Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Although it doesn't feel at all like Halloween.  We have no school today, which you would think would send kids into a Halloween frenzy.  However, Halloween has actually been canceled in our town due to the downed power lines and trees littering the neighborhoods.  We'll probably still get a few trick or treaters anyway, since kids with no power need to get out of the house, but the mayor said to postpone trick or treating until Saturday, and even that might not be possible if clean up is taking too long.  Instead, he urged people to have something in their home. 

I couldn't imagine being a little kid and told not to trick or treat.  I know kids will come today (and the same ones will probably come back Saturday), but I can also see the value in having a Halloween party at home rather than wandering the debris filled neighborhoods.  Or, you can always do both :)

Here's a short list of items that would be fitting for a Halloween party.  Unfortunately, I was unable to make any Halloween-themed treats this year due to the storm.  But there is still a whole day left!

Grownup Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes - For the parents.  Just remove the bourbon to make little monster pumpkin pie shakes

Apple Cider Doughnut Holes
Butterscotch Whoopie Pies
Funfetti Sugar Cookies - with black and orange sprinkles!
Pecan Pie
Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing for decorating cookies
Sugar Cookie Sandwiches - fill with black and orange icing!

And don't forget the Pumpkin Pie Spice

Happy Halloween everyone!  And be safe!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creamy Bacon and Caramelized Corn Dip

I love dips.  I think I can safely say that if you give me something I can dip a corn tortilla chip or a crusty piece of bread into I'm going to love it.  And I think I'm starting to love football more because I love the food that goes with it.  Plus, I now have a team to root for, even if other teams are shredding through their defense...

I actually made this dip a couple of months ago in anticipation for football season.  My friends were hosting our annual draft and I brought this along with some blue corn tortilla chips (the best) as a little treat.  Well, as you can see by the only picture I have of the dip, it was snatched up in a matter of minutes.  This dip combines sweet and savory and includes ingredients you would never think would go together but DO.  I have been waiting to make this dip again and will probably pull it out for a Superbowl party.  That's also not to say you can't serve it at a regular party either, because blue corn tortilla chips always brighten up a plate :)

One suggestion that I do have for this dip is that if you have time, drain the yogurt in a sieve lined with a paper towel over bowl for a few hours (see this post for a better explanation).  This will remove a lot of the liquid from the dip.  Also make sure you drain the bacon and corn well too.

For all of you on the east coast, stay safe tonight!  And make this dip before your power goes out ;)

Creamy Bacon and Caramelized Corn Dip
Serves 6 – 8
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 20 – 25 minutes

- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 (15 oz) can corn, drained and rinsed
- dash of salt and pepper
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 (16 oz) container of plain yogurt
- 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican Cheese blend

If making this dip ahead of time, pour the yogurt into a sieve lined with a paper towel and place that over a bowl.  This will allow some of the excess liquid to drain and will result in a thicker, creamier dip.  If you do not have time to do this, this step is optional. 

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat and fry the chopped bacon until crispy.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.  Leave a small amount of grease in the pan and add the corn to the same skillet, stirring often until the corn is golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove corn and add to a large bowl. 

Turn the skillet down to medium – low and add the onions and salt and pepper.  Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add in the green onions and garlic and cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the corn.  Add in the paprika, yogurt, bacon, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese mixture and stir until well combined. 

Pour the contents of the bowl into a 2 quart Corningware dish.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove once cheese is golden and bubbly.  Let cool for about 5 minutes and serve with tortilla chips or crackers. 

Note: can use fresh or defrosted frozen corn as well.  Also, you can make this recipe the day before, just pop it into the oven 30 minutes before you want to serve it. 

Adapted from: How Sweet Eats

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Science and the 2012 Election?

Think the two have nothing to do with each other?  So did my students, until I did this project last week.

I had two extra days at the end of my first unit and wanted to do a small project with my class.  I was debating between two different types of projects; the first one would have something to do with the Curiosity Expedition and the characteristics of living things.  I liked that project, but I wanted to do something a little more relevant, so after watching the presidential debate a few weeks ago, I started to research into how I could tie the 2012 election in with my science curriculum.

Unfortunately, there aren't many great sites that let kids explore the issues of 2012 election in great depth.  The sites that I did find only focused on the major issues like the economy and foreign affairs, whereas I wanted information on where the candidates stood on issues related to energy and the environment.  After looking at a multitude of sites ranging from TIME for Kids to CNN, I decided to go right to the source - the websites for the Democratic and Republican Parties.  You could certainly use the sites for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as well, but the former two websites seemed a little less biased.

I created a webquest to help my students navigate the two sites and asked them to answer specific questions about where the candidates stood on issues like clean energy, protecting the environment, and using foreign oil.  This part took them about 2 days (my periods are 45 minutes), and students were able to spend the last 15 minutes of the second day working on the second part of the project: the campaign.

I asked students to critically investigate these issues and choose a candidate whose ideals about energy and the environment (because I wanted to tie it back to science) matched their own.  They were then asked to campaign for their candidate by making a poster or brochure.  The project followed very specific criteria; the students needed to include pictures and captions and specific reasons why the reader should vote for their candidate (using the research they completed for their webquest).

The students became very involved with this project, which I really appreciated.  This is a very important topic and as citizens these students need to understand their responsibility in presidential elections.  I would hear students talk about it in the hallway and in other classrooms, however, some students took this discussion too far, and I unfortunately overheard students bullying each other into telling them who they would vote for, and then criticizing their opinions and beliefs.  On the following Monday, I had to have a discussion about when debating becomes bullying.  I asked my students to write a project reflection, and many of them stated it was hard to keep an open mind about who they would campaign for based on what they heard from their family and friends and what they saw on the news.  This particular presidential election seems to be more charged than past ones, so if I were to do this project again, I would have my students make more of an informational poster, rather than becoming fired up over why their candidate would be better than the other.  However, being able to defend a point of view and convince readers are two important skills, so I do believe the project was a success.

The students (and I) loved doing this project because it allowed students to see the pervasiveness of science in our every day lives.  Science teachers can become involved in the 2012 election as well!

To purchase the webquest, lesson plan, rubric, and project description for this project, please visit my TPT store.  Thank you!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Year Stories: Walking a Fine Line

I think the hardest part about being a teacher is that you never leave your work at school.  I'm used to being a very busy person, so I didn't mind bringing home 100 tests to grade on my Tuesday night or staying up until way after my bedtime to plan an activity for next week's class.  To make matters worse, in an age where anyone can reach us at any time through email, it's even harder to break away from work.

I've been trying to leave more work at work over the past few weeks.  I try not to stay at school later than 5:00pm and I try to stop working at 10:00pm.  Of course, there are nights where I just need to grade the quizzes from 1 more class...and then I'm working until 11:00pm and of course can't fall asleep until much later than that.  I realized I needed a change this weekend when I let 1 parent email almost ruin my whole Saturday.  It actually took a second parent email to spur me to set rules (not guidelines) for when I should be doing work.

I have noticed the stress of my job affect my health and my personal relationships.  The wonderful thing about teaching is that it's more than a job, and that yes you do take hours of work home with you because the planning, grading, and emails never end.  However, in most other professions, work stays at work, and teaching should not be much different.  My mentor told me I need to make the students fit to my schedule, not the other way around.

So, I came up with a list of rules (not guidelines) I plan to follow.  If you're a new teacher, you need to read these.  It's already October and I'm unbelievably stressed out.  These rules are meant to keep your sanity, improve your mental health and relationships, and teach you to segregate work and your personal life.

1. Don't check work emails between when you leave work on Friday and when you sit down to do work on Sunday.  I try to avoid doing work serious work on Saturday (maybe some light planning), and after I let this parent email ruin my Saturday, I realized I needed to have a day just for myself.  Plus, that second email I received from a parent pushed me to create this rule, since she flat out told me not to check my work email on the weekends.  Good advice.

2. Don't stay at work later than 5:00pm.  The school is not your home, your home is your home.  Spend time after school getting ready for tomorrow's lesson(s) and gathering the materials you need to bring home to work on and then go home!  For me, this also means not checking work emails after 5:00 either.

3. Stop doing work at a set time.  Because different people have different home schedules, the time where you decide to stop doing work will be different for you.  If you have kids at home, you may decide to do a couple hours of work after they go to bed.  I try to stop doing work by 10:00pm, but I'm probably going to bump that up to 9:00pm.  You cannot spend your entire week working.  It's unhealthy.

4. Make a point to do things for you after school.  I'd put off going to yoga, watching MNF with friends, or going for a run because I had too much work to do.  You need to make time for you - remember those things called "hobbies" you used to have before the school year started?  Schedule 1 or 2 activities after school, even if it's just going for a 10 minute run or meeting friends to watch the latest episode of Glee.

One thing I noticed when I set these guidelines/rules for myself is that I was much more productive during the time I set aside to create lessons, do some unit mapping, or grade tests.  As a new teacher, the hardest thing is being able to balance your life with your job, and the line between the two becomes very thin.  Following these guidelines will certainly help keep those boundaries and keep both you and your relationships healthy.  If you have any more tips to add to this list please comment below!