Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hunk of Meat Monday: Filet Mignon

Here is the correct way to sear a piece of meat - very easy!  I didn't do any of it - my sister did it all!
Start with your meat.  This is filet mignon (from a cow - that is why it is so big)

Put a little olive oil in a pan and get it hot (not burn the meat hot but hot enough to get it brown)

Sear - cook for a short time on high on both sides.  Then turn down and cook to your favorite done-ness.

Cut and serve.  We ate the filet with a salad and some sauteed mushrooms. 

Easy, right?  All you need is a little olive oil and some filet mignon!

How do you eat filet mignon? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Classroom Theme . . . Ag in the Classroom!

This will be my fourth year teaching and the past three years I have not done a theme.  For those of you not familiar, a theme is when a teacher decorates their classroom using mainly (or only) things that incorporate 1 thing.  For example, a frog theme could have frog dye cuts in different colors for the groups, frog borders, frog books, frog material for the curtains, cute froggy names like 'Hopping into Reading,' and that sort of thing.  Get it?  Great!

So, this year I want to do a theme.  But, I don't want to do a meaningless theme that is just something to look at.  I want to do a theme that my kids will actually learn something from.  I want to do a theme that I love and am passionate about.  I want my theme to be . . . agriculture! 

Great idea, right? 

It sounds MUCH easier that it is turning out to be.  I LOVE google - LOVE it!  It has never let me down but I cannot find very many ideas (by very many I mean I have found 1 or 2).  It is not google's fault - teachers just don't use an agriculture theme.  They use a farm theme or a barnyard theme or a western theme, but not an agriculture theme. 

Ideas I have for next year:
- I have a wall in the hall that I want to display the student's writing on - it will be called "Our Bumper Crop" and will have brown or green paper with a boarder I have not found yet.

This is what it will look like - a rough idea.
I don't like the brown alone or the green alone, so I thing I will do brown with green rows (like a row crop).
- I want to read the Flat Stanley books and use this idea to sent Stanley to different farmers across the state and country.  I think I want to focus on the state and we can use a map to pin point the farms Stanley has visited.  I just need to get some farmers to agree to do this for me! 
- I will also incorporate recycling near the end of the school year (probably around Earth Day).
- I am familar with Ag in the Classroom and will be using some of their lessons as a starting point.  (and I plan on going to their conference)

Here are my musts for the classroom next year.
- The theme must include the aspects of agriculture (food, farming, forestry, flowers, and fabric).
- I want to include a 'Math focus wall' - an area where I can put up words we are learning in Math.
- I need to have a focus wall for Language Arts.

Some important things to know:
- I teach first grade (6 years old).
- My classroom is tiny (I just moved to a bigger room but it is still tiny).
- Our school is almost all (99%) students who are learning English as their second language AND do not typically speak English at home.
- I have a complete Language Arts program (new this year) and Math program that I have to follow - which leaves me very little time to do anything extra.
- My Writing program allows me some flexibility - which means I will need to incorporate the concepts I want to cover mainly into Writing. 

Now, here is where you come in - PLEASE HELP!!!  I need ideas - anything and everything will help!!  AS you have read above I have a few ideas - but I would love to hear your ideas!! 


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Tenth Good Thing About Grandpa

My grandpa died on Wednesday.
I am very sad.

I cried, and I sat on the couch with the TV on,
but I didn't watch it.
I cried, and I ate cookies and milk. 
I cried, and ignored the person knocking on my door. 
I went to bed, and I cried.

My mother sent me a text message saying that he is happy now.  And she is right.
You see my grandpa had cancer.
Cancer hurts and it makes wonderful people into helpless people hoping they don't wake up in the morning.  Pancreatic cancer always wins (my ma also said that to me in a text message).

I LOVE books - especially children's books.  Children's books have a way of saying things.  Children's books can explain hard things - like death to children in a way that is . . . amazing. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst; it is a book about a boy whose cat Barney dies.  He is sad but his family has a funeral for Barney and his mother tells him to think of 10 good things about Barney to tell at the funeral.  He can only think of 9.  He said he would try to think of another one later.  He spends the day in the garden with his father and he thinks of the last - a pretty good job for a cat.  It is a great book.  It was nice to read it again and especially great that I finally got the book from an amazing person (thanks Susan) last week. 

Children's books also offer a great inspiration for writing.  The first part of this post was inspired by The Tenth Book Thing About Barney, and here are my ten good things, in the same style, about grandpa: 

Grandpa was smart, really smart.
And handsome and funny and brave.
Also dependable and organized and his head was shaped like an egg.
It was nice, to have him give me advice about taxes or retirement. 
And sometimes he would pretend that he couldn't hear - even though we all knew he had 'selective hearing.'  He would smile and we all knew he could but we pretended just for him.

And now grandpa is in the ground with grandma helping to grow flowers - and you know, that is a pretty nice job for a person.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hunk of Meat Monday: Ham Steak

I saw this idea on a link from one of Leah's Hunk of Meat Monday posts.  I can't remember which one, so if this was your idea please speak up!!

Anyway, all you need is a ham steak or two, some olive oil, spices, and a grill. 
Rinse and pat dry the ham steak.

Gather your spices - Nature's Seasoning and garlic powder is all I used. 

Pour some olive oil . . .

then your spices,

and more spices.

Then rub it evenly over the steak. 

Do the same thing to the other side. 

Then put on the grill until done.  I think the boyfriend grilled them for 7 minutes on each side. 

Add some sides and you have dinner!  We ate the ham steaks with green beans, rice, and french bread.  We each ate half of the steaks so next time we will either just cook one or plan for two meals out of it. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Story of Cherry Limeade

Once upon a time there was a girl who, while selling beef and pork at the local farmer's market, was forced to stare at delicious cherries one long hot summer day.  This forced the girl to buy 8 pounds of cherries for $5 at the end of the market - the deal of the century!  Or so she thought.  She didn't know that 8 pounds of cherries seemed to multiply while sitting in her fridge.  She didn't know that after eating what seemed like a pound she would be tired of eating them.  She didn't know she would spend hours of google trying to find a way to get rid of them use them up.  So, that was the story of how this started - the girl is me and the story is true - can you believe 8 pounds of fresh, delicious, local cherries for only $5?   $5 is a bargain if I use them all up but $5 is a waste of money if I let them go bad. So, I searched ways to use up the cherries and came across this Strawberry Lemonade concentrate recipe - YUM!!  Don't know how I found it since it does not contain cherries but I decided to give it a try with cherries instead of strawberries.

I washed and took the stems off all the cherries. 

I let them dry in a salad spinner (since I don't have one of those fancy colanders).

Then I pitted them.  I will be honest - this sucked, took 2 hours, AND dyed my hands reddish.  If I ever do this again I will buy a pitter. 

I measured out 2 cups then chopped them.  I then realized that I needed a blender and drove to my mom's to try to steal borrow hers. 

The borrowed blender and the start of the recipe below. 

Here is the recipe:

Cherry Puree:
2 cups pitted cherries, roughly chopped
2 tbs. sugar

1. Put the cherries and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.  

Cherry Limeade Concentrate:
3/4 cup cherry puree (recipe above - you can freeze the left over for later)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup lime juice (for lemonade use 1 cup lemon juice)

1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Freeze or serve with 5 cups cold water.

I made both lemonade and limeade and the limeade was my favorite!!  I also tried to freeze the concentrate in ice cube trays to use later but that didn't work - maybe you will have better luck with that. 

It was so easy to make (minus the whole 2 hour cherry pitting nightmare) and turned out delicious!!  I will be making this again!! 

Oh, and one more thing - I didn't take any end pictures (or any middle pictures) but it did look just as good at it tasted so if you could just picture the end product in this fancy glass but with limes instead of lemons and cherries instead of strawberries that would be great - thank you!

What is your favorite summer beverage? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Before and After

When we drove up to my grandpa's house on Monday as soon as we got there he insisted that we take "before and after" pictures of him and baby Heman.  It was really cute how happy Heman was as soon as my sister set him down next to grandpa.  He just kept smiling - it was adorable. 

Heman is pointing like he is saying this is MY great-grandpa - isn't he great?

In this picture grandpa looks like a ghost but Heman is just so happy!

Then grandpa made us take a group shot.  We are all smiling here but it was a sad day.  I was smiling to keep from crying and I am sure that is the case for the rest of the family too.  Grandpa is a really great man and we don't like to see him like this.  He always said "Well, maybe I'll see you again." when we got off the phone or left but as we left on Monday he didn't say that - probably because he doesn't think he will see us again.  Sorry to be so sad today but this is what is going on around here. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why I am Proud to be an American

I meant to write a post to publish yesterday - 4th of July, but life got in the way.  I had a very busy weekend at the farmer's market, tractor show, and a friend's house.  Then on Monday we decided to join my sister, her hubby, and the baby to go see my grandpa who was diagnosed with cancer last week.  It was a long drive up to Oregon, but I am glad that we got to see him and he got to meet the baby for the first time.  It was really hard, sad, and emotional to see him like that but I am glad we went.  So, if you could just pretend that it is yesterday for me that would be great - thanks!

I love 4th of July!  I love seeing people wearing red, white, and blue.  I love seeing our flag proudly displayed on houses and along walkways.  I love eating BBQ and enjoying the company of family and friends.  I am very patriotic and love seeing everyone else patriotic too.  I love this country and am both proud and luck to be an American.

I found a book at my dad's house a few weeks ago "Memories from the Front" was the title and my grandpa and his twin brother were the authors.  I had never seen this book or heard about it before so I borrowed it.  My grandpa and his twin both had a way with words.  When they spoke people listened.  They had the same voice - calm, steady, trustworthy - they had a voice that put me at ease and made we want to listen to it (and their stories) forever.   My grandpa died 5 years ago and his twin (my Uncle John) died a few months ago.  But, as I read the book it was like they were sitting next to me reading it to me.

My grandpa didn't talk about his experience in the war much.  After hearing his story, I understood why.  It was a horrible experience.  But, I had never heard my Uncle John's story.  I remember him saying that he was lucky - he broke his arm and got to go home early.  But, I didn't know that his experience was horrible too - just in a different way.  My uncle John started his story off with the a simple yet very powerful sentence; "Let me tell you how I learned to appreciate freedom."  I told you he had a way with words.  I am not going to tell you the whole story but I will summarize it for you. 

My Uncle John and grandpa were in the same division (28th infantry division) but had to be in different units because of the Sullivan brothers.  My Uncle John described his first night on the front lines as "something out of this world."  He was in many battles.  All suffered great casualties.  By great I mean in his first battle almost 200 men went in and 9 came out.  His final battle was The Battle of the Bulge where he was shot in both arms and taken to hospital tent after hospital tent until finally returning home months later.  My grandpa was taken prisoner by the Germans after a 24 hour artillery barrage and an unsuccessful walk "home."  Out of over 200 people that dug in he was 1 of 7 who walked away.  As the 7 of them walked back 5 of them went across a road (where my grandpa and another solider had to wait for the Germans to pass) and were never heard from again.  They were both taken prisoner.  My grandpa was a prisoner for 156 days.  During that time he lost 90 pounds and survived winter in Germany with the clothes on his back and the little food that was provided to the prisoners.  He was liberated by General Patton's Third Army a month before the German's surrendered.   

My dad was in Vietnam but he doesn' talk about it.  I don't know much about his experience but as far as I know he was a helicopter gunman.  He manned a machine gun on the side of the helicopter and went to the front lines to rescue wounded soldiers.  There are 2 times I can remember him saying something about the war.  Once I asked him if he thinks we were going to win this war on terrorism.  He looked at me and said, "I sure hope not."  I didn't understand why a veteran would say that so I asked him what he meant.  He said that this war reminds him too much of what happened in Vietnam.  He said that we didn't win Vietnam because we wouldn't fight on their level - and he hopes that the military would not fight on the current enemies' levels.  He said that if we do win this war we wouldn't be much better than the terrorists.  The second time was when my grandpa (his dad) was dying of cancer.  The family was talking about death and my grandma said that she had never seen a dead person.  I know this is a weird conversation and I have no idea why we were having it - I remember listening to it and feeling that is was really awkward.  She then looked at my dad (her only son that was in a war) and asked him if he had seen a dead person. He looked at her and said yes, mother I have - too many. She then asked him, well, have you ever killed anyone?  He said what do you think mom.  I told her that she needs to stop because we all know the answer to that. She ignored me and said well, I certainly couldn't kill anyone.  He said well, mom, I did - I had to.  I was so angry at her - how could she say that to her own son! My grandpa was pretty far gone at that point - it was 2 days before he died.  If he was well he would have stopped her from saying those things.  He would always say, "That's enough, Wanda." when she went too far.  I've never pressed my dad to talk about his experience in Vietnam - I could tell that it hurt for him to talk about it. 

My other grandpa (my mom's dad who we visited yesterday) was also in WWII.  He doesn't really talk about it either but he says he had it easy.  As far as I know he was not on the front lines and was a mechanic - I think he fixed planes.  I wish I knew his story. 

I have never experienced loss of freedom or anything like both of my grandpas, my uncle, or my dad but I have experienced the sadness and horror of hearing what happened to them.  I will never take my freedom for granted because I know what they had to do in order for me to be living here and free.  They were all drafted and had horrible experiences yet would do it again. 

I work with an immigrant population and some refuse to say the pledge.  When they ask me why we say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning I tell them that people have died for their right to be in this classroom.  People have died so they could play on the playground without being scared.  When they ask me what it means to say the Pledge I tell them that we say it to thank the people who have fought in our honor and to say that we are thankful to live in a country where we are free to be us. 

As you are eating your BBQ and watching the fireworks this evening (or remembering it from yesterday) please remember that freedom is not free.  Our country has paid a huge cost both in casualties and memories of veterans who lived to tell about.  There are still so many young men and women out there fighting for our continued freedom and I am very thankful to them (included my freind's little brother - thanks Guy, you have turned out to be a great young man) as well! 

Happy fourth of July!  I would love to hear what made you appreciate your freedom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

How 4-H and FFA Changed Me

After reading this article on how some people think 4-H desensitizes our youth, I was shocked.  My first thought was they have obviously never been in 4-H.  4-H does not desensitize children!  But, people will think what they want no matter what I say, so I decided to write about my experiences in 4-H (and FFA).

My experience in 4-H started when I was little.  I don't remember how old I was when I started but I was too young to show large animals - I raised chickens.  I was in many clubs in my years in 4-H; cooking, sewing, arts and crafts, dairy goats, spinning, woodworking, leadership, poultry, and more.  I never thought that I was learning - it was too much fun!  I was also in FFA for my high school years.  I raised market lambs and moved my dairy goat project over to FFA my Sophomore year.  I was very active in FFA, I was an officer, competed in all the things I could, and attended conferences.  Again, I wasn't doing it because I wanted to learn life lessons, I was doing it because I loved it - it was fun!

But, I did learn.  In my years in 4-H and FFA I learned how to be confident and comfortable in front of an audience.  My colleagues ask me how I am so comfortable speaking in front of a large group and having administration come into my classroom and I always tell them the same thing - I was in 4-H and FFA.  I was used to being in front of a judge.  I was used to speaking and competing in front of an audience.  Now, I must say that my sister is a much better public speaker than I am and she was much better at showing.  I may not have been really good at it - but I was fairly good and that was just fine with me.  I learned to do what I say. When you need to be at a meeting, you need to be there - no excuses.  When an animal depends on you to live.  You have to feed them no matter how cold it is.  You have to make sure they have clean water no matter how hot it is of how much it is raining. I learned to be professional.  How to dress for the occasion.  How to be on time.  How to speak to someone and thank them even if I lost.  I learned ethical treatment of animals.  To show in California State Fair you must complete a few hours of ethics training.  When completing the ethics training I always remember thinking that I can't believe people could treat their animals like that - it was common sense to me (and the other 4-H and FFA members).  I learned how much work it is to get food to my table and clothes on my back.  Raising and caring for animals, milking twice a day everyday, collecting eggs, and growing plants is all hard work!  I have a huge amount of respect for the farmers and ranchers that are out there every day from sun up to sun down (and many times longer) to get food to our tables, clothes on our back, houses to live in, and plants to enjoy. 

I showed market chickens in 4-H and market lambs in FFA.  To say that there was no emotional attachment to the animals I raised for market is just plain wrong.  From the day I brought the chicks and the lambs home I knew what was going to happen to them.  I knew they would end up on some one's plate.  But, that didn't stop me from treating them well, from spending time with them and becoming attached to them.  Selling the animals was hard but it is the circle of life and I knew that those animals had a very good life. 

I didn't make much money on the animals - on a bad year I wouldn't make enough to cover the cost of raising it but on a good year I would make a few hundred dollars.  That money went into a saving account for the next year (that way my parent's didn't have to pay for the animal and feed) and eventually to help pay for college.  I made more money for less work working a part time job after school (in high school of course).

4-H and FFA made me the person I am today.  I am thankful for my experiences and the life lessons that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise.  I am proud of the adult I am now and that is a direct result of being in 4-H and FFA.

What are your experiences in 4-H and FFA?  How have those experiences made you the person you are today?