July 31, 2007

My Leftovers Are Safe with Tupperware

Ms. Whatsit is hosting her second Teacher Potluck, and since I was duped into organizing monthly teacher potlucks at my school a few years ago, I know how tough it can be.

Can you believe that most of the teachers believed that it was also my job to make sure their food was warmed up at a certain time? As if I wasn't in my own classroom teaching! Yo! Have you ever heard of a crock pot or do you have any concept of what potluck friendly foods might be?

Anyway, I don't have any recipes to share, but maybe someday when I'm more in the mood, I'll give you my ideas of what constitutes good teacher potluck food. But for today, I'd like to share with you the greatest invention ever for my daily lunches. As nice as the lunch ladies are, and they try extra hard to make special food for the teachers, I never eat school lunch. If the price is right, I stock up on frozen dinners or burritos, but mostly I pack my own lunch. More specifically, I eat the previous night's leftovers for lunch. I don't know about you, but as wonderful as leftovers are, finding transportable (tight-sealing), microwavable containers is a big pain in the patooty.

If I didn't have my trusty Tupperware CrystalWave Soup Mug, I could not live bring my leftovers with much ease. Now, I do know that bowl costs about $10. I acquired mine before I was a teacher when I won some sort of Tupperware party game for being the most pathetic unmarried woman without children. Little did I know that it would be the coolest pity prize ever. Now, dear readers, if you have been paying attention, you know that I have been teaching for 10 years now. I use my bowl about 3 times a week. A few years ago I bit the bullet and bought another bowl because it's certainly nice to have a backup, isn't it? Do you have any bowls that you've used so frequently for 10 years? Please let me know if you do.

What's so great about this CrystalWave Soup Mug?
  • It has a tight seal that will not pop off and spill. I have thrown it in my tote bag without fears of it spilling over some important essays.
  • When you heat your food, you simply pop the little vent cap. Just a little whole for air. No spills and no explosions. Do you really want to be that teacher who makes a mess in the faculty microwave?
  • There is a fill line on the inside of the bowl so you don't overfill and risk being that teacher.
  • It's meant to be used in the microwave. Despite the fact that microwaves have been commonplace for over 20 years, there seem to be few plastic bowls that are truly microwavable.
  • It has a handle, which prevents you from dropping your food because it's too hot. That would suck!
  • It's a nice serving size, but still small, so it fits into a lunch bag or your tote bag.
(Tupperware has a line of microwavable dishes with a harder plastic called Rock 'N Serve, but in my experience the lids do not fit as well, plus my Rock 'N Serve mug actually cracked after a year. Things may have changed since I last bought Tupperware a few years back, but I wouldn't risk it.)

Okay, so there's HappyChyck's teacher lunch advice. Find your nearest Tupperware lady, or order online, and get yourself a handy dandy container so you can take your yummy dinner leftovers for lunch. Lunch is the most important meal of the day for teachers, isn't it?

Connected: Not So Easily Done

We are 98% moved. That other 2% is scattered "residue" at our old house that I hope box up and move to our new home tonight. Now the arduous task of unpacking and creating a home...

It's a miracle that I'm able to post today because we are having issues with our phone connection. The phone isn't consistently working, and a few outlets, particularly the one of the room we plan to use as an office, don't seem to work at all. After being on the phone about an hour last night, the Big Phone Company representative finally established that the reason we didn't have an Internet connection was because our static IP address didn't move with us like the nice young man at costumer service assured me it would be. So my sweetie spent another hour on the phone this morning to find out why it didn't come with us and if that same address is still available.

In the end my sweetie told them to never mind and to stop billing us for our static IP. (We have Internet now, but not the service he needs.) He went on a tirade about how his works in the IT industry and his experience with what should be going on with Big Phone Company's service and customer service. (He does spend a large chunk of his time troubleshooting and talking to technical support people for various companies and issues.) The problem is that the Big Phone Company's tech support does not really know what they are doing with their DSL Internet. Anytime we have problems with Internet, we have to go through a series of transfers before finding that one person who seems to know what is going on. Apparently in the last two days, my sweetie never found that one person. Anyway, he concluded the last hour-long call by telling them that he was planning on changing Internet service to the Big Cable Company.

Now the Big Cable Company...sigh...when I called to establish service with them yesterday, they were unable to find my address in the system. Do I live in a new neighborhood? No. It's an old neighborhood. I gave them the cross streets and the name of the subdivision. Still nothing. I was on the phone about 10 minutes with them before they told me they had to do some investigating and that I needed to call back in 7 days. I thought he was joking! Seven days! Do you mean to tell me that the other 20 houses on this street don't have cable? Okaaaayyy....

Well, the joke's on them. I plugged the cable into the television, and I happen to have a good cable connection. Have you ever known a cable company who likes to give 100 cable channels away for free? I guess if they can't find my house to connect it, they can't find it to disconnect it. I don't know what to tell them...

So, when my sweetie tells the Big Phone Company that his going to the Big Cable Company for Internet service, I just had to laugh. (Behind his back, of course. He's pretty irritated.) I wish him luck on that one.

July 27, 2007


This is the weekend we are officially moving. I know it's a boring blog topic, but this is something our family has been looking forward to for ten months. The kids came to live with us after we had signed our lease, and so we've been living in cramped quarters. Cozy? Not usually. When we're all together in the house doing our own things, it makes for much crankiness when there isn't enough personal space for each person.

, as the mommy of the family, I'm sure I'll still find it necessary to hide in the bathroom or closet when I need a few minutes to myself.

The truth comes out...the real reason why walk-in closets are important to me. And you thought it was because of all my clothes and shoes!

July 26, 2007

Clarification and Validation in Austin

In nearly everything related to my teaching career, I've had to learn things by stumbling around and through the trial and error obstacle course. (Is this the path most teachers take?) The last two years, although rather enjoyable, have been no different as I've tried to figure out exactly what teaching in an International Baccalaureate programme means.

The first year I felt like I wasn't really doing anything different. One of the basic things I had to do was label my lessons as one of the areas of interaction, which I kind of understood and without the reference poster in my room I couldn't remember which ones were which. I suspected the students, who had been in the program a few years, understood more than I did. Still, it wasn't really that difficult, and I felt like it was too easy.

It was also important that I collaborate with and do integrated lessons with people on my academic team and incorporate multicultural ideas into my lessons and units. What language arts teachers doesn't deal with multicultural lessons? Collaboration is beat into us (not quite literally) at my school and time is given to do so. Heck, we collaborate on multicultural units. All in all, it seemed like what I was doing was really no different. I feel comfortable with our collaboration, but I think we could do more--but we have to find the logical connections. Sometimes we try to force things and then our lessons seem to be trying to hard. If that makes sense. I do pretty well with mulitcultural ideas, but it seems like there's something lacking--like my ideas are challenging or broad enough.

The one aspect that I have struggled with implementing in my classroom and on my team as a whole is a consistent and useful system of reflection for the students to use. I understand the importance for students to reflect on their learning process, but I am simply inconsistent in doing so in my classroom.

Well, this week I traveled to Texas with four of my colleagues to receive training in what I've been doing for the last two years. (Don't ya love it?) Part of me thought it might be a waste of time, that I have probably gleaned enough about the program to surpass the first level training, yet part of me was quite excited to finally find out what I didn't know. It's true that I was more advanced in my knowledge than many people in my session (which was subject specific, thank goodness) and could have probably learned more in a level two training, but I had many, many, many things clarified.

The good news is that I am on the right track. Because it is more a type of teaching philosophy than a canned program, the fact that I am floundering around trying to find my way works pretty well. It's not one of those programs where you can just do everything all at once. It grows. Because IB is relatively new program at my school, as a school, we are still working on finding our way, too.

Oh! Another aspect I've slowly been incorporating is the use of the program's rubrics, which aren't called rubrics. I still call them rubrics, though. I've been using that term for 15 years, and I don't see the use of renaming it in my brain. Anyway, I adore using rubrics, but like any other assessment tool, it has to be used well to have valid assessments. So, I've been playing around with the rubrics, trying to use them in productive way. Unfortunately, at the conference I found out that my use in them has been good, but my modifications (which are necessary and expected) have not been done correctly. You see? This is the kind of stuff I'd needed to know! And now I do...And now I have some work to do to rework things I thought I had in place!

My approaches to bringing multicultural ideas into my classroom are quite rudimentary, as I have felt they have been, but I more clearly understand the idea behind making "worldly" students and some approaches. (We did spend quite a bit of time sharing and creating ideas that we could use in the classroom throughout the conference.) In my mind it doesn't seem that difficult and it can be done nearly on a daily basis, but I think my own worldly ignorance holds me back. Ouch! That hurts to admit! Smells like some personal goals for HappyChyck, doesn't it?

I have more things bouncing in around in my head, but I'll save that for another day. I usually try to hold off thinking about the upcoming school year until August 1. I'm a little early this year.

July 21, 2007

Rubber Gloved

It's funny how having the summer off can erase my mind of any creative or intelligent thought. I miss my blog!

I did find a new place to live, and we are in the slow process of moving in. It's slow because for peace of mind, I rented it sooner than I needed because this is a busy month for me. It's a lot older than many of the places that are available as rentals. (There are a lot of newer homes available to rent right now--maybe to save their owners from losing them completely?)

Our new home is in a convenient location, and it has some charm that newer homes do not have; however, it's not as clean as I'd like. So, as frequently as I can, I'm over there giving it a good scrub down. Long-time readers might remember my issues with sticky children, and it seems I also have issues with my kitchen being gunk free from previous tenants. On the surface it looks fine, but everything needs an extra scrub down. It's one of the jobs where it seems like it will be quick, but the deeper you get into it, the worse it gets.

For example, the refrigerator looked fresh and lovely, but I decided to give it an extra wipe down. (I have a scar on my wrist from a little scrape I got off the butter compartment of a clean-looking refrigerator. It took forever to heal for just a little scratch, so figured there must have been some mean beastie hanging 'round that door.) When I took the drawers out of the bottom, I found a that there had been some sort of red juice spill. Sticky mess! Worse, there was a dried, crusty patch of what looked like dried blood to me--you know from meat package leakage. I sprayed some cleaner on everything and left to it soak. What I assumed to be blood grossed me out a little, but I felt good about cleaning up that little hidden mess. We don't eat a lot of red meat at my house, and when I do cook it, I certainly don't like to handle anything that's too bloody. I wiped the sticky stuff out first, and when I arrived to the supposed blood, it wiped up pretty easily, but it would not rinse off my sponge. It just hung on to it in some weird congealed mass--just dangling there. I wish I could describe exactly how disgusting it was, but I can tell you that it made me gag and toss my lunch. Thus, another little mess to clean up. See what I mean? This whole cleaning business just snowballs.

Oh! And the carpets need to be fresh for my kids to mess up, especially since I'm finding dog hair everywhere. There is an extra fee to have pets. Due to the EW FACTOR, I should get some of that money since finding these hairs in the most random places (like the freezer or the ceiling of the bathroom) is causing me much irritation. I think even if I liked pets, finding the random hair would irritate me. It's not a dog that I know--oh my gosh! Could that dog have had fleas? Not that they'd be alive anymore, right? But still--gross! My sweetie is in the process of cleaning the carpets that the property manager claimed had been cleaned. Bless his heart.

When I gave my sweetie the choice of cleaning carpets or cleaning bathroom, he took the chicken way way. He thought that the carpet cleaning sounded more like a man's job. Funny since it's usually the act of men that's makes bathrooms messy. I've cleaned many restrooms in my life--once I even had the job of cleaning restrooms and showers at a KOA campground. Guess whose was the worst job to clean--men's or women's? The bathrooms aren't too terrible--well not since I left the stools soaking in bleach for two days--but there are some odd things going on. One of the bathrooms has a toilet with a plastic tank on the back. I've never seen that before, and I can't see the sense in it. It doesn't clean as easily and it's not as durable. Another strange thing I saw for the first time in one of the showers was a rusted switch plug and drain ring. Now, the house is old, but these fixtures are more modern, like stainless steel. Only it seems to be something that looks like stainless steel--a type of coating that has probably peeled or eroded. I've never seen anything like it. When I say the house it's own charm, these are not the things I'm talking about. Those are just oddities.

Soon we'll be all settled in and creating our own gross messes. I reminded my sweetie today that this is the 5th place we've lived in together--and we've been together 5 years! It sounds terrible, I know! We had some issues when we first got together where some of the places we were living in didn't work out, but we have lived in the same place for 3 years now. Nonetheless, I reminded him that it's 5 homes in 5 years, and I want my own home where we don't grumble about living in places where we feel like we are just getting by. "It's good enough for now." He agrees. He has a deadline of 2010 to get me into my dream home. It's not as far away as it seems, but some days it seems like it.

July 17, 2007

Surviving the Heat

We are on survival mode here in southern Nevada. Probably much like my grandparents survived living in North Dakota in the winter time. It's about the basic need to make it through the day. I'm not sure, but I think we still have at least another month of 100+ heat. Monsoon season is nearly upon us, but that doesn't always pan out to cooler weather.

How are we beating the heat besides never leaving the house? Well, when we do leave the house, a trip to Sonic for slushies makes it somewhat tolerable.

The simple things in life help get through the tough times. You know, like love and slushies. And love can't cool ya off!

July 14, 2007

Utah Trip with a Kid Twist

We went to Utah to visit my family, and most importantly, to meet my niece who is now seven weeks old. It's a pretty big deal, as we are a small family, and she is the first-born--and probably only born--grandchild my parents have. And trust me, she is cute, cute, cute! Of course I have to fight my mom to get any cuddle time with her, though!

This is the first time I have taken my stepchildren to Utah, and a lot of times I go to Utah alone while my sweetie stays home to work. He wasn't going to go this year either, but he was hired for a new job, so he took a few days between jobs to travel with us. He stayed for only half the trip before flying home.

This trip home was obviously different than the ones in the past. Everything revolved around what the kids might like to do. We went to a the Discovery Gateway children's museum in Salt Lake City, and while we were at Gateway, the kids danced around in the water at Downtown Olympic Plaza fountain. Although not quite as excited, we also visited the new Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, or better known to the locals as the Dinosaur Museum. The kids weren't that thrilled with the museum, despite the fact that the new museum is a lot more kid-interactive than the Dinosaur Museum that I grew up with. (I was nostalgic for the the fossil-crowded, musty museum of my childhood, so I wasn't too impressed either.) We also visited a real splash park where we had a picnic. Oh, and I did my best to wait and wait and wait for the sun to go down on Independence Day so we could see the fireworks display. About 30 minutes before they started, I was ready to go home and go to sleep. The kids? Wide awake.

Usually when I visit my parents we spend time driving around like everyday is Sunday afternoon in 1955, looking at the sights, which right now in my hometown would be new houses on every piece of land one can find. We went on one drive to Dry Fork Canyon, where we also stopped to show the kids the Remember the Maine memorial on the cliff wall (after all these years, I still cannot fathom painting on that steep cliff wall) and to see if it the creek was really dry. It wasn't--yet.

We also frequent the coffee shop for iced coffee drinks to cool us off. Sometimes we'd go more than once a day. This time around I went twice. I really missed that ritual.

It wasn't like the typical summers at Mom and Dad's, and it wasn't very relaxing. It seemed like we were constantly on the go, and constantly trying to keep the kids occupied. Don't get me wrong, though. It was fun in a different way. However, the day after we came home, I announced to the kids that that day would be mine to do what I wanted, and they needed to entertain themselves and let me do what I wanted to do.

The first thing my stepson asked was, "Can we go swimming?"


Obviously it's going to take a few days to train them back into the idea that the world revolves around me--not them!

July 2, 2007

The Bonding Power of Mangoes

My best friend, Miss D, was in town for a few days over the weekend. We've been friends since the end of my first year of teaching, and have grown close enough over the years that she is basically a a big sister to me. She's older, wiser, and can fix stuff. She's spent time with my family, and I've spent time with her family, mainly on Thanksgiving. We've been friends so long we have our little rituals when we get together.

Miss D and I we used to hang out with a couple of other single women (before I wasn't a single woman), and when we'd all get together for a barbecue, I was always responsible for two things: blender drinks and mango salsa. In fact, we've had many spring breaks and vacations where those were the main staples--with a lot seafood added.

Even now when we get together we might do a blender drink, but there is always the expectation of mango salsa--no matter if it's mango season or not! Yea, try finding ripe mangoes in rural northern Nevada in January! I'm the only person I know who makes mango salsa, and when I first offer it to people, including my own family, it is not well-received. I understand that some people do not like sweet salsa, but they are usually prejudice because it sounds weird. However, once people try it, they find they like it, and I find I haven't made enough!

So, here's my basic recipe that I've been using for about 10 years, but I don't remember where I originally found it.

2-3 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalepaño, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2-1 tsp cumin, or to taste
1 tsp cinnamon

The directions? Mix it all up! It tastes best if you make it ahead of time and let the flavors mingle. I'm not sure exactly how much of the spices to put in, as I just shake it out.

Now, as I said, it's a little interesting trying to make salsa on demand when mangoes aren't available, or if they're too expensive. Over the years, we've made variations in our bumbled efforts to pull off a seasonal dish out of its season. I'm not going to say they were great, but we were desperate:

  • Most of the year, mangoes can be found, but often there are only a few, and not all of them are the correct ripeness. We've picked the best one possible and used diced strawberries and pineapples to fill out the rest of the dip.
  • I forgot the jalapeño once, but I'd already started drinking from the blender, so I used dried red peppers.
  • Miss D and I forgot the lime, and she had no lime juice. It would have been doable, but it was in the winter the mangoes were not juicy. She did have some key lime yogurt, so we used it instead. Creamy salsa?
  • No cumin? As if! We've left it out or used all-purpose Mexican seasoning.
Luckily, this weekend mangoes were readily available at the market, and they were so sweet and juicy! We didn't barbecue this weekend. I made some up before she arrived, knowing that we'd want some before the weekend ended. In true girlfriend pig-out form, we ate the whole bowl with some tortilla chips, calling it lunch.