Monday, February 27, 2012

Vacation Days 2 and 3

Sunday was a quiet relaxing day.  I finished a book, and I played a lot of Words with Friends. I enjoyed an episode of Midsomer Murders (Death in a Chocolate Box), and made a favorite dinner - my version of arroz con pollo.  I sauted chicken thighs in olive oil with thyme, bay leaf, and lots of garlic in my electric skillet.  Then I add long grain rice, chicken broth and real saffron.  I let that simmer a bit, and add a jar of pimentos, a can of mushrooms (or fresh), some frozen shrimp, and frozen peas at the last.  I'd add some minced clams too, but my husband dislikes them.  This is a dish my mom made a lot.  We splurge on buying saffron from  It's incredibly expensive but a little goes a long way and there is no substitute.  We make choices --- saffron instead of other treats.  I ended the day with an all-out Oscar marathon and I finished a baby sweater for a friend. I'll try to get pics up later.

Today was a WORK day. I started at 8:30 this morning on the taxes and bookkeeping.  It's 5 pm and while I still have to file all the stuff I pulled out, I've compiled almost all the tax info we will need for the accountant, brought our business books up to date, balanced the January bank statements, and solved at least 3 puzzling bookkeeping problems.  I also figured out a more efficient way to organize all the receipts my husband collects for business cash purchases.  He'd been randomly throwing his cash receipts and credit card receipts into a plastic shoe box, plus he'd also throw in receipts from purchases he'd made with checks.  It takes me forever to sort out all the receipts and match them to credit card bill or check.  I think I've solved the problem without forcing him  to change his ways too much.  I really resent having to spend my vacation working my "other" job, but that's the way it is.  At least tonight I can look forward to staying up late to watch CASTLE during live air time instead of having to record it and watch it another day.

Tomorrow I have to get some house organizing accomplished - like finally getting the rest of the Christmas decorations put away in an ORGANIZED fashion, and maybe tackling a closet or two.  I also have to run a few errands and make a few phone calls.  I did not expect to spend a full day on the bookkeeping, I must admit.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vacation Day 1

It was a long and busy day, but definitely a pleasant one!
As is usual, I was up early on a day I could sleep late.  We headed southeast down to N.Attleboro, MA to meet up with our 2 sons.  Elder Son lives there, and Younger Son had flown in Friday night from LA on some unexpected business.  Elder Son had picked him up at the airport, and hosted him, so we went down and took them out to lunch at a terrific Indian restaurant in Providence.  We usually get the buffet when we go there, but this time we ordered from the menu.  I'm glad I did.  I had the most delicious mango curry with chicken.  It had just enough heat to warm up the tongue without overpowering the flavors of the mango and cashews and all the other tasty spices.  After lunch we visited for a while and then we had to head back . . .. because we had haddinner plans and theater tickets with some good friends of ours.  We met up with them at the restaurant where everyone chose wisely, and then we headed to Gardner, MA to the Theater at the Mount, at Mt. Wachusetts Community College.  It's an amateur theater but their productions rival the best summer stock I've ever seen.  Last night's offering was an oldie, but goody, "Fiddler on the Roof."  Another good performance, although Tevye was played a little too much for laughs.  We have season tickets so we get 5 plays a year, most of them musicals.  By the time we got back to our little corner of NH, it was after 11 pm.  So, as I said, it was a LONG, busy, and pleasant day!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February Vacation At Last!

Today is the first day of our Feb. break.  It couldn't come soon enough!  Don't get me wrong, I'm having a terrific year with my kids.  However, it seems that my tank runs out around Thursdays nowadays, and it seems to take longer to refill it.  Must be my age!  Actually I think it's because of the increasing neediness of our students.  While many of my kids come from families who are truly struggling, it's not financial neediness as much as it's emotional and academic neediness.  I probably lose 10 minutes of every class to dealing with behavior issues that never used to be a problem.  The rise of ADHD kids and kids who are unable to focus in class is incredible.  Part of the problem is the way kids have come to expect entertainment and fun and games in school instead of work.  Not that I don't provide fun learning experiences, and a lot of hands-on activities so they don't have to sit in their seats all day, but the majority of kids in my school expect that school should be easy.  The minute I ask kids to do something hard, they fall apart.  I keep telling them if I don't challenge them to go beyond what they already know, they won't grow.   In each group of students I teach, there are 2 or 3 who put in tremendous effort.  They work hard all the time and take pride in producing quality work.  But the other 20 or students just give their work a glance and work just enough to turn something in regardless of quality.   D's are perfectly acceptable to them and apparently to their parents.  And then there are the parents who take their kids out of school for vacation the week or 2 BEFORE vacation.  You gather work for them to accomplish, and then they don't do it, not even when they get back.  And then their parents get upset that their kids are failing!  For the most part my parents are very supportive, but they too are quite needy and helicoptery.

Can you tell I'm tired?

I have no plans for the week other than to do our taxes, read, knit, sleep, and watch Midsomer Murders on Netflix as well as the hours of shows on my DVR!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Head Cold Coming On Strong

It looks like I am succumbing to the head cold that's going around.  Just in time for school tomorrow. Stuffy head, scratchy throat, and swollen glands.  Yuck!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Soup Day!

I have always loved soup, but over the last few months, my love affair with soup has intensified.  I'm constantly looking for soup recipes, and right now, if I had my way, I'd make it every day.  I like all kinds of soup too - clear soup, cream soup, spicy soups . . .

In the past 10 days I've enjoyed a fantastic mulligatawny soup with curry, chicken, and apples at a local restaurant, a superb lobster bisque at another eatery, a seafood chowder crowded with chunks of lobster, haddock, shrimp, and scallops, some decent canned chicken with white beans soup, and a lentil soup.  

Today's soup is a chicken vegetable barley soup - 1 cup pearled barley, several sliced carrots,  2 small onions, 2 cloves of garlic, a wilted bunch of celery, some herbs (heavy on thyme and parsley), leftover chicken,  and a mix of homemade and store bought chicken stock.  We will have that for dinner - or more likely lupper (late lunch/early dinner).    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Terrific Middle School Novel!

The Schwa Was HereThe Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calvin Schwa is convinced he's invisible.  And no wonder.  Nobody ever seems to recognize his presence.  Teachers ignore his wildly waving hand in class.  Kids ignore him everywhere he goes.  And then one day, Anthony "Antsy" Bonano sees him. Antsy and Calvin embark on a series of experiments that test how often Calvin is noticed.   When they discover that he does seem to be a nonentity, they go into business together using his "invisibility" to earn money.  One prank lands them on the bad side of "Old Man Cawley", the neighborhood curmudgeon.  As a consequence, Mr. Cawley assigns both boys some unappealing jobs, including pretending to date his visiting granddaughter.  This books is extremely funny, and touching at the same time.  It explores several themes:  belonging to a group, self-awareness, inclusivity, etc.  It's also a great "coming of age" novel.  Kids can relate to it on many levels -- it's a great read, but they can also connect to the various issues.  I really liked it too.  As a teacher and a parent, I am only too aware of how kids' notions of their invisibility can shape their outlook on life.  I am definitely going to recommend it to my 6th graders!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

A Random Post

This was inspired by 2 things.  A dear cousin and his wife achieved one of their lifetime goals recently by traveling to every single state in the U.S.   And their definition of visiting a state included the requirement that they spend at least a week there sightseeing.  The 2nd inspiration was running across a map similar to the one posted below while surfing Ravelry.   So, while I can't say that I've spent a week in each of the states I've visited, my definition of visiting means I've spent enough time in the state to get a feel for it.  In other words, I didn't include things like changing planes at an airport, or stepping over the state line at The Hoover Dam and say that I've visited Arizona.  (Although I have actually set  feet there!)

visited 25 states (50%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or jurisdische veraling duits?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Three More Books

The House at Sea's EndThe House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ruth Galloway, forensic anthropologist, and DCI Nelson are once again teamed, as they attempt to uncover the identity of six German skeletons discovered in a sea cave in the small North Sea town of Broughton.  Why were these men executed and who did it?  The investigation leads to the town's past, and its WWII Home Guard, and through the course of the investigation other murders occur.  On a personal front, Ruth is struggling with raising Kate as a single mom, as well as keeping the secret of Kate's parentage.  Nelson too is struggling with his mixed feelings for Ruth and his wife.  My only "complaint" about the book is the present tense writing - it really grates on me.  But the story is compelling enough to keep me reading.

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BreakdownBreakdown by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The latest V.I. Warshawski novel was a page turner.  A group of teenagers involved in a vampire book club decided to initiate a new member in an out-of-the-way cemetery.  While there, they discover the fresh corpse of man with a stake through his heart.  Several of the girls are the daughters of powerful  Chicago leaders and there is a hurried attempt to cover up their presence.  Unfortunately a conservative talk show host gets wind of the story and uses it to denigrate the parents of the girls, one of whom is running for state office.  Meanwhile, an old lawschool friend of Vic's who is known for her mental instability asks Vic for help.  But before she can explain her problem, she is pushed off a balcony and is seriously injured.  As V.I. investigates she discovers a link between the murder, the girls, and her friend.  And as in all V.I. Warshawski novels, V.I. takes physical punishment, ruffles many feathers, and eventually gets to the bottom of everything.

I really liked this installment.  The plot was complicated enough to keep me involved, and the pace was brisk and energetic.

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'm glad I didn't pay for this book.  It was a free Kindle read. Widow and senior citizen Ivy Malone has just lost her best friend and confidante, and as she goes about her daily life she discovers that to most of the world she's "invisible."  Nobody pays attention to LOL's (little old ladies).  She decides to use this to advantage however, as she tries to find out who's responsible for the vandalism at a historic cemetery and investigate the mysterious disappearance of a former neighbor.  I rather enjoyed Ivy herself, an intrepid and plucky woman.   I enjoyed the humor - Ivy spending nights in the cemetery, searching under the bumper of a car for a possible key in a used car lot.  But the constant proselytizing for Christianity really interfered with the story.  Faith-filled novels don't bother me (think of Father Tim in the Jan Karon series, for example), but out and out evangelizing does.  I belong to the "show me, don't tell me" school of writing and real life action. By the end of the book I wondered what the author's true purpose in writing had been - to write a cozy, humorous mystery or to create Christians.  Although I really liked the premise of the novel and its main character I was completely turned off by the rest of the package. (And yes, I am actively involved in a church and have been so my entire life.)