Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer break is over

I have 4 days left of Summer break. On Monday I head back to school. July 31. No one is happy about the encroachment of the school year calendar into July, but with all the other mandated and preferred "must haves" during the year, this is the way it turned out.

We have 4 days of pre-planning and then on Friday, August 4, the kids come. This year I'll be stationed in the second grade level and mainly in one second grade classroom for 95% of the day. I only have one segment in first grade, helping out another teacher who will be working with first grade students. My home spot where my desk is and where I put my purse and eat lunch etc. has changed too. I used to be at one extreme end of the school and now I'm at the other. This will be really convenient because my new spot is in the second grade area and it will save me a lot of time and steps during the day.

In the last 6 years I've never been stationed in one class or dedicated to one teacher as much as I will be this upcoming school year. I used to go somewhere different every hour. I traveled with the kids instead of the kids coming to me. Being with one teacher is like a marriage. The para-professional is a helpmeet, supporting and helping the teacher in any way that will help her be more effective for the kids. In being with one person all day, I hope I don't annoy my teacher too much! At least when I went somewhere different every hour the teacher knew that they only had to put up with me for a short time and then I'd leave, lol!

I'm looking very much forward to this year. I like the security of the job (as secure as these things can be) but also look forward to the small changes within the job because that means it never gets boring. I used to be dedicated to kindergarten, this year it will be 2nd grade. I used to travel the building, this year I'll mainly be in one classroom. I love the teacher I'll be with so that is a huge forward start.

Our school is really good and the Administration is excellent. It has a positive and friendly climate. It is a good place to work because of the collegial support and encouragement. The work environment is physically comfortable. The high-level professional quality of my colleagues and especially the Admins is all good. I am really blessed to have a good job with a steady paycheck, regular hours, and is fulfilling because it is with kids.

As a result of our good school's climate, we have a low amount of people requesting transfers away. Employees come, and they stay. We have historically had the largest amount of 20, 25, and 30 year workers in the system. The downside is that these long-term workers are starting to retire now. I'll miss them- they were good people. We were given funds to fill the positions for those who left. That, plus the blessing of receiving funds for some new positions, means that this year in our building we have ten new faces!

What I'll miss about summer break at home:

The warm glow of the kitchen curtains as the sun rises and filters through the lace

Savoring coffee slowly first thing in the mornings

The green grass outside my window

Hearing the birds in the morning, along with the Wayward Rooster (who crows a chortled crow at all hours not just morning!)

The quietness of home

Snoring kitties

Eating at odd times

Going to the bathroom whenever I want! (You teachers and mommies know what I mean).

Reading

Surfing the net all day

Naps

Not having to talk to or see people

Not having a schedule

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What I’m looking forward to at school:

Having a schedule

Seeing the children

Kids' bad knock knock jokes

Laughing

Helping children

Serving my teachers

Feeling useful

Being a good employee

Not being able to eat whenever I want to (phew I ate myself out of house and home this summer!)

Being part of a team that makes a safe place for children to come to and be loved

Actually earning the paycheck that comes through the summer

Seeing my principal and assistant principal do their work because they are so good at what they do

Coming home at the end of the day

Rainbow at dawn over my school a couple of years ago. EPrata photo


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Frugal cooking: Making crispy eggplant and roasting peppers; also, fish

Even though it's hot, I cooked today, meaning: baked.

You gotta do what you have to do.

It had been a while, making do on the stove, eating cereal, sandwiches, cold salads. It's summer.

But at some point you do have to bite the bullet and turn on the oven and this morning was that time.

It all starts at Kroger. If you hit the reduced produce section at the right time, i.e. just as they stock it, it looks like this:



The cart is not my cart. It's part of the reduced section, an overflow that would not fit on the regular shelves.

Anything in a red net bag is 99 cents. I bought a bag of red peppers and a bag of orange peppers. I got a bag of lemons, a bag of two eggplants, two trays of cherry tomatoes- one red and one orange- and regular tomatoes.

See? They look perfectly fine. Usually red peppers are $1 each or even more. In the bag they are 33 cents. I saved $12 on produce with what I got.



Anyway, if I buy the reduced produce I am essentially making a commitment to it, both as a promise not to waste food, not to deny someone else the opportunity to buy fresh produce for a good price, and also to financially shepherd my resources well. So that means use it/cook it/eat it in some way.

The produce is the first stop. Depending on what I can get, I make my menu from there. Sometimes soon I'll get a shallow dish frozen pie crust and make a red pepper tartlet. For now, I roasted the peppers and I'll use them in antipasto and in scrambled eggs.


I cut them up into strips, toss them with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast till soft and the edges are brown.



Since I got tomatoes and eggplants, I'd decided to bake the eggplants and use the crisp rounds in sandwiches. I'll need cheese. I headed over to the reduced cheese section

Mozzarella and provolone are both great with eggplant. I went to the reduced cheese section and what did I find? Mozzarella and provolone. 50% off, down from $4 to $1.99. There's enough to even make a casserole later if I want. Since I already cooked the eggplants, making a casserole would not take long, essentially I just need to heat it through and melt the cheese. I bought a tiny can of tomato sauce just in case I want to do that later in the week.





Here is how I bake eggplant. Cut into rounds. You can peel or not peel. I peel. Sometimes I peel each round after I slice them or sometimes I peel the whole eggplant first.



Dip rounds in egg scrambled with milk, and then bread crumbs. 2 eggs were enough with the two eggplants. Do not use a fork. Once you pierce the eggplant, whether frying or baking, it makes the eggplant round soggy as the oil or the egg-milk mixture seeps into the flesh. Use tongs or your fingers to dredge and turn over the rounds. You can add spices like oregano or salt-pepper to the bread crumb mixture, also Parmesan cheese too. Or you can sprinkle your preferred seasoning over the cookie sheet rounds.



I try to maximize space by filling the cookie sheet but also try to have the rounds not touch each other or overlap. It causes uneven cooking. As the baking process progresses, the eggplants shrink since the heat evaporates the water int he flesh. So if they are touching a little bit, that's OK. They'll each be an island unto themselves soon enough, lol.

Two smallish eggplants filled three cookie sheets (of varying size). Bake until crisp on one side then flip. Depending on your oven and the temperature you bake them at (I go 375) it might take 7-10 min on one side then 5-7 on the other.


Yum! Crispy eggplant! I pop two or three of these onto some crispy bread, a couple slices of tomato, and cheese and make a panini on the griddle. You can also use tomato sauce and make a sub sandwich. Or just eat them on the side as a vegetable. You can re-crisp them in the toaster oven, on a griddle, or bake or roast for a few minutes.

I drifted over to the fish section and got a stuffed crab for $1, a salmon filet for $2 (2 meals), and a tilapia filet for $1.35 (fish chowder, 3 meals). 3 proteins for $4.35 will last for 6 meals.

Tomorrow I'll reveal a cute, perfect, zen cabin in a bamboo garden I discovered, that I plan to vacation in next spring!


Sunday, July 02, 2017

Best Sports Movies

I don't like sports, and I rarely/barely played a sport. I was good at tennis, but never played on a team, just the community court after 5:00 when it was free. Also, I was center fielder on a field hockey team for one season, I was OK. That's it. I don't watch sports on TV or go to any sporting events.

When I was growing up, the Wide World of Sports on Saturdays was the sports show to watch. I think it was the ONLY sports show to watch, except for Monday Night Football. Remember, this was before cable.

The rotation on WWoS was indeed wide From gymnastics to figure skating to wrestling to swimming & diving to track & field to bowling. You heard me. Bowling. The IMDB summary of the show is:
ABC's weekend extravaganzas about everything that can be called a sports event.
I also remember the Wide World of Sports intro with Jim McKay intoning "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat", and the agony was always shown a clip of a ski jumper crashing ignominiously. (Czech jumper Vinko Bogataj). As Jim McKay said, Vinko appeared on WWoS more than anyone else.


Amazingly, for the few times I actually watched a sporting event, I was lucky enough to see several thrilling and memorable moments live as they happened.

1976: Nadia Comeneci earned the first perfect ten in gymnastics history. It was great.
1980: The US Hockey team beat the Russian team. "Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!"
1984: Doug Flutie's hail Mary pass to win Boston College over the Miami Hurricanes.
1974-1981: Bjorn Borg. Just any and all tennis with Bjorn Borg. He was an amazing athlete.

For all my sports-avoidance, it seems I've watched quite a few sports movies in life, lol. Cool Runnings was fun (Jamaican bobsled team with John Candy), and Bull Durham, (baseball with Kevin Costner) Tin Cup (golf, Costner again) and The Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio) were all pretty good.

I know a lot of people insist on putting Chariots of Fire (track) and Rudy (football) on their lists but I've tried several times and have never been able to get through either of them. I absolutely hated Field of Dreams. I hated it at the time and I hate it now. It's a stupid, stupid movie. Obviously it is not on my list.

But some sports movies are great, just great. No other word for it. Here are some of those sports movies that I consider worth watching. Not all are feel good. (Moneyball). Not all of them have the team win at the end (Rocky anyone?). Hoop Dreams is a documentary. But all of them have something to say, especially the ones based on real events, which is to say, most of them.

Rocky (Boxing)
Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect. With Sylvester Stallone. He also wrote the film.

Hoosiers (Basketball)
Based on a true story. A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship. With Gene Hackman.

The Blind Side (Football)
With Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. Based on a true story, The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

Remember the Titans (Football)
The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. With Denzel Washington.

Hoop Dreams (Basketball)
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Moneyball  (Baseball)
Based on a true story and the book of the same name. Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players. With Brad Pitt.

The Sandlot  (Baseball)
In the summer of 1962, a new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team, resulting in many adventures. Inspired by a true story, albeit one that was in real life a bit darker- so the writer changed his own history by writing The Sandlot.

Eddie the Eagle (Ski Jumping)
The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. With Taron Egerton.

Splinters (Surfing)
Splinters is the first feature-length documentary film about the evolution of indigenous surfing in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea. In the 1980s an intrepid Australian pilot left behind a surfboard in the seaside village of Vanimo. Twenty years on, surfing is not only a pillar of village life but also a means to prestige. With no access to economic or educational advancement, let alone running water and power, village life is hermetic. A spot on the Papua New Guinea national surfing team is the way to see the wider world; the only way. Surfing. You can see this film for free at Snagfilms.com

We Are Marshall (Football)
When a plane crash claims the lives of members of the Marshall University football team and some of its fans, the team's new coach and his surviving players try to keep the football program alive. Matthew McConaughey.

I'll leave it to you to check imdb.com reviews (general movie reviews/expert movie reviews) or Common Sense Media (reviews from a parent and family perspective) or World Movie Reviews (reviews from a Christian perspective) to decide if the movies I've listed and recommended suit your preferences or match your family viewing habits.

There are a lot of movies out there that are good to watch with a thought provoking story to tell, even if you're like me and don't like sports!