Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baking with friends - take two!

My apologies for yesterday's post (a classic example of telling, not showing).  Here's my writerly attempt to "show" the events of this special evening, a revised slice, served up again on this Boxing Day morning.  Thanks to my fellow bloggers who encourage my writing life at  Two Writing Teachers

My son-in-law dropped by my classroom with the words, "What time are you leaving today?  Sara wants you home as soon as possible."
I glanced at the clock and replied, "I'll try to leave by 3:30."
What had I been thinking?  An evening of baking cookies after a full day of teaching! Sometimes I question my own sanity.
A full hour later, pealing bells (my Christmas ring tone) announced my daughter's call.
"Mom, where are you?  Someone's in the driveway, and you're not even here!"
"Sorry, Sara, I was working on flipping the Newbery books for tomorrow.  I'm headed out the door."
I locked my classroom door, prayed that no one would see the complete chaos I left behind, and berated myself for planning such an event on a school night.
As I walked in the door, Patty and Karen were already working on the pretzels topped with kisses and soon to be adorned with Christmas M&M's after a quick warm-up in the oven.  Sara was mixing up the dough for press cookies while my friends noted my vintage cookie press in its original box, with the recipe torn from Mom's vintage Betty Crocker cookbook .  As soon as I open this box each year, I'm a little girl again in the kitchen on Tyler Street baking with my mom.
I start the Marshmallow Creme Fudge.  I stir the mixture constantly with the wooden spoon, softball stage arrives quickly, and we add the chocolate chips and vanilla.  Then it's time to fold in the marshmallow creme, add the walnuts, and pour the warm chocolate into the buttered pan.  Everyone gets a spoon for a taste of warm fudge.
Patty and I quickly mix up a double batch of Molasses Crinkles, Sara starts the Hello Dolly bars, Amy mixes her Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Nancy melts white chocolate for dipping her Oreos.  Kay offers her help to anyone in need of an extra hand.

Around six we gather around the table for a bowl of steaming soup and cheese bread before heading back to the kitchen for a few more rotations of cookie sheets and cooling racks.  Thank goodness for double ovens (a luxury this baker loves)!
My daughter offers to clean the kitchen while we play a few hands of chicken foot.  Everyone leaves with a green Glad container filled with goodies to share.
My first evening like this was over 25 years ago when I joined my fellow teachers from Monte Cassino at Sharon's house for an evening of baking.  Every year, I've longed to do the same thing with my friends.  I hug my daughter whose gift of time made this dream evening a reality for me and my friends from IMS.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Baking with Friends

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

This past week, I finally enjoyed an evening of baking with friends from work.  This was a tradition at the school where I taught in the early 80's.  It wasn't a cookie exchange, and there was no need to do anything ahead of time.  We just showed up at Sharon's house and baked all evening long.  We made several kinds of cookies and candy, ordered pizza, and enjoyed lots of fun and laughter.  At the end of the evening, everyone went home with a plate of home-baked goodies to share with friends and family.

It's hard to believe that I've spent more than 25 years hoping to host a baking party.  This year with a lot of help from my daughter, we managed to replicate this lovely tradition.  She sent out
e-vites, and friends were welcome to arrive as early as 4 p.m. I received a frantic call from her at 4 to come home from school because people were starting to arrive.  Friends were welcome to bring favorite recipes and some staple ingredients.  We baked for several hours, enjoyed soup for dinner, and ended our evening with a game of chicken foot.  Everyone left with a container of goodies.  It was a delight to share this evening with my good friends.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Baker's Dozen

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

I have shelves of Christmas books! I know it's a strange obsession, but I scour half-price books and the after-Christmas sales each year in search of books to add to my collection.  For today's post, I wanted to share my top ten favorites, then I decided it would have to be my top twelve, and finally settled on a baker's dozen (since I also delight in baking during this season).  A favorite memory of this season was sitting with a friend,  looking at her basket of Christmas books, and discovering books that were new to me.  I hope that you too might find a Christmas book new for you from my baker's dozen of favorite picture books.  

Christmas in the Stable - Poems selected and illustrated by Beverly K. Duncan

I love Jane Yolen's poem "The First Morning" about the rooster who decides he must sing a gentle tune when 
"...He sees the babe on Mary's knee-
And now must wake Eternity."

Ruby, the Christmas Donkey by Mirabel Cecil and illustrated by Christina Gascoigne

When you read this with a child, you'll linger over the picture of the animals clustered around the window watching the Nativity play.

The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom and illustrated by Jane Dyer

Beautiful poetic language and exquisite illustrations fill me with longing for just one snow day this year!

A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and illustrated by Mary Azarian

I purchased this one because I love Mary Azarian's woodcuts.  It's a wonderful depiction of Christmas long ago and a perfect book to pair with All the Places to Love.  

Little One, We Knew You'd Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jackie Morris

A perfect gift for any new mother, this book celebrates the birth of the Christ child and indeed, the birth of all children.  The illustrations will take your breath away!

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote and illustrated by Beth Peck

This classic short story celebrates the enduring friendship between Buddy and an elderly cousin with the words, "We are each other's best friend."

The First Christmas by Tomie de Paola

This pop-up book autographed by the author in 1991 is the book we always shared with our young children to tell the story of the first Christmas.  My son loved the arrow which pointed the innkeeper's finger to the stable and my daughter loved the small star which became large and filled the night sky for the three kings.

Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki

With the words "Each brought back a memory...", the reader is transported to the "...good beautiful memories..." behind each ornament hung on the tree.  

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney

My copy, purchased at a Houston library book sale for $1 is priceless.  Don't miss this story of "... the Christmas of the heavenly angel and the perfect balsam Christmas tree..."

I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

With these words, "...'Climb aboard,' the driver said.  'I know the way'..."  Toot makes it home in time to spend Christmas Eve with Puddle.  

My Prairie Christmas by Brett Harvey and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

A new discovery from last December's used library book sale, this book celebrates a family's first prairie Christmas.  

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilmer and illustrated by Elisa Kleven

I recently purchased a board book version (in anticipation of future grandchildren) of this favorite alphabet book illuminated with Kleven's exquisite illustrations.

The Story of Christmas words from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, pictures by Jane Ray

Jane Ray's luminous illustrations paired with the immortal words from the King James version make this the perfect book for sharing the glorious story of this season.  

For years I've longed to invite friends over for cookies and milk, with a favorite Christmas story in hand.  This may be the year that I finally do that!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My heart sang!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Last week was a busy one.  My students revised their personal narratives based on formative feedback from the rubric and my comments.  We revisited favorite mentor texts to examine powerful leads and endings.  Everyone wrote a new beginning and a new ending.
Then it was back to the computer lab for a 4th draft amid groans from my students asking, "Isn't this our final copy?"  One teacher and 29 students in a computer lab - this is the time I long for the ability to clone myself.  I learned long ago to have students list their names on the board when they want my help.
I worked quickly through the never ending list of student names.  Most of the questions centered around computer issues and earlier drafts that had mysteriously disappeared from the flash drive or Schoology file.  I had little time to provide real student feedback.   Usually it was a quick glance to check the formatting before I gave them the nod that it was okay to print.  Occasionally I scanned a beginning or ending and gave a quick comment.
On Thursday, I read an ending that filled me with delight and brought tears to my eyes.  I turned to the student, "You nailed it!"  We high fived as my heart sang!  With his permission, I'm sharing this powerful ending to his story detailing the arrival of Joy, a new kitten, in his family.
"As night crept upon us, we all gathered on the couch like exhausted little monkeys.  We ate cookies in the nighttime silence.  The only thing we heard was cookies crumbling and the soft purr from Joy."
I want more moments like this, but for now I'll savor this moment when the stars aligned and one of my students got it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanks to my blogging friends!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

In an earlier post and as part of Poetry Friday, I tried my hand at thankus.  I wanted to share the thanku that I composed with each of you in mind.  Thanks for joining me on this incredible journey.

Friends in cyberspace
Companions on my journey
Fire my writing soul.

My Month of Gratitude

I joined Stacey Shubbitz of Two Writing Teachers in a challenge to participate in a month of thanks.  I posted my thankful notes on Facebook, but wanted to put them all in one place here on my blog.
Today I'm thankful for rainbows! They always fill me with wonder!  I was at a meeting and would have totally missed today's gorgeous rainbow except for the fact that I stepped to the window to look at the fall color!

I'm thankful for the weekend! Always a treat to get to the end of a week and have a weekend to renew my energy before facing another week.

Today I'm thankful for beautiful music and today's opportunity to attend the concert of a talented colleague and his wife.

I'm thankful for The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor which brings a poem and a touch of trivia each day via email!  Today is Will Roger's birthday. I remember Daddy taking us to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK  several times.

Today I'm thankful for my citizenship in the United States of America and the opportunity to vote. I have so many memories of election day! To read some of my memories, check out this week's post on my blog.

Today I'm thankful for hot water. I know it sounds crazy, but every morning when I hop in the shower, I'm happy that with the turn of a nozzle - I can enjoy a hot shower. Hot water for washing dishes - hey that's good too, but definitely not as fun as my hot shower!

Tonight I'm thankful that my job as a classroom teacher allows me to share my passion for books with my students. We're currently reading books selected by KCLS as possibilities for this year's Newbery Award. It's so fun to see the excitement of my students and hear their enthusiasm as we meet in small groups to discuss the books. A giant thanks to the MISF for funding this project for me and my students, and to the parents who helped cover books and are leading discussions with my students! There's no better reward than hearing my students say, "This is the best book I ever read!"

Thankful for two things tonight - lunch from the PTSA moms and Will's willingness to help out! We get the most delicious lunches periodically from the moms at our school. Today it was panini sandwiches, soup, salad, and homemade buttermilk lemon sorbet! Yum, what a treat! 
Then after school I decided to do a bulletin board that I'd been putting off doing. Will brought the papers to me at school since they were at home on the dining room table (procrastination central). He also cooks dinner every other night. We're totally enjoying him. It's great to have a son-in-law who's helpful and so much fun to have around.

 Tonight I'm thankful for my siblings. I was lucky to grow up in a home filled with love. I still love talking to each of my siblings and staying connected with them. Saturday morning is my favorite time to talk to Karl, Kay and I talk mostly in the early evening (she knows not to call me after nine), and Velma and I often chat on my way to school. I'm so lucky to have a brother and sisters who are not only my siblings, but also my close friends! I'm truly blessed!

Time for my thankful thoughts. I've been thinking a lot of my sweet mom. She was such a generous, loving, and hard-working woman. I've never felt that I could measure up to her. This point was driven home to me the summer that she sewed my wedding dress and I took on the other chores so that she could sew. I fell into bed bone weary every night.
She always made every one of us feel so loved. Going home was pure delight! My post about the election made me think of her beans and cornbread. So I'm thinking of two dishes that she made that I can't replicate, and I'm really hoping that there's food in heaven because I hope my mama has chicken and dumplings and blackberry cobbler ready for me someday! Love to my sweet mama and gratitude for all she taught me!

Time to squeeze in another quick thankful post. On this Veterans Day I think of the sacrifices made by so many to keep our world safe. I'm thankful for every veteran who has served or is currently serving in the military. My daddy was one of those men and women from the greatest generation. He was captured as a prisoner of war and was listed as MIA. My mom says the day she got a letter telling her he was alive was the happiest day of her life.
I learned so much from my dad - how to have an optimistic outlook on life, how to be totally honest (he taught me that an uncancelled stamp had served its purpose and should not be reused), how to work hard, how to enjoy life in many little ways, and how to wake up early and happy every single day!
Thanks for all those great lessons. Dad, I love and miss you so much! -Nubbin
Today I'm thankful for a day off work, a pajama morning, pumpkin chocolate chip bread in the oven, the Today show on the TV, and time to read the paper! Life's little pleasures are the best!
My Tuesday slice of life is all about library love. The short story is I'm thankful for libraries. For the long story, check out the post on my blog.
 Tonight I'm thankful for my book club. I hadn't read the book, but had listened to a bit of it on CD. It's fun to spend an evening with this group even though I hadn't read the book. Some of us have been together since 1998! And before that, I was in a great book club in Houston for about ten years. Some of my happiest memories are the times spent with these book loving friends. I started my firstbook club out of fear. I heard a woman say she hadn't read a book since she'd had kids. As a young mother, I feared turning into a woman like that. So my book club kept me in touch with the world of books and connected me with adult friends who loved to read - books and friends - definitely a winning combination! This thankful post tonight is for all my book loving friends.

Tonight I'm thankful that a parent at our school found his lost son! Turns out the activity bus was just 30 minutes late, but there's something about darkness that arrives way too early in the NW and lost children that scares me to death. It was only a little after five, but already pitch dark. There were just two teachers at school when the dad showed up, but we did our best to check around. Had the student gone to homework center after school? And in the middle of checking, the dad received a phone call from his wife. All was well!

So tired tonight . . . skipped school today to attend a national Social Studies convention right here in Seattle. What am I thankful for? Not my 12 hour day which started at 7 a.m., but for public transportation which got me there and back without having to fight the traffic or the rain. I love riding the bus! And the best bonus - seeing my cousin Darrell Thompson at the World Book booth! He let me eat lots of Tootise Rolls and watched over my very heavy book bag while I walked around the exhibition hall. Don't ask how the book bag got so heavy!

Leaving at 7 a.m. for another day of professional development. I love attending conferences and workshops. Today I'm thankful to be a teacher! I'm so glad the NCSS is in Seattle this year so I can enjoy the conference each day, and come home to my own bed each night.
I wish my beautiful niece, Kara, were here to enjoy the day with me.

Just getting ready to do my post and saw that my brother, Karl and I are on the same wave length. I'm thankful for Sundays, a beautiful day for worship and rest (my Sunday afternoon nap is sacred time at my house). Today we sang, "Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning" and it made me think of Sundays in McAlester branch, the congregation where I grew up. I remembered Edna Wilson, our SS chorister, who always made us memorize the words to the practice hymn, Hazel Duff as my SS teacher, Billie Thompson as my Beehive teacher, Donna Marchant as my seminary teacher, Aunt Edna as my Primary teacher and many more too numerous to mention. Happy times growing up and learning the gospel in that small congregation filled with so many extended family members!

My Tuesday Slice of Life is about my gratitude for newspapers.

Tonight I'm grateful for sixth grade students who are improving every day! Tonight I got to make eight "good news" calls. When a student scores a 100 on a test, they get a good news call at home. It's fun to see the progress they are making. Here's the chant the counselor taught my class this year: "Little by little, bit by bit, we're improving every day!"

Happy Birthday, Lance! Today I'm grateful for my husband who introduced me to so many of the finer things in life - foreign flicks, art museums, Great Courses, Masterpiece Theater and travel. I like to think that our dual personalities complement each other - his sense of humor, my serious nature; his owl tendencies (although less than in the past), my morning lark tendencies; his the glass is half empty outlook, my the glass is half full outlook; his man of few words disposition, my let's talk every issue to death disposition. Our greatest accomplishment - two wonderful young adults (more on them later this week)! He's a great dad! I count myself lucky that I said yes to this giant of a man when he asked me to share his life.

Just finished first shift in the kitchen - poured cranberry salad into the mold (fresh cranberries and oranges), made another pan of cornbread for the dressing, and boiled the yams (peeled and ready for cooking). I love that we share the cooking at our house. Shared tasks make for a fun day for everyone.
Today I'm especially grateful for a mother who was a fantastic cook! I'm trying out a new poetic form, a thanku, that I learned about from Teaching Authors blog. It offers thanks in the form of a haiku with three lines, composed of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables. This thanku honors my mom and the place where I feel closest to her.

I don my apron,
Retrieve treasured recipes,
And feel Mom's presence.

Tonight I'm thankful for leftovers. I love a day with no cooking and good food in the refrigerator.

Tonight I'm thankful for my daughter. Long before she left home, I realized that she was more organized than me, more dedicated than me, more focused than me, and definitely smarter than me. I laugh at students in my classroom who recognize my scattered tendencies and help me out (usually because they have moms who are just like me). Today Sara cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. She knows
just how to take everything out, let me see it, and gently persuade me to release it into the circular file or drop it off at the thrift store. With some extra time coming up at Christmas and no grades due the week after, we might make some real progress around here.
I'm amazed at how efficient she is and how much she can accomplish in a short time. Thanks to her I got lots of grades entered today, we made our turkey sugar cookies (a Thanksgiving tradition), and cleaned the kitchen together several times. How does it get messed up so quickly? I'm grateful for this beautiful daughter who is always so willing to help me, even when she has lots of her own stuff to do. I'm one lucky mom!

Tonight's thank you goes to Ken Burns who teaches us so much history through his documentaries. We've been watching The Dust Bowl, but have enjoyed many of his documentaries through the years. I wish Mama and Daddy could sit and watch it with it us, so we could hear their stories of this time as they experienced it. I do have Mama's story of how they went on the road to pick crops in New Mexico and Colorado and didn't make it home until December. That's how Grandpa was able to buy feed for his cattle that winter when so many lost their cattle.

Tonight I'm thankful for bookstores. That's the short version. If you want to stroll with me down bookstore lane, check out this week's blog post.

Tonight I'm grateful for crisp, fall weather, beautiful sunrises, and the past few days without rain. This morning we enjoyed a walk to QFC to purchase food for holiday baskets, a fun yearly tradition at IMS. It's amazing how fun it can be to shop with sixth graders! They are just learning about unit prices and how to shop for the best value. It was a great morning and they managed to complete the task without purchasing anything for themselves. Way to go, Fantastics!

Tonight I'm thankful for my favorite son! Blake always makes me laugh! When he became much taller than me, he loved to stand in the kitchen, peer over me, and call out, "Where'd you go, Mama?" He likes to shop, but only with a very focused plan. He's not agreeable to an afternoon of browsing, but is always willing to accompany me to Costco, his happy place. Everyone loves Blake and it's fun to be his Mama. I loved making chocolate chip pancakes in his apartment at the Aston and meeting all his law school friends. He's a hard worker, loves people, and enjoys traveling, hotels, and finding the perfect gift. I love his sweet wife, Stefi, and I'm glad that she loves Christmas, cupcakes, and Blake! Blake is super organized. He can call from DC and describe the exact bin where I can locate the item that he wants me to retrieve and mail. He's easy to please, and as long as I can keep making chocolate chip pancakes and chicken casserole, I think he'll keep coming home occasionally. I love to pick up the phone and hear him say, "Mama Bear, what's going on?" And the best news I've gotten recently is when he told me he would be coming home in March. I saw him in September when I went to DC for the National Book Festival, and I've been trying to be stoic about the fact that I probably wouldn't see him again until his graduation in May. For now I'm counting down the days and weeks until I get to see Boo Boo again and looking forward to phone calls from the other Washington.

I can't believe that I've posted my gratitude all month and not one mention of my favorite indulgence - chocolate! My current fave is Ghiradelli intense dark sea salt soiree singles! So thankful they come in singles and go on sale periodically.

I’m thankful for two things today: the newest member of our family, and my friends.
My daughter-in-law, Stefi, is a delightful addition to our family. I love that she adores baking, traditions and blogging! I gave her an apron for the official, “Behnke Woman Welcome.” I simply must love a girl who can cry over sprinkles and baby cupcakes, and chooses to share her life with my adorable son!
I’m also thankful for my friends. I have a favorite quote, from the book, Creeker: A Woman’s Journey by Linda Scott Derosier. “… I have left no one behind. Instead my sense of family has simply expanded to include a lot of folks I have met along life’s way. …Indeed if you are ever in my life, you are always in my life.” And that sums up how I feel about my friends.
I love this time of year when I come home on a dark December evening and open my mailbox to the warmth of “real mail” from friends far and near. I’ll even count your greetings sent over the internet as real mail because I’ll print a copy to put in my red Christmas basket. I like to linger over the cards, the photos, your notes. I often wait until I’ve made a cup of tea to open the envelopes and savor your updates. It’s truly one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.
Finally, thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog who suggested this journey of gratitude and to each of you, my friends and family, for putting up with my daily ramblings.