Thursday, January 22, 2009

Job Update

This week brought my first two days as an assistant with the LEAP program here. After my orientation on Tuesday, I still felt very much in the dark as to what a LEAP session was supposed to look like. Very intimidating! Only three of the 15 adults involved in the program have ever worked with LEAP.
Wednesday came and let me tell you that the three hours there were chaotic! It was like no one knew exactly where they were supposed to be. However, the experienced workers helped lead the way and we made it through. My teacher (I'm a program assistant) is a retired middle school teacher and I think we'll get along and work well together. She's strict, but kind. Together we are working with seven students--all in third and fourth grade.

Someone left a comment mentioning that art didn't seem to go along with teaching reading. Well, the deal is that they decided art fit into a balanced literacy approach in tutoring, so we have to do art too.

So, this is basically what a schedule of my "day" looks like:
2:00 arrive and sign in
2:10-2:20 pick up students from their classrooms
2:20-2:40 kids eat snack and work on homework
2:40-2:55 gym time
2:55-3:30 art time
3:30-4:40 reading/literacy time (this is done with my teacher)
4:45 dismiss students and help to buses

Herding all the kids around takes some time, but I'm sure after another week or so, we'll all fall into some sort of routine. There are some strong voices that help keep kiddos on track. So far, pretty good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Keeping Creative Kitchens

Today I'm participating in Alaina's Keeping Creative Kitchens. Although I'm newly married and have a kitchen full of new things, I find there are still times where I don't have quite the right gadget or utensil. So, here are a couple of my improvised uses for kitchen tools.

Pastry blender:
I don't have an immersion blender and I only just recently got a potato masher. So, when a soup needed blended, I'd use my pastry blender. I definitely had a thicker/chunkier soup, but that's the way my husband prefers it, and it was good enough for me. I did also use it for mashing chunky potatoes.

Hand mixer whisk:
I only have one whisk and it's in the medium to large range in size. When I need two whisks or I just need something smaller, I use one of the whisk attachments for my hand mixer and it works great!

And finally, since that was a rather dull segment, I'll leave you with a chicken "marinade" I made up this week (and I'm guessing on quantities because I really didn't measure it out, so use your own judgment if you choose to make this). I spread this over three pieces of chicken, set the pan in the fridge for about an hour, and then baked it.
Mix together:
A little less than 1/4 c. olive oil, a couple cloves of garlic, 1/8 tsp, crushed red pepper flakes, 1/8-1/4 tsp. oregano, 1/4-1/2 tsp. rosemary.
Salt and pepper the chicken, then spoon this mixture over the chicken (the spices will stay on top of the chicken, while the oil runs down the sides).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Story

Despite the weather conditions, my job training went as planned yesterday. I made it without any great mishap, although a minivan did try to hit me on the drive home.

Our training, Arts Alive, was held in the library at the school. Now the tables with three wooden chairs each were designed for middle-school kids, not predominately middle-aged women with hips (I, of course, mean no offensive by this, it's just a fact. I've got hips too.). There are just enough chairs for everyone. For some reason, the chairs on either side of me weren't claimed until almost the very last. But when they were, I was wedged.

The teacher who designed this curriculum we're going to be teaching, began by reading a quote by Picasso. As the quote was being passed out she read it and said it was by Picasso. The woman on my left (who incidentally was late and bustled down the row bumping into most of us) says not quietly, "Picasso. That's by Picasso." (Thankfully I'm wedged forward into the table, were as the two woman sitting beside me were pushed slightly away from the table, so I'm not within eye shot of the chatting woman and she talks to the woman on her left instead of me.) This outburst--which came a second after the teacher already gave the answer--was followed by a continuously running conversation about the art appreciation class she's taking online. She's really not sure she's going to like it and do well in it because she doesn't know how to do quizzes and tests online. At one point she's asking the woman next to her (who seemed unfazed by the talking), "Do you know what this MLA is that the paper has to be written in?" Her conversation partner explained it.

The class lasted two and a half hours and for the majority of it, Ms. Chatterbox kept up a steady stream of conversation that was just above a whisper. All the while she'd be flipping through her art class syllabus. I also learned that she desperately needed to go to the bathroom and her daughter might have mono. And to make things even more distracting, she frequently bounced her leg which was right next to me, and to be quite honest, her thigh touched mine, so when she bounced, well I kind of did too. I shrunk myself into the table leg as best I could to keep from touching.

Now on the other side of me, the woman plopped her purse onto the table next to my right arm, and herself into her chair and for the first 45 minutes or so, she didn't move much. Occasionally I'd hear what sounded like heavy breathing and then a little snort cough, like she'd jerked herself out of a stupor. My suspicion that she was sleeping was confirmed when I passed a paper to her and she didn't take it, the woman next to her took it from me and gave me an implied eye-roll look. I felt annoyed with a chatterer on one side and a sleep on the next.

To make all of this even better, it turns out that this is a very hands-on class. If you all know me, you know I do art projects like a little child. We were to be learning how to make art and talk about art like we will with our kids. First up: Lines, Shapes, and Forms. We are supposed to draw a continuous line into any sort of shape and then fill in the internal shapes with patterns, lines, etc. After we complete this, the teacher instructs us to share it with our "neighbor." We are supposed to praise the good aspects and tell how it makes us feel and ask any questions we might have. It turns out that Ms. Sleeper is my neighbor. She perks up and says she sees a sailboat in my drawing and asks about some triangles. I tell her I see swirling ribbons in her figure-8 patterns. Beneath that she was patterned the white space and she says, "I put L's here because my name is Lola. And hearts here because I love people." I kind of smile and nod because I'm not sure how to respond to these revelations. Then we take a break. Lola says, "I'm just having such a hard time staying awake!" I wanted to laugh at the obviousness of her statement.

Second up: 3-D form. Read, sculpture. So, the teacher leads up through the steps of making an animal sculpture out of sort of rubbery substance that is self-hardening. Try to imagine Stephanie sitting in a room of middle-aged woman making a 3-D animal...hard to picture, right?! Lola by now has become very pleased to chat with me as we sculpted. "Is that a cat you're making?" I kind of look at it, I'd actually been trying to make a pig, but it wasn't working, so I decided it did look more like a cat and went with that. Lola says, "That's such a cute kitty!" I duly admire her dog with a pug face and a long body. And then the teacher instructs us once again to share with our neighbor about our sculpture. Lola and I talk.

Last up: Printing. Using a wooden stylus, we draw a picture into styrofoam and then cover it with paint and press it onto a piece of paper. My attempt at this wasn't terribly successful. Kind of splotchy on the paint. Lola came back from printing hers, one paper saturated with paint and the other even spottier than mine, with a huge smile on her face. She held up the spotty one and said with great admiration, "This looks really great." I agreed it was pretty cool. As the class wrapped up, Lola once again brought my attention to the print and told me how great she thought it was.

Can you imagine that I wasn't sorry to leave the class? I actually had some fun making the cat. But, I was ready to be free from Chatty Ms. Bouncy Knee. In the end, Ms. Sleeper turned out to be quite pleasant. And I came home and regaled my husband with tales of Lola, my neighbor, and the rest of my adventures in Arts Alive.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Faceted Nature

Wind sculpted snow drifts are like eye level mountain ranges.

Isn't is amazing to see God in all the "good" and "bad" nature?

Following Up

We do dare hope! As Jeremy and I were sitting at the table last night, our neighbors walked up the stairs and one of them said (loudly as they always seem to do), "Well, we're only going to be here three more days." For those of you that don't know, I wrote this brief post about those neighbors and their noise has continued. I do feel badly that they are moving out in such cold and snowy weather. It is quite possible we'll get another set of noisy neighbors up above, but for now we are thankful that they will be gone.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a Guess the Book post and I wasn't surprised that it drew little attention. However, my brother-in-law did take time to make some guesses and he was correct. I'm going to post the answers to the quotes here for Andrew's sake...thanks for playing along, Andrew!
1.The Bourne Identity
2. A Walk to Remember
3. East of Eden
4. My Antonia
5. The Eyre Affair
6. Marley and Me
7. In a Sunburned Country
8. A Girl Named Zippy
9. John Adams
10. 84 Charing Cross Road

This afternoon is supposed to be my last training segment for my new job. The weather is tenuous now and is supposed to continue in such a state for at least another day (we are under a winter storm warning and a blizzard watch), so I'm hoping that they'll have the good sense to cancel the training if the weather gets worse. Let me tell you, for me the drive is a long 20 minutes and ends in a very snowy, kind of scary neighborhood. I'm not real excited about traveling that today if it keeps up the snowing and blowing and dropping temperatures.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do we dare hope...

that the fact that our upstairs neighbor has been sighted walking down the stairs multiple times with lots of boxes means that he is moving?!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Keeping Creative Kitchens

Today is Alaina's Keeping Creative Kitchens and I wanted to post one quick recipe. Last week when Jeremy and I went to visit my family for Christmas/New Year's, I brought along some homemade goodies--peanut clusters, peppermint meringues, and coconut macaroons. The macaroons got rave reviews. It's a recipe I got from my friend Amy at HPB (unfortunately, I don't know where she got it from) and it's super easy!

Coconut Macaroons
makes about 36 cookies

2 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. (9 oz) sweetened, shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an insulated baking sheet (or use 2 baking sheets, stacked on top of one another).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the coconut.
3. Using a 1-Tbsp cookie scoop, melon baller, or measuring spoon, drop the dough into mounds on the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 2-inches apart. Bake the cookies for 14-16 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges and a few strands of coconut on the tops of the cookies start to turn golden. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
4. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


I'm getting tired of continual change.

Anyone that knows me well, knows that change isn't my favorite aspect of growing up! I'm much more flexible about it than I used to be, but still, I prefer predictability (other than the occasional spontaneous surprise that's fun).

I've fairly well settled in here and Jeremy and I have gotten into the rhythm of a schedule, but it's changing once again.

Yesterday afternoon I went to training for a job I just got hired for. It's very part-time and temporary. Starting the last week of January I'll be working from 2-5, Mon.-Thurs. at a local elementary school helping with their after school program, LEAP. I'm a bit intimidated with the responsibilities because I feel like the in-charge people are kind of making the assumption that everyone involved has worked with kids in a classroom setting and understands the basic concepts of how to teach reading their way. Let me tell you folks, that would not be me. I've barely set foot inside elementary schools, let alone in any sort of teaching capacity. So, it's going to be a big stretch for me. I hope I do well because these are kids who are behind in their reading levels and the program is designed to get them up to speed. Basically I'll be working 60 days at this job and then I'll have to be finding something else (more change!), but this is a bit of a band-aid to get us by for a few months.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I've never been big on setting resolutions...

But, I like to set goals for myself, I always have.

For the past several years I've determined to read a book a week. Well, I've yet to achieve that goal. But once again, I'm going to work towards that.

However, the biggest goal Jeremy and I need to accomplish in the next month and continue through 2009, is setting up a budget and sticking to it even when we don't feel like it. So, if you want to call that a resolution, then that's my plan for the year.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's the First Monday of the Year

Since it's the first full week of January, I decided today was as good a day as any to put away all the Christmas decorations and get this apartment back into shape. I always feel a bit melancholy putting up Christmas for another year (though I do realize if it was year-round I wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much), so while I clean and undecorate, I'm filling my house with a final listening of my five Christmas CDs. It's not that I don't like the rest of the year, I just particularly appreciate all the family time and celebrations. Living far away this year has made me keenly aware of the wonderfulness of family! Last week Jeremy and I were down visiting my family for three days and I felt refreshed by it (although now that I'm living in such a quiet environment, I can find the incredible noise level a bit exhausting by the end of the day). New Year's Eve we spent with all my married siblings. We rang in the year playing a ridiculous game--Flapdoodle. So engrossed were we that we missed watching the ball drop! New Years Day was our big family Christmas. We opened gifts, ate amazing food, chatted, and played board games. Amidst it all, my nephews ran around loving to be with everyone and loving their new toys.

Jeremy and I are getting back into our schedule again. After two 3-day work weeks, he has to work a regular week, which means I'm home alone more again. I'll miss having him around.

Today I've made a mental list of tasks to do around here to keep myself busy. That's what Mondays are for anyway, right?
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