Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

Yes, I'm just popping in after two months to say hello and Merry Christmas. I'm flighty like that. I really don't know what has gotten into me blog-wise, but I can say that my job is sucking the life out of me and that affects my motivation. Wah, wah, let's get on with this.

The picture above was taken by my friend, Glitter Man. I find that having pictures taken of yourself as you age is always an alarming endeavor. I can't tell you how many times I've exclaimed "What's wrong with my eyes?!!!" Youth really is wasted on the young.

Anyway, I really tried to get my ducks in a row this year and scheduled the picture taking ordeal for the day after Thanksgiving. Then, because Glitter Man is so nice, I had the digital pics in my hands several hours later and was able to order my Christmas cards that night. The letter was written a couple weeks later and I actually got my cards out last week. I don't think that's happened since I went back to work.

I logged on today to post my Christmas letter. I thought I'd put it up so it appears that I am still alive. I really do think about this blog and I feel much guilt about not posting. I don't have a lot of time to dwell on it though, but just know that I really do want to post.

So the letter, here it goes.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I look at the date in disbelief. I might actually get this Christmas letter out in a timely fashion this year. As usual, I'm in panic mode trying to get everything done before the big day. Of course that means that this is the perfect time to get sick and check, did that. I'm sure I was stupid enough to say something like "the last thing I need right now is to get sick" and WHAM! Lightning bolt of Ebola on its way. Not really Ebola though. I could totally hop on a plane right now and be good to travel.

I'm always tempted to say "Whew, what a whirlwind this year was!" but then aren't they all? Let's just say time flies and leave it at that. Our girls keep growing and neither one of them is in any better of a mood than they were last year. Seriously, how long does this teenager stuff last? They are not amused by any of our jokes and they even spew sarcasm at us. They must be learning that at school. Facebook tells me I can blame Common Core for that.

Zoe Bug is 13 now and getting very curvy. Don't tell her I said that because she would kill me. She is pretty dang cute, although she insists I'm the only one that thinks so. That's fine with me. I just remind her that boys are icky and eventually some of them mature. She's very conscientious about her responsibilities, but also extremely disorganized. It's a strange combination. I keep threatening to offer up her room for an episode of "Hoarders," but in reality I think they want a whole house and I simply cannot allow that.

Stinkerbell is 11 and still scaring us on a regular basis. She definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer, although Peanut Head insists it's an entire percussion section. Thankfully she has graduated out of what she calls the Crazy Kids Club lunch group that she was part of last year. Now she has Facebook. This scares me because now our friends have a direct pipeline into the dysfunction in our household, with no opportunity for me to edit the copy. One of her first posts was a hand drawn picture of an anonymous parent chasing two kids with their hair streaming out behind them (because they were running very fast, no doubt) and the caption "Who Needs Anger Management When You Have Kids?" When I first saw her post I had a flashback to the little note she wrote when she was five that informed me that Happy Moms Don't Scream.

Zoe is still playing the violin and Stinkerbell started playing the trumpet this year. Can I just tell you about the noise in our house? Imagine this--the intensity of The Charlie Daniels Band playing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (but played at quarter speed) acted out by siblings dueling with non-complimentary instruments. Cacophony is the only word that comes to mind. I know it's helping them to become well-rounded adults. We just keep telling ourselves that.

I am still teaching middle school math, although I know my days are numbered. I'm trying to stay until Stinkerbell gets through middle school, but I don't know if I'm going to make it. It's not a good time to be in education on so many levels and it is not the job it once was.

Peanut Head is still at the lab and doing his thing. His job seems to be always changing as he branches out in different directions. He's doing more office work than he's happy with, and he longs to be out in the field more. He has had a couple opportunities to travel to Washington, D.C., and he has some upcoming trips to New Mexico in the New Year, so hopefully that will spice things up for him.

On the animal front we still have two fish that refuse to die, which is sort of ironic because for a while there, Zoe was having so many fish die that we considered opening a seafood restaurant. In addition, the girls now have gerbils. We have always said we would never have caged animals, but the girls put together a very convincing Power Point presentation and we caved. I will say that they are pretty cute for rodents. Lucy the cat is super interested in them, and she would very much like to lick one. She does that little quivery thing with her mouth and drools excessively when she's watching them.

We lost our sweet cat Jo Jo in October, and we still miss her very much. She was like no cat we've ever had before--very social and cuddly. She liked to stretch out on Gunny's bed and leave him with just a small corner to curl up on. I don't think he loved that, but what was he going to say? Cats rule and dogs drool is how the saying goes, I believe.

Gunny is very much Zoe's dog, and he worships the ground she walks on. He's also super naughty and he likes to run amok in the neighborhood when given the chance. Zoe is the only one who will chase him and bring him home because the rest of us like to stand on the porch and practice our threatening "Come home now, YOU BAD DOG!" voices. Well, okay, Peanut Head and I do that. Stinkerbell chases him, but I'm pretty sure that just makes him run faster because she scares the snot out of him. Welcome to our world, Gunny Man.

On that note, I think I'll end this letter with the visual of Gunny's caterpillar eyebrows raised as he looks behind him, calculating how much gas he needs to pour on to elude Stinkerbell's capture and the long walk of shame home.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.

The Scott Family

As I write this I am on a much needed break from school. I know I will go back well-rested and ready to face the long stretch leading up to the dreaded testing. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this school year is nearly half over.

I'm looking to the New Year with excitement and hope. Not because this has been a bad year. It hasn't. I just love the fresh start a New Year brings. Although I'm not one to go on a New Year's Resolution diet, I do need to take better care of myself. My life lacks balance and it shows. I have never felt so out of shape before in my life, and I look forward to working on that. Baby steps are better than no steps, so that's where I'm going to start.

Years ago I started another blog called "Controlling My Thighs," but have yet to muster the guts to actually publish it. Content has been written and deleted so many times because, ugh, embarrassing. Maybe this year I'll have the guts to hit that publish button. There really is a lot to laugh about in the quest for health and fitness. I'm sure I'll never run out of content.

For example, one day last spring I was out running, and I use that word in the loosest sense because many people walk faster than I run. Anyway, I was running and a man stops his truck, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, to get out and tell me that he's in the fitness industry and he just wants to tell me that I'm doing so good and keeping up a nice little pace, and keep it up. I was taken aback and part of me was all "Puh-leese, I can pep talk myself," but then I reminded myself that he meant well and he was trying to be encouraging, not condescending. You gotta give people credit for trying, you know. 

Anyway, I think God sent him to me special because I really was in the process of talking myself into stopping at two miles, and because of him, I HAD TO KEEP GOING. I was all "Damn you, Fitness Man!" but outwardly smiling and trying to appear Iron Man Strong.

To look at the bright side, it had been a dang long time since I had stopped traffic like that.

So yeah, health and fitness can be funny. 

This post has gone on too long, so here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Peace out.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chalkboard Door Command Center

Way back in July when I was blissfully enjoying my summer vacation, I got a wild hair and decided I was going to turn my garage entrance door into a chalkboard door. We had already been using the door as a catch all since it is conveniently magnetic, so why not make it a write on surface as well?

See what I mean? It was a pretty ho-hum door, but now it pops.

Since I was going to use spray paint, I had to enlist Peanut Head's help to remove the door. We lived without a door for a couple days, which was not a super big deal on account of it was July. We may have had a few more bugs than usual in the house during this time, but they're all dead now, so no biggie.

By the way have you ever used one of these awesome spray paint nozzles? I got this baby many years ago and now I won't paint without it.

And it won't work on these cans, so back to Lowe's it went. Actually, I think I went old school and used my now crippled finger because I needed this color for some other project. Using spray paint without my nozzle turns my index finger into a talon on account of I can't bend it when I'm done. Not fun.

Anyway, ADD much? I made a half-hearted attempt to clean and sand the door first, and then I gave it a coat of primer. My least favorite part of any job is the prep work and I often cheat a bit. I'm so naughty.

I gave the door several coats of the actual chalkboard paint because I wanted good coverage.

Then Peanut Head hung the door back up and there it sat for a couple days before I put the girls to work priming the door with chalk.

Now there's a nasty job which you need lots of chalk for, and preferably young, bendy people who don't mind crawling around on the floor.

In other words, not me.

It's a good thing I have young, bendy people at my disposal.

See, look how much fun they're having.

That's on account of they just got started and it was pretty fun still.

After about five minutes they tried to quit, so I had to offer lots of words of encouragement.

Such as "Suck it up, Princess!"

The fun part was decorating the door. We used Chalk Paint Markers instead of real chalk for this part because ugh, chalk dust.

I like it to look pretty and clean.

It's part of my disease.

I decorated the top because I wanted specific areas for specific things.

And I'm not very bendy anymore, so basically I claimed the sweet spot for decorating.

This is as low as I go. Now for the real art work.

 Of course it's a horse.

I don't ever want to erase this.

Don't be alarmed by the picture of the Demon there.

That's Stinkerbell's work and she's a little . . . off. I don't know how else to put it. There have been times that we've worried about her.

She's just our little weirdo and we love her to pieces.

Wait . . . is that a stick guy with a hatchet over his head? And spurting blood?

Should I be worried? Okay, I might need a number for a mental health professional.

How did I not see these things before now?

And of course the gruesome scene is couched amongst milk and cookies and a horse and a giraffe. Because where there's evil and death, you will always find milk and cookies.

This part really makes me sad though. We lost our sweet cat, Jo-Jo this week.

She is heavy in our hearts and thoughts. I miss her. :(

She was the sweetest cat.

And the cutest kitten.

And she could sleep anywhere.

Her favorite place to sleep was on Gunny Man's bed, crowding him into the wall. She likes to let it all hang out when she sleeps.

Gunny's bed isn't as warm now.

We're all pretty sad without our Jo Jo.

Well, maybe not Peanut Head. He insists he's "not a Cat Person."

Whatever, Peanut Head. That's why all cats love you and gravitate towards you.

He's really the Cat Whisperer, but probably he thinks it's not very manly to be a Cat Whisperer so he has to do it on the down low.

I'm on to him.

I think I'll get him a kitten for Christmas. As a surprise.

Not as a replacement for Jo Jo, though. She was one of a kind. Rest in peace, Jo-Jo-Rooney. We love your sweet little kitty cat heart.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

When Are We Ever Going to Have to Use This?

A few months ago I watched a very inspiring video clip on Upworthy featuring a teacher, Justin Solonynka. I was inspired by this video because Mr. Solonynka answered the question that teachers loathe hearing from their students--a question that students frequently ask multiple times a day.

It's very difficult to not get defensive when asked this question, and I am personally guilty of waggling my finger at my students and replying "You, My Friend, are going to use this to get out of the Eighth grade!"

Although my response seems to address the question, it always leaves me feeling as if I've failed to impart the importance of what I'm trying to teach my students. As if I can't give them a good enough reason to want to learn what I'm teaching.

 I've tried to explain to students that while they may not use a particular concept in their adult lives, they might use it. Then I go on to explain that they are relatively brand new and they don't know what they don't know. As they learn more they will discover what interests them and by continuing to learn, they are actually expanding their opportunities. 

I was so happy to have Mr. Solonynka's lead in for my attempt at an explanation, that I decided to make a poster that explains it. I love it so much, that I'm going to put it in my introductory Power Point to my students, and I'm going to refer to it often because it's going to be displayed in my classroom.

I created this poster to be uploaded to a photo center and ordered as a 20" x 24" poster print. I've personally uploaded and ordered mine from the Sam's Club Photo Center and I cannot wait to hang it up.

Since the file size is too large to ensure good resolution when printing as a poster, I've also uploaded it to my Teachers Pay Teachers store and it is $1.50.

If you want to get this poster for yourself, click here

I hope you like it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Customized Teacher Planner

I'm currently on my last week of summer vacation and I'm not doing a whole lot of relaxing right now. This is the time of year for teachers where we are frantically trying to prepare our houses, families, cars, classrooms, etc., for a fast-paced school year. It's kind of like nesting, but on steroids.

Don't feel sorry for me though, because I've had a fabulous summer and have had lots of rest. I'm pretty happy with the summer I've had.

Throughout my summer I've done little things to help me get ready for school, and have been chipping away at my To Do list. Of course I started with the fun stuff though. For me, it was my Teacher Planner. I had been drooling over Tiffany Ford's Lesson Planner from this post, and I took the plunge and ordered one of her planners from her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

I haven't used a traditional lesson planner for years because I get so annoyed with the whole write, erase, rewrite process. In this digital age, I just can't justify the waste of precious time. I even tried out Erin Condren's Lesson Planner and not even that cuteness could sway me. 

What sealed the deal for me with Tiffany's planner is the fact that I could type my lesson plans into her templates and print them out. This way I have the cute without the crazy.

You can use the editable planner in a plain old three ring binder, you can bind it, or you can go the Martha Stewart route.

You can guess what I did.

I have a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart.

I love that when the planner is open it lays flat, and it is very similar to a spiral notebook in the amount of space it takes up.

Of course if you go this route, you need the specialized punch, and it's probably not for everyone. Like I said, a three-ring binder works fine, but since I've done that, I wanted to give this a try.

You can find the punch and the basic system at Staples online or in the store. My store didn't have the punch on hand, so I ordered it online.

Here are the sections in my notebook. I didn't love the Martha Stewart dividers, so I took plain old dividers, cut the hole punched edge off, and punched them with the special punch.

Since I took these pictures, I've added more sections for the courses I teach.

I have those sections behind this Curriculum Map tab.

Here is an example of what that looks like for me.

And here are even more detailed plans that I follow pretty carefully when I'm planning my week. I like to make notes about homework assignments, videos I've used, notes, etc., so I don't forget what resources I have that I can pull in. It's kind of anal, but it's how I roll.

My actual weekly plans go here.

I went ahead and typed in days off, early release days, and anything else that I know about ahead of time, and then I printed a paper copy so I could sketch out my plans when I'm planning with my team. When I actually go to plan for the week, I'll make those changes in the Power Point file and print them off as I go.

In my planner you'll see only a one-page spread since I teach secondary and don't need the two-page spread. I ended up just deleting those extra pages.

These are the title pages in the Curriculum Map section for the courses I teach.

I have one more, but for some reason I didn't take that picture.

This is something else I added just this year. Previously I was using Standards checklists to keep track of when I taught certain standards, but this year I'm going to use the "I Can" statement format for those standards. I'm moving to these "I Can" statements because they're what I'll be using with the kids. 

If you're interested, I have the "I Can" statements and the Standards Checklists for 7th and 8th grade in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and they are super cheap ($1.50).

This is the other thing that I've been working on this summer. They are "I Can" statement posters for the Common Core Standards for math. I made sets for 7th and 8th grades and they are $5.00 in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

There are three different styles and this is what they look like.

I call these rainbow lines.

Chalkboard, of course.

And plain. I ended up printing the plain version for my 7th grade classes so that they would look different than my 8th grade classes' statements. I printed each strand on a different color of neon card stock.

This is how I was planning on displaying my "I Can" statements, but it turned out to be a total flop. The longer it gets, and it will get longer in some units than others, the more crooked it gets. Just looking at it makes me twitchy.

I've resigned myself to just slapping them up on the wall as we hit them. I'll show pictures of that later. It's still coming together.

I've been doing a lot of printing this summer, and I was reminded today of how much better the print quality is when I use Photo Paper as compared to regular card stock. I don't use it for everything, just posters and things I want to display.

For example, I used photo paper for my 8th grade "I Can" statements because I used the chalkboard design. I just used regular card stock for my 7th grade standards because I used the plain design.

This is an example of something I printed for display. It's a vertical number line and I will laminate it before I hang it up. As you can see, the copy at the top is not as sharp and the color is not as vivid as the one on the bottom.

Here's another example. Can you tell which one is on Matte Photo Paper and which one is on plain card stock?

Last picture, I promise. As I mentioned I have been printing like a mad woman. I've used more than ten ink cartridges this summer and I don't want to stop and figure out how much money that is.

This picture happened to me twice in two weeks, both times at Walmart.

I bought ink cartridges that had no evidence of being tampered with at all, but when I opened them up there was an empty Setup Cartridge. This is not an accident. Some dishonest person went to the trouble of opening the package very carefully, weighting the empty cartridge with pennies, and sealing it back up.

Thankfully Walmart exchanged them for me, but I was ready to open a can of Whoop A** on them if it didn't happen. That would not have been pretty, so I'm just glad that I didn't have to go there. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Menu Planning and Recipe Organization Goes Digital

I'm here today to share with you the new direction I've taken with my recipe organization and menu planning. I'm transitioning to an all digital system and it is rocking my world.

In a good way. It's got me feeling all kinds of on the ball with my inner Domestic Goddess.

Granted it might all crumble like a Chips Ahoy cookie once school starts, but right now it's looking pretty ding dang awesome.

What has changed for me is this little app called Paprika. In the screen shot above, it's the last app on the right, in the row one up from the bottom. Do you see that cute little red spice tin with the yellow circle and the red bird chili pepper inside? It's my new BFF and I'm telling everyone I know about it.

C'mon with me and take a look inside.

This is what my app looked like when I opened it today. So far I have 23 recipes tucked inside, all snuggly and happy.

Watch as I demonstrate how to add a new recipe. Here I am starting with one of my recipes on Pinterest in the Pinterest app on my iPad.

From here, I want to highlight the URL for the recipe by tapping on its web address at the top and tapping "Select All."

Once it's highlighted, I tap on "Copy."

Now I exit the app and go into the Paprika app. If you're lucky, upon opening the app it will give you a message that it has detected a URL and it will ask if you want to load that URL. If that happens, you will want to say yes, PLEASE, and the webpage will open up within the app and everything will go smooth like butter and super slick without a tutorial from me.

If not, you'll follow these still pretty easy steps.

Go to the web portion of the app by touching the globe on the left and second down, and this page will come up with all of these popular recipe sites listed.

Simply highlight the web address in the bar at the top and select "Paste" to drop in the website URL you want to navigate to.

Like this.

There's my recipe. It's magic.

Now, I'm going to tap that little blue button in the bottom right corner that says "Save Recipe" and cross my fingers while it processes. 

If all goes well, the recipe will load in all the appropriate spots in the app, and usually it does. The majority of the time I've been able to input my recipes this easy way. If it does not work perfectly, you will see this.

Dang. Why you gotta be so mean?

Never mind, there's still a pretty easy fix for this.

Start by highlighting the text for the ingredients and tap "Copy."

Next tap that little up arrow to the left of the Save Recipe button, and this opens up:

Now watch this. I'm just going to touch the grey boxed area on the bottom left of the screen where it says Ingredients and the ingredients will magically paste themselves into the box.

Ta DA!

Repeat the same steps for the Directions.

Now here is where I'm going to show you one of my little OCD steps that I like to do. When I'm following a recipe, especially if it's a new recipe, I tend to get a little discombobulated and I get lost easily.

With this app, I'm loving that I can go in and break down the directions into numbered steps with plenty of space between them. I'm not limited on space and I can even go into the settings in the app and set the font size to "Old Lady Has a Problem with Her Seeing."

I can't even tell you how much this excites me.

With my ingredients and directions finished, now I need to add the picture, right? This can happen one of two ways. 

In the first way I click on the picture and this window pops up. If you aren't in the Paprika app, you will want to select "Save to Photo Library" then go into the Paprika app, tap on the spot for the picture, and access the picture in your photo library.

If, however, you are in the Paprika app, which by the way I highly recommend because it will save you time and excessive opening and closing of apps, you can tap on "Copy Image" and it will magically insert itself into the spot for its picture.

Like it did for me here. It's a beautiful thing.

Lastly, I would go in and fill out the prep time, cook time, servings, and difficulty. If your recipe imports without all the cutting and pasting, all this will be done for you.

You will also want to give your recipes categories for better organization. You get to create your own categories so you aren't forced to adhere to someone else's idea of good recipe categories. You do what makes sense to you.

These are some of the categories that I've created so far, although I'm just getting started with my recipes.

I know that I could potentially stress myself out trying to get all my recipes in here, so I just decided that as I collect recipes (when I see them in magazines and am tempted to tear them out, when I find something on Pinterest I want to try, etc.), I will add them then. Another good time to do it is when I'm doing my menu planning (if I'm not rushed for time) with just the recipes that I'm going to make that week, or right after I've made the recipe and the clean-up in the kitchen is done.

You will also want to rate your recipes (0 to 5 stars) once you've made them.

Another feature I love about this app, is that I can tweak and edit all the recipes I bring into it. It doesn't matter where it came from. Honestly, it's a pretty rare thing for me to not change something about a new recipe, so this feature is a must. For example, I absolutely loathe green bell peppers, so if a recipe calls for them, you can bet I'm going to be changing that to red, yellow, or orange bell peppers.

There is also a spot for notes. There are infinite uses for this section. You could keep track of who in your family liked the recipe, comments that were made, adjustments you might like to try next time, and on and on.

This is another super cool feature that I looooooooove about this app. I'm talking super big, pink puffy heart love. You can change the recipe scale! Seriously, how cool is that?

A couple days ago I input a recipe that I swear was for a family that is exponentially larger than my own, so I scaled the recipe down to be a fraction of the original and all the tedious work was done for me.

Not that I don't love to do math, being a math teacher and all. In fact, I admit that I had to double check all the calculations to make sure that this app didn't need some help with its math, and I'm happy to report that it gets an A+ and I probably won't double check its skillz in the future. Probably.

My Mama Llama is visiting this week and I got her hooked on this app. She is cooking for one most of the time, so this feature is a big plus in her world.

And if you still aren't sold on this app, check this my friends. You can share recipes with yo' friends and save them from all that pesky copying and pasting. I did this several times with my Mama Llama, and this is what it looks like when you e-mail recipes to people.

Ya, I emailed this recipe to myself. I had to. Everyone else is in bed and therefore unable to cooperate. In the past when I've woken them to assist me in my bloggy pursuits, it did not end well for me.

I learn the hard way.

So anyway, the recipe is e-mailed so that anyone, including your Grandma, can read it without any problems. That is, of course, assuming that your Grandma knows how to access her e-mail without calling you for help.

This is not a perfect world though and we all have people in our lives who are technologically challenged. We must be patient. It's my mantra because I'm so impatient by nature.

And mean.

And impatient.

And trying to be a better person.

Focusing attention away from my rant, this is the Neato Benito part of sharing the recipe with yo' friends. If they have the Paprika app they just tap that cute little attachment and you, my Friend, have done all the work for them and they will therefore love you for-EVAH.

Next they have to tap the cute little Paprika can. I just get so excited when I do this part.

Then tap on that magical word "Import" and angels will sing as your recipe is added to your app. You will still need to go in and assign a category to it, and rate it when you are ready to, but everything else is there for you.

The last thing I want to show you about this app is the Menu Planning feature. Having my recipes and menu planner in the same app is ultimately what sold me on it, everything else that I love came after that part. I appreciate being able to do all of it within the same app. In fact, it even has a grocery list component, although I have not experimented with it yet because I'm already using another grocery list app. In time, I imagine I will be using that as well.

You access the menu planner from the calendar icon that is highlighted in blue on the left of the screen shot above.

This is what my current week looks like. The menu items with pictures are those for which I have recipes already in the app. The others are added as a note. I love this flexibility because, let's face it, ain't nobody got time to sit down and put all their recipes and their Grandma's recipes into the app in one sitting. It's going to take some time.

This is a screen shot showing you how to access an item to make changes. This is where I go when I want to change the date for a menu item because, oh, stuff happens. Or I don't wanna. Whatever the reason, you have the power.

As a side note, I still have my magnetic menu planner posted so everyone else can see what the plan is and I know, at a glance, what things need to be taken out of the freezer when I'm on the fly.

Because I'm so fly.

Ha ha. Ha. Ha.

Why am I always laughing alone?

Now for the negatives, because you know there are always negatives. This app is $4.99 and you have to buy it for every device you put it on. For example, if I want it on my phone and my iPad, I have to buy it twice. If Peanut Head wants it, and he will because I told him he will, he has to buy it. I'm sold on this app enough that I am willing to pay that. There is no yearly subscription though, like some recipe apps.

Another feature that I like, considering we will be using this on multiple devices, is the ability to synch across devices.

Oh yeah, and Paprika is available for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook Color. I don't know if you can beat that.

So what do you think? Will you give it a try? Are you using it already? Do you think it's stupid? Talk to me.