new summer staple, though sometimes it's just a plain tomato, or no bread.
What are you doing to keep cool, healthy, and refreshed this summer?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Daring to be JOYful and Celebrating My Roots

I'm taking the chance to link up with A Blonde Ambition's celebration.

I am Southern born and Southern bred.  Have you ever heard the University of North Carolina's fight song?  Now, here in South Carolina, we can't call them Carolina.  We're home to the true Carolina, University of South Carolina.  Coincidentally, this fine state is also home to the REAL USC-- University of South Carolina again, y'all.  Yankees love us, and to sing about us, and hear us talk.  Anyway, the song goes like this:

I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred.
And when I die, I'm a Tar Heel dead.
So it's rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah, rah, rah!



Except the last line "rah, rah, rah" is replaced by something much less classy the majority of the time: "Go to hell 'insert rival name (State, Duke, depending on sport) here' "  The lack of class is redeemed by the extra class that comes from pearls, dresses, and cute shoes/ heels and the fact that it's coming out of a beautiful gal's mouth.  


My sorority (44.) took a nice approach and modified the song.


"I'm Tri-Sigma born and Tri-Sigma bred 
and when I die, I'll be Tri-Sigma dead
So rah rah for Sigma, Sigma,
rah rah for Sigma, Sigma, 
rah rah for Sigma Tri


I'm Tri Sigma young and Tri Sigma old
and when I die, I'll be Tri-Sigma gold,
etc."


We southerners aren't lacking in pride, hospitality, or manners....at least most of us.


We take pride in lots of aspects of our lives:
43. Firefly- the life of Wadmalaw Island
21. our appearance
22. our land
23. our culture
24. our sweet tea
25. the quality of our food
26. the quality of Gullah food
27. our colleges
28. definitely in our favorite sports teams
29. our sports teams' records
30. our FABULOUS sports Rivalry
31. our state dance, the shag
etc.


Charleston, SC is supposed to be the most hospitable city in the South.  My family moved to Charleston my junior year of high school when my dad got a government job there.  Who could really complain?  All of us promptly fell deeply in love with Charleston.  It's a mix of a unique accent, old South, money, arts, international artists at the annual Piccolo-Spoleto festival, colleges, bridges, beaches, marshes, churches (it is,after all, the Holy City), pluff mud, the smell of money (aka the paper mill), the edge of America, a very rich history, national landmarks, some of the South's redeeming job industries, like Boeing, and a gargantuan variety of people all coexisting peacefully.  It is beautiful.  The variety is nothing like what you would find in a city like D.C., but the people are much friendlier and, arguably, happier.


And as for the manners, who could EVER complain about extra niceties in their daily interactions?  My guy friends will occasionally spring for my meal or movie just to be nice and can always be counted on to help me up/down, hold the doors, open the car door and help me climb in, to drive, and to provide excellent company.


Here are some pictures of my favorite things in South Carolina, and just a few things I'm thankful for:




32. Charleston Skyline
33.

34. mmmmmmm.......'nuff said.

35.

36. Rainbow Row
37.


38.


39. Tony is a womanizer and a charmer.
Always a good time, and delicious boiled peanuts and fresh farm produce.
And always, the sweetgrass hat without a top.
40.




41. The Angel Oak- there's a better picture of this in my home that gets tons of compliments.

42.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Made it Monday! UPDATE!

As is typical for what I assume is the majority of teachers, I revised my craft.  I made the days a little bigger because I wanted to make sure it could be read from all over the classroom.  It now looks like this:


And, in other news, a cancer kickin' friend from Camp Happy Days (one of my kiddos' moms), sent me this early this morning.  Check it out, particularly if you live in SC.  I'm not saying sign, and I'm not saying don't sign.  All I'm saying is that this is how teachers are viewed down here in the South.




Processed Foods

I saw this today and, though I already knew some of it, still managed to be thoroughly disgusted.  Thank you, fresh food for usually only surprising me in positive ways.  Are you still a vegetarian?


Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Wardrobe

My friend Rachel at Happily Ever After! is creating a new wardrobe for herself.  Rach is fashionable, more stylish than I could ever hope to be, and very smart, so she's managing to do all of this thriftily.  Oh, and did I mention, she's sewing most of it herself?!?!?!  She's doing this neat wardrobe planning activity.  She made a list of essentials and is systematically knocking them out.  I've done something similar, but I'm not nearly the seamstress she is.  My mother is probably laughing hysterically at that last sentence.  Sewing is not my greatest strength, nor my passion.  I can thread a needle or the machine, and beyond that, I'm pretty limited.  So, I have my list.



For all the times I've heard people say that they just aren't able to buy new clothes, sometimes you really need to suck it up and replace the pilly black cardigan, no matter how much you love it.  I learned from my mother at a young age that the best places to shop are the clearance racks.  Even with all the inflation, etc. in today's world, I think I manage to do pretty well with my needed essentials.  I'm going to attach a screen shot of my most recent wardrobe purchases, which were primarily for the pants and the cream-colored top.  Ever notice that no matter how often you buy the staple white/ cream tops, you still feel like you're constantly looking for a replacement?


You can see the original prices with the line through them.  These purchases are all from Ann-Taylor Loft.  I'm a teacher, so where else would I choose to wardrobe? What you don't see pictured are the two new sweaters I got a month or two ago.  I desperately needed a black cardi, so ran in to see if they had any.  They had one on my size on the rack listed as Final Sale $9.88.  I went up to the register and it rang up $4.88.  I pulled the "Excuse me, are you sure that's ringing up as the right price?" line with the cashier, who told me that it was correct.  I'm pretty sure she laughed at me because I said, "Oh, hold on....there's one in my size in Navy on the rack too... I'll be right back."  So, I got two sweaters for less than ten bucks.  Now, they're on sale for $2.93, but I already had what I needed; no sense in replicating.  I just wanted to show y'all that it IS possible to keep yourself looking better than threadbare and not have to wear the same few outfits over and over again.  Good luck with your 'back-to-school' shopping!

Friday, July 13, 2012

CSA! Community Supported Agriculture

If you don't know what CSAs are or want to know more, Local Harvest can tell you more about it here.

I recently joined a CSA and couldn't be more excited.  My mom started the family eating CSA produce at some point in my college career, so I only got to enjoy the perks now and then.  The first summer that I was home with my parents and ate virtually nothing but the CSA's fruits and veggies was wonderful.  I loved it and the new recipes my mom was testing.  Let's be honest, who wants to eat the same 10 meals on repeat for 20 years? It was time for a change.  Mom wanted to be healthier and found  a way to try.  I didn't think anything much of the high quality of the food until I got back to school.  I grabbed a tomato, bit in, and promptly pulled it back out of my mouth.  'Geez! What's IN that thing?  Is that really what a pumped-up, run of the mill, grocery store tomato tastes like?? YUCK!'  And so began my love affair with yummy fruits and veggies.

I try to buy local when possible, and organic if at all possible and affordable.  I've put off joining a CSA here for the past two years for several reasons.  1) I don't have the money. 2) I can't eat that many fruits and veggies before they spoil. 3) I don't have time to cook that much. 4) I work too much and often eat on the road.  Excuses, excuses.  1) It's actually less expensive to get my veggies from a CSA. 2) I found one that has less than a family of 6 portion...and have friends willing to "help me out" by taking some extra produce off my hands if need be.  3) If you read my blog, you know that I'm learning to enjoy cooking.  It doesn't take that much time to cook, it's healthier and cheaper than eating out, and I find it therapeutic. 4) New job.

I got my first week's worth of produce today because my CSA's farmer was gracious enough to allow me to join mid-season. I'm already such a happy camper!  Here's what I made with some of my produce:
Roasted white eggplant, zucchini, onions, and bell peppers.
Assorted tomatoes.
Assorted flowers...2 bouquets worth. Bonus for the week!
(My vases are still in storage.)

This is guacamole.  I'm not so sure why it isn't super green, but it's tasty.
Combination of CSA and my friend T's garden.

And, recipes:

Guacamole: 

  • 1-2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1-2 chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (omitted because I'm out)
  • A dash of freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
Roasted Veggies: 
Cookie sheet, Parchment paper/ aluminum foil, 400*, 25-30 minutes....just added a dollop of olive oil, freshly ground pepper thoroughly over sheet, threw on some chopped onion for flavoring, and a hint of fresh garlic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Being a grad student....

..... is hard.  Especially when you're up against deadlines, tired, frustrated, and things just don't seem to be going your way. Because I'm a peon in the grand scheme of life, I don't have access to a lot of the things I need (or they've never been done in the organization I'm currently volunteering with) to successfully complete my assignments in the high caliber I expect myself to perform.  With the aid of my trusty diet coke, internet on my phone (it went out at the house), and the support of a wonderful friend who sent the best possible text message at my most frustrated and anxious tonight, I made the deadline with enough time and energy left over to blog about it.   

My text simply said this: "You can do it. I believe in you."  Maybe it's cliche, but I know that it was heartfelt and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I often think about life as a full-time graduate student and a full-time teacher.  Obviously, I mean....those takes up the majority of my time, thought, and energy.  What I don't stop to think about often enough is how much I really enjoy grad school.  I love learning, pressing my limits, and challenging my thoughts and beliefs.  I enjoyed college because many of the classes I took for my major were classes I found interesting.  There was more freedom than in high school to take classes of my choosing, and my focus was narrowed to my more specific passions.  In grad school, my focus has again narrowed, and my classes are all a blast.  I have the opportunity to take only classes which are specifically related to youth development and youth development leadership.  Naturally, I love them all, but not the presentation of some of the professors.

I think what I really wanted to say is this:

Kudos to all of you that have gotten your graduate degrees.  An extra round of applause to those of you that have done it while working.  And if you've gotten a graduate degree while working and maintaining a sane, solid family life, I can't begin to understand how difficult that must have been.  I'm coming to realize what an accomplishment a graduate degree is, how much work is truly put into it.  I keep thinking I can't bear a heavier workload and inevitably, Murphy's Law decides to hand me another plate to juggle, and I manage.  I am in awe of all you Masters of Education, or just Masters in General.  I'm so looking forward to December when I will be my own Master of Science!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Bought A Zoo!

Okay, so I'm just paying a very small rent to my friend and they aren't her animals...but her fenced in backyard DOES back up to a farm.  It's truly captivating.

Yesterday, I had my first glimpse of the mythical buffalo.  I was driving and saw them from the road, so I pulled over to snap this:
I was too chicken to get any closer or to stick around and try to get a better shot.  All I could think of during this encounter were the multitude of warnings I got while at Yellowstone, where the park rangers repeatedly cautioned that the buffalo might approach you, seem friendly, but turn on you and then do things like destroy you and your car.  Naturally- a little cautious.  Today, I mustered my courage and in that "this is so terrible something bad is gonna happen I can't watch but I can't stop watching" way, I walked right up.

Today, we were enjoying the beautiful late summer storm and I saw them (all 3) for the first time in the backyard.  By "I saw them," what I mean is, the dog started barking ballistically and I couldn't see the donkeys (her general source of unrest these days), so I wandered out in the rain to see what all the fuss is about.  Watching her meet the buffalo for the first time (and having the chance myself to get up close and personal with the Bills' Mascot), I just knew I needed to grab the camera and not worry about the rain.  The lens started to get wet, so some of the later pictures are really poor quality.  Sorry!  Here's my zoo....and my crazy dog!


New friend! No zoom...I was that close.
You can call me Dr. Doolittle....except I have no idea what mmmmmm means from a buffalo and chose to interpret it as "Get away from me now, you're irritating me."
They just calmly looked at her...which is why I couldn't get a good one of their pictures.

still no zoom


nom nom nom




brown cow, left...donkey, middle...buffalo, right

How now, brown cow?

Cow, goat, buffalo.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Granola Girl

My friend Cat and I were talking over lunch recently about "granola people."  You know, the (mostly women) that are considered "crunchy"?  We both have our crunchy habits, but I at least am about finding out what's best for me (and if I had kids, them too).

I'm definitely not full-on granola and many of my lifestyle changes are only secondarily for the environment.  The primary reasons tend to be my health and my budget.

For example, I make my own laundry detergent.  It's awesome.  My clothes are cleaner than ever.  You can read about that here.  I'd read that my particular type of home-made detergent could double as dishwasher detergent, and I was a little skeptical.  Recently, a brand new carton of dishwashing gel things exploded under the sink, leaving me with no dishwasher detergent...and it really needed to run then before people came over.  So, I tried it, figuring that worst case scenario, I'd re-wash everything later.  It worked.  Clean dishes....always a plus. :)

I've made my own body wash- another experiment at school that's become a habit that you can read more about here.  I've skeptically made my own face wash for my combination skin...success! And chee-aapppp!  Yesterday, I made my own sugar scrub, knowing that I needed far more exfoliating than my loofah and gently exfoliating body wash could provide.  I got a wicked sunburn not long ago, and it's peeling, so.... I fixed it.  Now, the shower was absolutely disgusting by the time I was done, but it was a blast, and my skin feels smooth as a baby's bottom.  I'm getting a little granola-ey.



Anyway, I've almost totally cut out processed foods.  It's amazing that I feel better.  I didn't know I didn't feel good.  Recently, on the days that I've eaten a lot of processed foods, I don't feel so hot.  I find cooking to be cathartic and wholly relaxing, and am enjoying the opportunities that learning to cook with only unprocessed foods is providing me.  Basically, if it comes in a package, I avoid it.  I'm buying local and organic, when possible.  I'm feeling good, loving the variety of flavors everything has, and enjoying myself....all on a teacher's salary!

I did buy a cookbook called Don't Panic- Dinner's in the Freezer to help me out.  I substitute a good bit, and don't freeze all of the recipes.  It is great, however, for teaching you how to keep many of the nutrients and prepare meals ahead of time.  As a single gal, many of my recipes make enough for me to split the recipe, cooking some and freezing some, and have leftovers both times.  This is going to make my life so much easier when the school year gets back in swing and I'm back to full-time teaching and grad school again.

New fun with hybrid plants and some regulars:

Crustless quiche

Lemon Cucumber (a tasty hybrid) and tomato salad, with fresh dill...mmm, pickle-y!

Broiled lemon shrimp (I didn't use any oil, but hoped that cooking the lemons would release enough juice to moisten the shrimp.  It did- and they were delectable.

Assorted veggies from my friend T's garden.  I didn't think to snap a pic of them all before I started cooking.
Bottom right, white eggplant.
Middle- Thai red hots. 


I found this definition-ish thing on squidoo:


How You can BE CRUNCHY too


Being crunchy means to cloth diaper. It means to make your own baby food and shoporganic. If you are crunchy you probably make a lot of products from scratch or buy natural, organic, hormone free food products. If you are crunchy you probably wear organic cotton clothes and have something made from fast growing bamboo somewhere in your home. You may even have solar energy. If you are crunchy you probably drive a hybrid car or at least gas efficient vehicle. You take quick showers and don't leave lights on in your home. You may even walk through the dark to get where you are going to save energy. You have probably also been called a tree hugger at least once in your life. You probably buy green products from GreenYourself.org. If you are crunchy you should be proud of yourself. You care about your body, your planet and other people as well. And who wants to be SOGGY?