Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Voices

This is my desk.



If you look past the clutter, the ever-evil glue gun, and the laptop, you'll discover something interesting.

You'll find my career.

It is scattered about in dust-filled fragments, scraps of paper, middle school pictures with braces, and little cards that say "thank you."

These are my kids. This - this - encompasses ten years of a teacher's life.

It's not what I would have imagined when I was that bright-eyed girl out of college. Teaching is spontaneous and varied - full of life change and an unpredictable brand of crazy.

Some of the kids on my wall are going to a new adventure in high school.  Some of them are college graduates.  Some of them are living out dreams that defy poverty and my wildest imagination.  Some of them have sadder stories -  but they are still my kids, and they know I want the best for them.

To me, these bits of memorabilia are my little cheering section when days go south in a hurry.  When pressure hits, I think about them.  When that student has me at the limit of my patience, they say, "There was that kid in my class, too.  But you still taught me.  You remembered me."

When grading and paperwork bombard me beyond imagination, they say, "We know when you're stressed out.  Try to be funny.  That's what we like about you."

Most importantly, they say things that only the heart can feel.

They remind me of the precious, fragile responsibility of a teacher - we hold lives just for a moment. We grasp just a little vapor of a moment - and then they leave us.

They remind me of validity in some cliches.  There's more behind a kid than a standardized test score, than a notch in a grade book, than a pass rate percentage.

They remind me that they're just kids.  Kids who (for the most part) grow up to be reasonable, responsible adults.  And it means something to them to be loved by a teacher in their youth.


They inspire me to love the next group coming in the way I loved them.  To give more, do more, think more, push more.  They remind me that the best educators constantly refine and hone their methods.  These precious voices from the past are truly my catalyst.

They remind me to redeem my 8th grade year - the nightmare that it truly was - each and every year.  To give those kids - in the midst of awkward and adulthood - a year full of love, hope, and thinking beyond themselves.

I owe it to them, and to the ones who grace my door each day, willing (and even not so willing) to learn.

Teachers, here's to the new school year.

May we remember what we value, and listen to the voices of those who have moved on.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pinterest Finds and Fails

I love Pinterest food boards.

What did I do before these? I think I actually opened a cookbook.

I tend to look at these boards while I'm hungry.  This is a bad thing, because I pin everything in sight - even nonsensical stuff.

However, I actually make a great deal of the stuff I find, and sometimes recipes inspire me to get creative and start my own recipes.  There are some good, solid, decent recipes on Pinterest that are worth your time.  And there are some that are just...well, off.

I went scrolling through my "Food..." board tonight.  After skimming, I decided to post what's worked for for me, what hasn't worked for me, and what I want to try.

My finds, fails, and future.

Find:



I made these Blueberry Streusel Bars yesterday.  They're super simple and really yummy.  They involve boxed cake mix, which some of my foodie friends might snarf at, but the cinnamon and buttery cake mix totally brings the blueberries to life.  I was super impressed.



My sister-in-law actually made these strawberry shortcake cake pops.  But let me tell you:  YUM. The recipe is legit.



Okay, I didn't actually make this, because I don't know the metric system, and quite frankly, the metric system frightens me.  I could live peacefully in Italy until I saw 27 degrees Celsius on a thermometer, and then sheer chaos would ensue.  But, the theory behind this ice cream was compelling.  I made a batch of vanilla ice cream, and before I added it to my ice cream maker, I  added in two Starbucks Via packets (it was a small batch - add more for a bigger batch).  Then added in a drizzle of Nutella thinned out with skim milk.  It was pretty simple and worked out well.







I will never roast a chicken in another way.  Perfection. 



Time consuming, but very good.  The topping makes these. 



I am a terrible baker, but this cake came out perfectly.  If you want just a simple yellow cake, this is it.



Rich and decadent, but not nearly as Nutella-esque as you would think.  If you're dying for the Nutella taste in these it is pretty subtle.  But still...it's a pretty darn tasty chocolate cupcake.



There's a reason the Barefoot Contessa is still making shows on the Food Network while her former co-workers have lost their time lot to Cupcake/Monster Cake/Orange Juice Wars.  She consistently brings recipes to the table that are genuine and delicious.  This recipe is no exception.



Holy blondies, Batman. I'll never use another recipe.  It's that good. It's got  depth to it that surpasses a chocolate chip cookie, and the gooey texture just melts in your mouth.  Heaven.



Just make this.  Just do it. I have terrible luck with slow cookers.  This is the best slow cooker recipe ever.  It turns out every time and it is simply divine.  Probably my favorite Pinterest find.


Meh:



This was just okay.  I thought the batter was pretty bland.  I wasn't a fan of the texture, either.  It could just be me, but I wasn't crazy about it.  Maybe I don't like clafouti?



This was just not my favorite.  I was expecting to really love it, but the gooey was overpowering and to me it didn't have the really strong taste of chocolate I was desiring.

FAIL:




No.  Just no.  Microwaves and cakes...most of the time, it just doesn't work, people.  I'll keep dreaming and hoping...but I've yet to find a good one.




I really wanted to like these.  But they were so dry I added simple syrup to them to save them.  they were oddly bitter, the texture was strangely tough, and the cake was just way too dry.  It may have been operator error, but I don't plan on making these again.



These got thrown out.  If it looks delicious, sweet, and healthy - all at the same time - someone is lying about something.  I'd rather just eat an apple.  Burned tops, odd texture, weird taste.  Not for me.

For the Future:



I really, really want to learn how to make croissants.  I feel like this fall (after I've lost my summer weight - I actually gain in summer and lose in winter) will be a perfect time to undertake this endeavor.  These look scrumptious.

Wow.  I just said scrumptious.



Apples will be in season soon! I can't wait to make this.  I love French Toast anything!



My last Carbonara attempt was a major disaster.  Scrambled eggs and pasta.  Sigh.  I hope this recipe will offer some redemption.

Overall, I've been really pleased with what I've found on Pinterest, and I can't wait to find new recipes.  I'm so excited that there are cooks all over the place who are gifted and creative and want to share their recipes with me. It makes my heart happy. :)