Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to School 2013-2014

Well, Brian got the storage room cleared out after all!  Brian is our campus CIS, and he promised me at the end of last year that he would get the storage room, that would be my "classroom" this year, cleaned out and move my things down for me before the school year started.  It was stacked floor to ceiling with instructional materials! I have no idea where he put it all, but I don't really want to know! 

This is what I found when I went to check out the room the week before school started... not much!

 Thankfully, the room did have 2 bulletin boards and a whiteboard.  There aren't any countertops, which I am finding I really miss! But, there was a small bookshelf that was in pretty bad shape, 3 sets of wall shelves, and a large, 2 door cupboard.  There was an overabundance of trapezoid tables, which I promptly gave away. I took the bookshelf home and painted it a nice bright color.



There aren't many things on the walls yet. But, I did hang my work of art! Our back to school party was held at Painting With a Twist. It was really a lot of fun and I can't wait to go again.  I'm thinking I would like to get the girls together and go for my birthday!

I'm lucky the colors look good in my little room!

So here are the after photographs.  I like the color combination and I think it turned a pretty bland, sterile environment into a much more enjoyable place to spend my days.

View from my desk! I actually had to have a desk again because there isn't a filing cabinet in the room!
I had to have a secure place to keep student files.

Look how cut my painting is! And it looks great,
hanging above my bookshelf.

I don't really need student desks or tables, because I will work
with small groups at the horseshoe table. But, I didn't want a big,
empty room.

I used pennant swags I made from scrapbook paper & ribbon, and plastic table cloths to cover the bulletin boards.
The jazzy "carpet" is actually throw rugs from IKEA.

Here is where the real teaching will take place.  Lots of phonics,
sight words, syllable work, and reading, reading, reading!

I know it is hard to see, but the 2 pictures hanging beside my desk were given to
me by a former student at the end of last year. One is a hand-drawn picture of our class at recess
that her mother helped her make.  The second one is a painting she bought with her allowance
at a Children's Cancer Fundraiser Auction.  It has VW Beetles in it and she told her mom
I just HAD to have it!

I still haven't started using the Wilson Program, the district program that is used to help dyslexic students. I will attend training for 3 days in Austin, and then 2 more days in the district and I can finally start getting to know my students week after next.
 So what have I been doing all day? During the first week of school, I was teaching Pre-K because one our teachers had to go on emergency medical leave. That was an experience!!  
And for the past week, I've been helping out in the home rooms of my dyslexic students.  I'm hoping I can establish a good, working relationship with their teachers so that once I start pulling students for instruction and assessment, they won't be so quick to be irritated with me. 
I've also been able to see so many of the students that I have had since I started teaching at Skipcha.  They are all confused about why I don't have a second grade class anymore, but they're still excited that I'm visiting their rooms! 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Crockpot Freezer Meals...

School is back in full swing, Ron is working full time again, and I hate to cook. Therefore, I am trying something new.  I've seen so many posts on Pinterest about crockpot meals, freezer meals, and clean cooking that it has become overwhelming.  I've tried recipes before and they weren't always very good.  So, I thought maybe I would take some recipes that we have used that we liked and try to make freezer meals out of them.  Warning: I have not tried freezing these ahead of time so I can't guarantee that these will work.  It is just something I wanted to try.  I'll post again as I try each one to keep a record of which ones worked out and which didn't.

Two of the recipes I used were from this cookbook.  Ron is a diabetic and is supposed to watch what he eats.  I got him this recipe book when he retired and took over the cooking.  It came with some little smiley face stickers to put on the recipes that you like.  Quite honestly, most of the ones we tried were mushy and pretty tasteless.  The soups and stews were usually good; but, we only eat those when it gets cold. The rest, we have added ingredients or deleted some things and found several we use repeatedly.

Here are variations of two I used today.

Beef Pot Roast
(I cut all of the ingredients and split them into two bags.  Then, I sliced the roast in half.  This made 2 meals for us because the recipe makes 8 servings.)

4 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
4 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 ribs of celery, cut into chunks
1 small onion, cut into wedges
(The following ingredients weren't included, but we like these in our pot roast.)
1/4 head cabbage, cut into wedges
1 med.  zucchini, cut into chunks
2 1/2 - 3 lb beef roast
(Before I put them into the bag, I wrote the cooking time and temperature on the outside, along with any ingredients that needed to be added before cooking.)
The night before, we will take the bag out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator.  In the morning, Ron will put the ingredients into the crockpot, add 1 can of chicken or beef broth, and salt & pepper to taste.  It cooks on low for 10-12 hours.

This is what my bag looked like. I lay them on top of one another in the freezer.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
1 1/2 c. sliced carrots
1 lg. green pepper, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1 16 oz. can chunk pineapple in juice
(I added 1 can drained water chestnuts as well.)
3 T. brown sugar substitute
1 T. soy sauce
1/3 c. vinegar
1/4 t. fresh garlic
1/4 t. grated ginger
1/4 t. salt
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces.

Drain the juice from the pineapple, mix the juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and salt.  Toss the chicken, fruit, and vegetables and liquid to coat evenly.
(I divided this mixture into 2 freezer bags. I even wrote a note on the bag to let Ron know that we need to cook some rice for this recipe.)
Cook on low for 8-9 hours.  Serve over steamed rice.

I use the smaller crock pot for the two of us.

The next 2 recipes are just family favorites that I mixed together, put into 2 freezer bags, put them in the freezer, and will cook them in the crockpot as well.

Sausage Pot

1 Eckridge Polish Sausage, cut into chunks
1/2 head cabbage, cut into wedges
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 large potatoes, cut into wedges,
1 small onion, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
(I divided all of these ingredients into 2 freezer bags.)
Place ingredients in crockpot; add 2 cups of water.  Cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  Drain water, and and garnish with parsley flakes before serving.

Pork Roast and Sour Crout

1 2 1/2 - 3 lb. lean pork roast, cut int half
1 med. onion, cut into wedges
2 cans Libby's Bavarian Sour Kraut
(I like this brand because it has caraway seeds. Use plain if you prefer.)

Put 1/2 of the port roast, 1/2 of the onion wedges, and 1 can of sour kraut into 1 freezer bag.  Do the same with the remaining ingredients.
Cook on low for 10 - 12 hours.

Like I said, I have never tried freezing these before.  I hope it works!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Before and After...#3 and #4 Bathroom & Kitchen re-do

I started this before and after on July 1st.  It has been a long and exhausting job; which would not be finished today if it weren't for Ron pitching in.  (Thank you, Sugarbear!)  I went into this knowing it would take most of my summer, worried that it might be a huge disaster, and determined to not be making a horrible mistake.  I am pleased with the results.

Here are a few before pictures.  The kitchen and the half-bath are the only rooms I actually had pictures of.  The laundry room must have been wearing an invisibility cloak!
When we moved in, Ron sanded the fronts of the cabinets and refinished them.
It helped a little, but I have always hated the ugly wood and paneling the builder used.
Typical 70's house.

This is the half-bath. No one liked using it because it is tiny and dark.

Other side of the kitchen with more ugly cabinets and paneling.

Here are a couple of during pictures.  Ron was in charge of removing the cabinets and putting them back up. I didn't remove the things in the cabinets the first time I sanded the cabinet box... HUGE mistake. After removing everything just to wipe it down, I learned my lesson.

Laundry room...

Looking into the kitchen and half bath from the laundry room...

 And finally, the after pictures! Everyone has had the same reaction: "Wow! It is so bright in here now! It looks good!" 
I'm about 95% finished with decorating; etc. Still have some curtains to make and waiting for Leslie to cut my vinyl letters for the laundry room. 

Laundry room...

Looking into the half-bath...

It is soooo much lighter in here now!

Kitchen from the laundry room door...

Kitchen from the dining room...

My shelf that Ron put up... just for some of my canning and milk jars.

Family keepsakes... no longer stuck in a cabinet!

More family keepsakes. The picture belonged to Grandma Veach, the basket was made by Mom.
I don't remember who owned the lamp.

Kitchen window... I don't think I am going to put up any curtains.

Look how dark that dining room is compared to the kitchen!
What a difference!!

I am happy, happy, happy!
Next summer...  pulling the paneling off the living and dining room walls, texturing the walls, and white washing the fireplace!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Before and after #2...kinda

I'm sitting here trying to update the blog while I babysit for my granddaughter, Sophie.  Currently, she is entertaining herself by walking around the house with her shopping cart.  I think she is pretending to be a bag lady because the shopping cart has my rain boots, several containers of playdough, a purse, a stuffed animal, the left overs of her lunch, and a flip light that she is using for a cell phone.  And, she sleeps with a dog! Whatever keeps her happy!
Sophie & Boomer taking a rest...

Sophie enjoying her strawberry milk snack...

Anyway, I said this was a before and after kinda today.  BEFORE summer began, I finished the school year with mixed emotions. Mostly because it was the last time I would be a "classroom" teacher.  AFTER summer ends, I will be the RICA teacher; a fancy term for the dyslexia teacher.  Kathy Smallwood held the position for several years, but decided to retire this year.  Recently, I have been struggling with the amount of time my job consumes on a weekly basis; especially now that my grandchildren have so many activities I want to see.  Also, I really want to be able to spend more time with my parents while they are still around.  They are the best parents anyone could ever dream of having and I know I still have so much to learn from them.  So, when Kathy came in to tell me about her decision to retire, I knew I needed to let my principal know that I was interested in the position.  Thankfully, I interviewed and was offered the job about a month before school ended! An answer to prayers!! Hopefully, the new position will allow me to use my time at home for family and still keep me in touch with children doing what I love to do.
Unfortunately, a new job meant moving rooms and purging my teaching materials.  For the remainder of the year I spent every Saturday cleaning out files and cabinets.  I gave a TON of things away, stored 2 TONS of things at my parents, and donated another TON of books to Maggie's school library.  The one thing I hated getting rid of was my set of anchor charts that I created for science.  BEFORE I gave them away, I took pictures of them to post on my blog. Now I will always have a virtual copy of them.  Now, I can't claim that they are all my own ideas because I browse Pinterest to find things for the classroom. When I see something I like, I tweak it so that it what fits my personality. 
Luckily, I will be able to create new anchor charts for all of the skills associated with the Wilson Reading system. Of course, I will have to invest a lot of time going to professional development classes this summer just to know what I will be doing! AFTER those anchor charts are created I will post them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Before and After #1

This is the first summer in a long time that I am not recovering from some sort of surgery or taking a trip somewhere.  Therefore, I have decided that this will be the summer of make overs.  
I started simple with some yard work.  Ron hired the scouts to do some yard work in order to earn money for camp.  Ron supervised as they cut out 2 ugly shrubs in front of the front porch railing.  As soon as school was over, I got the front flower beds in shape by planting some native plants (Mexican Heather and Dusty Miller) to take the place of the shrubs.  I'm hoping the yard will eventually have only native plants in it; but, I'm realistic enough to know that it will happen over the course of MANY years. 
As part of the yard make over, I needed to add some color to the back deck.  We bought a yellow retro style set of chairs and a glider last year that only had 1 table.  We had a couple of cheap wooden things I had bought at Big Lots, but they were falling apart.  I looked around for some inexpensive side tables, but couldn't find anything sturdy for less than $20.  I decided to take a couple of old flower pots that I was going to throw away and repurpose them. I bought some wooden rounds, spray paint, and bolts to attach the pieces to make a couple of side tables.  
Here are the before and after pictures.

I was a little irritated with myself when I got home and realized that the orange paint was gloss and the green paint was satin.  But, I can live with that.
Unfortunately, once the tables were finished, they made everything else look a little dull and shabby.  So I grabbed some more spray paint and attacked some yard art daisies and smaller flower pots.  It looks better, but now I need to repaint the swing, the frame, and the glider & chair set.

 I'm also starting to think the black lawn chairs need a coat of paint as well. I'm just not sure it would stick very well to the mesh seats.  
Hopefully, I can get the rest of it done before our crazy Texas summer gets too hot to sit outside and enjoy the peaceful serenity of my deck.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring 2013

Spring has come to Texas; and, with the season came my last school break.  This year the schools in central Texas had different calendar dates for their breaks.  Killeen and Gatesville were the same week; Copperas Cove had to cancel spring break because of all the days they missed due to the numerous bomb threats; and, Temple and Belton had theirs a week after ours.  So, we didn't get to have the grandkids together like last year. Still, it was a pleasant break and I needed the rest to get through the remainder of the year.
I spent a lot of time reading, cleaning the yard, and quilting.  I made some wall hangings for the girls, using some St. Patrick's embroidery panels my mother made.  They are the perfect size for the mini quilt racks Mom gave us last summer.  The wall hangings are identical except for the inner border.  The one I didn't post a picture of had a light green shamrock fabric where the tan fabric is in this one. They were quick and easy to make, which is always a plus when I only have a week off.

Of course, I had one of Mom's quilt in the quilting frame for about a month before the break.  I was thrilled to finally get this one quilted.  It is probably a king sized quilt and I love the red, white, and blue fabric Mom used in it. You can't go wrong in a quilt with red, white, and blue fabric using pieced stars.

Another milestone this spring, was Maggie's move from indoor pee-wee soccer, to the real thing. She is on an all girls team with the city parks and recreation department.  Gerson is her coach again; and, he is going to be coaching Sophie when her indoor season begins in a few weeks.  Luckily, a girl from church has a little one on G's pee-wee team and has agreed to fill in for him if Maggie and Sophie have games at the same time.  Their seasons should only overlap for a couple of weeks.  
These pictures were taken at Maggie's second game.  It was unbelievably cold that day!
Leslie had made the cutest water bottles for all of the girls on the team.  She found them at Dollar Tree, put some cute blue and white polka-dot ribbon on them, and used adhesives vinyl and my Silhouette to cut out each girls name. I feel like I'm looking for hidden pictures, trying to spot the water bottles in each frame!

Another exciting development in our city was the addition of an Aldi market! It hasn't been open for very long, and I hadn't had a chance to check it out.  Maggie called me this morning and asked me if I wanted to go to breakfast with her, Sophie, and her mom.  I asked her where she wanted to go, and she said Shipley's Do-nuts; but, her mom made her settle for Cracker Barrel.  
After breakfast, we all checked out Aldi.  It is very small and reminds me of the little commissary annex we used to have on post, or, the little commissary at Bad Nauheim, Germany.
It has such great prices!  Everything in the picture below was bought for $25.00.  I plan on doing most of my grocery shopping there once the newness wears off and it isn't so crowded.

We seem to have managed to get Boomer's mange under control.  He sure lived up to Scott's name for him; a mangy flea market dog.  I started to notice pink patches of skin on him and his hair was starting to fall out. I thought maybe he had allergies, so Ron took him to the vet.  Well, several dips, scrapings, and about $1,000 later, the silly guy is cleared up.  Thankfully, it wasn't the horrible mange that results in raw sores and can be contagious.  The vet said Boomer's was more of a "walking dandruff" and not contagious.  Maybe I should have just washed him with Head and Shoulders.  It would have been much less expensive.
But, as much as he loves us and we love him... it was worth it.

Today is Good Friday, and will probably be the last day I have off until school ends in June.  It was so sweet when Ron said to me, "It sure is nice having you home."   I had to admit, I agree with him 100%.