Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fashionistas At Work

Here's a little side trip from the usual DIY stuff that I've been posting lately.  I figured you must be tired of seeing recipes and things I've been making, so it's time to share what consumed me from the time school got out until it happened on July 11.

A friend of mine is a silk artist.  She paints on silk and then makes them into clothes.  She wanted to do a fundraiser fashion show for the Cultural Center, and somehow, she convinced me to work with her on it.  This would have been great, if I didn't already chair a road race in June which consumes me for all of May and June.  Having the fashion show right after the road race was not the wisest decision I could have made back in October.

I know pretty much nothing when it comes to fashion and even less about fashion shows.  She had put on a show just like this a few years ago, so she had a plan.  I just went along with it and acted as her PR person and advisor on wild decisions that had to be made. 

All I did was supply one model (my sister):

 and narrate the whole thing which basically put the audience to sleep. 

There were 42 outfits to show, along with some kids who came during school vacations to learn how to make their own garments. 

The artist is Brazilian, so there was a Brazilian theme.  The music, the food and some of the outfits.  A local Brazilian restaurant supplied all of the food, and supply they did!

There was a wildly huge cake, a Brigadeiro cake, from a Brazilian store.

 And food up the wazoo.

Somehow, I have never bought any of her scarves, so she gave me one as a thank you for helping.  I wore it with just a black dress.  I look like I'm giving an interview on 20/20.  I assure you, I have no juicy enough secrets that would warrant a spot on 20/20!

Yep, it's a giant shoe made of balloons!  When she said it was a big shoe, I really had no idea what it would be, but certainly not this big!

She also had a friend who made this mannequin for her.  I just couldn't deal with it.  The eyes were very scary and it was all I could do not to tie the scarf over the eyes!

She just looks so mad!

We bought these cute little plastic purses for all of the business cards from the sponsors.  They were a really decent quality for the price and totally reusable.  I don't know what you'd reuse them for, but I like to think people didn't just toss them on the way out.

She made some large banners to hang in the doorways and I thought they were a neat addition to the show.

Between when they ate lunch and when the show actually started, she painted this picture on the spot, so everyone could see what it's like from start to finish.   She buzzed through it really fast but it was really neat to watch.  And she did it from the back so we could see it come to life right in front of us!

I spent the day like this, standing in the meanest shoes I own.  They look fantastic but they are just pure rotten and might have ended up in the trash by that evening.  I've worn them about 4 times and regretted it every single time.

Here's my sister in a few outfits:

She was pretty excited when I asked if she wanted to be a model.  She had no experience, but I think she had the most fun of everyone.  She really showed the outfits and was just flamboyant enough to look like she had a clue.

It was a good fundraiser for the Cultural Center but a long time in the works.  I think I'll stick with making things instead of presenting them!

Here's a link to some of the highlights of the show:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Running Through the Mill

Do you can food?  A friend of mine asked me to take a canning class with her years ago and I said no way.  I was really afraid of home canning back then, but I've gotten over it.  Sort of.

I started canning a couple of years ago and though it still scares the pants off of me, I do it as much as I can.

I mostly can applesauce when we go apple picking in the fall.

Last year, I had cucumbers growing by the bushel so I made pickles but they weren't great. 

I also gave jelly making a try and was thrilled with the results.  Grape jelly and blackberry jelly.  The blackberry wasn't the best but the grape was amazing.  It tasted exactly like the kind you would expect to buy in the store and it was the simplest of everything to make.

When I started making the blackberry jelly, I became interested in a food mill. I had read about them and some of the applesauce recipes suggest using one, but I don't mind chunky applesauce, so it wasn't an investment I wanted to make the first year I canned.

What I so dislike about blackberries is the seeds.  I knew if I wanted to make a smooth jelly that I would eat, I had to get those seeds out.

Voila the cheapo depot food mill I found on amazon.

It's not a name brand I recognized, in fact I could almost swear it doesn't have a name, but it's the best $20 I've spent.  Or maybe it was $14.  I know it was cheap, it's stainless and it's amazing.   It also cleans like a breeze in the dishwasher.

The purpose of the food mill is to get every last bit of juice out of whatever you're milling, but it keeps out the seeds, skins and some pulp.  You just pour your cooked food in and then whirl that crank around until nothing drips out the bottom anymore.

Today, I made tomato sauce and on my canning recipe, it says no seeds or skins.  After I cooked the tomatoes for the requisite number of minutes, I had to pour all of this through the mill and crank it.

It makes me so happy to see that this was all that was left after all that!  A giant pot, I can't remember how many quarts, all boiled down to juice and this little bit of pulp.

It takes a little pre-thought when cooking and using the mill.  First, you need the pot to cook the food.   Then you need another pot that will collect all of the juice that you are extracting through the mill.

Remember the episode of Mad About You when they made a chicken soup and he read the recipe to her, telling her to drain the broth and she drained it into the sink instead of a pan?  Don't do that.  You want to make sure you have a pan to get the juice so you can cook it down.

This was a big problem for me because I don't have a ton of pans.  And I hadn't thought I'd need the big one because I didn't realize how many tomatoes I had.  When I transferred everything to the big pot, I thought the small one would be plenty for the juice but alas, I needed the big one because there was that much juice!  That meant I had to pour it all into a big bowl first so I could then put the big pan back on the stove and use the mill.

Canning with me is a lot like canning with Lucille Ball.

Except that she was a lot taller which really could come in handy when trying to get the jars out of the pan.

So, after running all of the cooked tomatoes through the mill, I had a great amount of juice in the big pot.  This is the annoying part for me:  boiling down the liquid.  It's like watching paint dry.  My sister roasted a tomato soup in the oven all day recently so it was nice and thick and if I had put that much forethought into what I was doing, I could have put this sauce  in the crockpot to cook all day and then canned the next day.

But I'm an instant gratification kind of gal, so I need to cook, can and be done all in the same day.

You can see here that it has boiled off a lot, but it needed to go ever further.  What I always worry about is that it will stick to the bottom.  This worried me with the jelly too.  I don't dare leave the pot for too long because I worry that if it sticks it will all taste burned.

This means hanging around in the kitchen which is very hot.  I see why people had summer kitchens back in the old days and did this stuff outside.  When I do the water bath canning for the jellies, I do it outside on the propane burner but for the pressure cooker, I feel like it has to be done inside.

So, all of those tomatoes boiled down to 5 pints of sauce.  That's more than I expected and I'm really happy with that amount.

What I really need is a pressure canner because it's more precise and bigger, so I could can a lot at once and not have to wait for one round to be done before I can process the next.  But that's another expense that I have to weigh to decide if it's really worth it or if I should just muddle through with my pressure cooker for a while longer.

Linking here:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How To Really Build A Bookcase

Last week,  I told you all about my annoyance with particle board and pre-fab furniture.  After I made my yarn cubbie, I had an idea that maybe I could make/have k-ster help me make a bookcase to replace some of the tables in my room that were causing clutter.

Since the day I moved into myclassroom, I've had an assortment of tables that sufficed as storage areas because there are no built in closets or hiding places in my room.  I have since gained a closet, and the tables have always kind of been in the way.  It seemed like a long, low bookcase might solve the problem by still allowing storage, but not sticking out as far as the tables, thus making things a little more streamlined.

I didn't want any fancy maple or oak or any expensive wood.  I didn't want any crapola particle board.   I just wanted your regular knotty pine bookcase that used to cost pennies at the mill store we have nearby.  I knew I wanted it about 2 feet high, with a shelf in the middle.  I also have an entire wall for it to go on, so 8 ft,10ft, 20ft, anything would work for length.

I'm not a carpenter and when I've participating in carpentry projects, I haven't been present for the purchase of the wood.  I expect a 1x12 plank, 8 feet long, to cost $10.  Max.  So my bookcase would cost around $40 and then the piece of plywood on the back, so maybe another $20 and I'd use paint I already have.  Screws seem to multiply in our shop, so that wouldn't cost me anything either.

For some time and less than $75 I could have a bookcase that is sturdy and made to my specifications.

Oh the storage and neat presentation of materials I would be creating in my room!  I'd have 2 purple bookcases and my room would be complete!

And then k-ster dashed my hopes when I said $10 per plank?and he laughed and laughed.  .  Do you know it's more like $20 per plank????  And close to $30 for the plywood backing.

So, I immediately checked out the mill store to see if a pre-made bookcase might cost me less.

And it turns out that I've been sleeping for about a decade because the prices of everything have gone up so much, it's staggering.

After a lengthy discussion, we decided k-ster would  buy the wood and cut it for me and I would put it together.

They didn't have 8 foot planks, so he had to get 10 foot.  All the more space to store, I thought!  He quickly talked me out of the extra two feet, and now that it's in my room, I'm pretty sure it was a good idea to cut the extra 2 feet off.

He also talked me out of only 2 feet tall.  It's now 3 feet tall which is more than I wanted, but I've moved it to a different place, so it's going to be fine.

Once he got to cutting the wood, k-ster decided to just put the whole thing together right then, so my little project was over before I knew it.    What a guy!

I knew I'd need to have some support sections to keep the shelves from bowing.  Bowing shevles are something that really irritates me! So, I thought two off-center pieces would work well.  I love symmetry but sometimes, a little unusual symmetry looks pretty good, in my mind.

I had him leave the plywood off the back while I painted because a) I don't like to paint at all and anything that makes it slightly easier it ok with  me and b) I wasn't sure I wanted to paint the plywood anyway.  We also put it up on sawhorses so I didn't have to crawl on the floor to paint it but since I'm short and the bookcase is 3 feet tall, that meant I had to stand on a ladder to get the top.

I don't know if I've mentioned that for close to 2 weeks we've been stuck in some pattern of humidity that is like 100% humidity 100% of the time.  This makes for a very short fuse when I already have a short fuse for painting in the first place!

I sanded the whole thing a couple of times, deleting even more of my ever shortening fuse.  I vacuumed all of the sawdust twice and wiped it clean.

And then I decided to use a hiding white primer before putting on the purple.  There were lots of knots and the wood was screaming PAINT ME and I had some white paint cover paint that someone donated, so I wanted to use that instead of wasting the purple that I paid a fortune for.  Because the wood was so fresh, it soaked up the first coat so it looked like almost nothing was there so I had to do a second coat.

Did I mention it was like 100% humidity?

I really wanted to do this whole thing outside because I thought it might be slightly cooler but with the humidity came daily predictions of rain, so I didn't dare.

After my 2 coats of white, I put on a coat of purple, expecting that it would glide right on and I'd be done.  I used a brush in the corners and where the wood met, but then I used a roller for the rest.

In all of my experience painting, I've learned that I am very defective when it comes to rollers.  I don't know if it's the cheap kind I buy or what, but they are never a smooth roll.  They always skip as they roll.  I spend more time scrubbing the roller back and forth and if I try using more paint, it just slips all over.  And every time I set out to paint something, I'm sure that this time it will be a nice, smooth coat of paint, something a professional would do.  But alas, as with all of my rolling experiences, I was highly unimpressed with the quality of this coat of paint, so I used the brush on the whole thing that final time.

That's right, I needed 2 coats of white and then 2 coats of purple.  I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I don't like to paint.  And I don't like humidity.  And I wanted this all done and in my classroom way before school started so I could figure out exactly what I was going to do with it.  Teachers like plans and for things to be all set before school starts.  Especially this teacher.  By the end of this project, I had no fuse left.

I finally finished and k-ster put the plywood on the back and we brought it to school.  I didn't paint the plywood and I'm not thrilled with how it looks, so if it ever dries out and cools off around here, I might do it.  I'm also not exactly sure how I am going to use this.  I wanted it to fit under these white boards and it does, but I thought it would  be lower so I could use the top shelf.  I ended up moving it to the right and now I can use the top shelf for my supplies like rulers and crayons and still walk up to this white board without have to lean over the bookcase.

After vowing to never spend money on my classroom when I graduated from college, I have managed to spend more in this one summer than in all of my years teaching combined!  But, I've made do with things that weren't exactly what I want for so long, buying the yarn cubbie and making this bookcase are definitely worth it.  All in all, this was about about a $125 project, including the paint.  They didn't even have this kind of bookcase at the mill store but what they had started at $130, so I win.

Linking here: 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Particle Board Woes

I teach a crocheting class during the school day twice a week because my school is an Innovation School.   Our innovation is an extended student day which allows us to have Enrichment classes at the end of the student day.  This is when band, chorus and orchestra meet but it's also when about 40 other classes happen to help kids find creativity and explore their passions.

Crocheting has become a very popular class among the girls (I have yet to have a single boy do it!) so this year, I'm adding another crocheting class during enrichment.  I also do an after school class. All totaled, I will have had about 50-75 kids by the end of the year.

That's a lot of crocheters!

It's also a lot of yarn and project storage.

My classroom has no built in storage space and after just about sobbing through my first few weeks of school the first year I moved because I had NOWHERE to put ANYTHING, I have finally accumulated a few storage cabinets, but yarn was my biggest mess last year.

This is about the best I could do.  Their projects are stored in bags and the bags go in baskets and the baskets go in a bookshelf, but the yarn was just one huge pile of knots.  Which also led to random people occasionally touching the yarn if they were near that side of the room and slightly unsupervised (I say slightly because, as we know, teachers see EVERYTHING, you just might not realize what we are seeing).

I've been looking for a storage cubby system, and by looking, I mean waiting for someone to donate one to me.  But that never happened.  School starts in 2 weeks and I want to start off clean and neat because I can't deal with that yarnfest anymore, so I bit the bullet and decided to buy one.

You might be familiar with it.  It's a 12 cube bookcase that you assemble yourself, from that store with the big target on it.

I was tickled that it has 12 cubicles because I want to organize the yarn by colors and the standard 9 cubicle bookcase wasn't doing it for me.  I firmly believe that when things look organized, they stay organized.

But, as we all know, particle board is particle board.  That means it's heavy but not really heavy duty.  It peels at the slightest touch and crumbles and breaks if you blink at it.

I didn't realize it was that unsubstantial when I ordered it or I might have thought about a different solution.  But, I was desperate and wanted this all situated before school starts.  And I didn't want to pay anything that much for it, so I got what I paid for.

I chose one of the hottest and most humid days we have had to put it together.  I knew I'd get sweaty anyway, so I didn't care at that point.  I also approached it with the most patience I could muster, knowing once I saw the particle board-ness that it was, I had to be really careful so I didn't screw up the whole thing from the beginning.

I debated building it at home vs. at school.  On the outside, it didn't say which tools were needed and nothing is more frustrating than being at school without the tools I need to complete a project.  I'm glad I built this at school because it might not have survived a moved across town.  It's that rickety.

All went really well until I went to put the 2nd side on and as I went to turn the whole thing over, it started falling apart, the dowels that connect the cubes started breaking and there was a lot of pending disaster.

I got it together, gave myself an excellent particle board scratch on my stomach, didn't swear out loud or cry and managed to only actually break one dowel.  They give extra, so that was a plus.

I had brought a drill and I found a hammer, but using pliers to get the dowels out to start over was a must.  The janitor didn't know if he had pliers, so I ended up using a staple remover which was perfect!  Sad because that shows how soft and cheap the dowels were.

As I took it apart and assembled it in the order that made more sense to me, I managed to get one piece backwards.  It didn't affect the assembly but now it looks ridiculous with one piece showing the non-finished side and everything else looking finished.

But, because particle board is the devil, I had already had an issue with one of the screws splitting the laminate, so I didn't dare take out the screws to turn the board around and start over.

Disappointing, but I would rather run a strip of white paint on that one little side than ruin the entire thing.

I wasn't going to bother with those ridiculous pieces of cardboard on the back, but then I realized that the yarn will just fall out the back and if I don't.  That heater doesn't work because there's a newer blower right next to it, so that's not a problem.

I hammered on all of the cardboard pieces but SURPRISE there are only 6.  That means only some of the yarn can fall out....  I will put some colored paper or something on the other spaces later, probably with glue, but I didn't have that kind of patience at that point.

I was THRILLED that it fit so perfectly in this spot.  This has been one of the many dead spots in my room where weird things used to collect and look messy.  I had a table that didn't quite fit in, so it added to the weirdness and it kind of stuck out into the room and made a traffic jam.  This is just right and the baskets on top are for the projects.

It turns out I need just one more cubby.  We have no orange yarn, so I took away the slot for orange, and it bugs me that the rainbow isn't complete, but at least I have storage.

By October, the bottom strip will be all scuffed up and I'm sure there will be lots of dings in this.  I have no hope that when it gets moved over the summer for cleaning, it will return in one piece.  And once particle board falls apart, it's just a mess of duct tape and prayers.

That should be the name of my new blog:  Duct Tape and Prayers.  It's certainly the motto in my teacher brain!

Linking here:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Solving the Great Mat Dilemma

When I moved from middle school to 4th and 5th grade, I quickly realized that these kids are young enough that "carpet time" would be a really good thing to use in my French classroom.  However, carpets + 500 students = DISGUSTING, so I went with foam mats.

This seemed like a great idea before school started but when I put them all together, I realized that I had basically made one large carpet that was going to get just as disgusting as a carpet would.  My afternoon classes come in with dirt on their shoes from being out at recess or gym, so my floors are often nasty in the afternoon.  Walking all over these mats and then sitting on them would be yucky and is the very reason I didn't get a carpet.

I quickly decided to leave them separated.  That way, each child would also have a mat of their own which would mean they had an "area" in which to sit and not.touch.each.other.

What a shock when I learned that you can do any number of naughty things when you are supposed to getting, putting away or simply sitting upon the mats.  They are great "swords", "fans", "frisbees", etc.

On simply 24 inches of foam, a child can sit, curl up, break dance, lounge, etc.  

For the most part, they became an essential part of my day and at the end of the year, each class said they like what we do when we come together on the mats.

What they didn't like is that the mats are "kind of gross".  They get dirty, even though we agreed there is a floor side and an up side.

They get very staticy in the winter and kids get zapped all the time.  AND they are hair magnets.  I had a few kids refuse to sit on them when the hair started collecting.  And I didn't blame them.  I don't even want to touch them.  I'm like "can you please move that mat over there?" and don't touch them.

So, rather than throw them out and use nothing or abandon our carpet time altogether, I made covers.

And because I can do nothing simply, I made covers like this.  24 of them, in case you're wondering.

My plan from the beginning was to somehow get French speaking places written on the mats, but even with the Cricut, I couldn't come up with a way that worked for me.

Stickers would be peeled off.

Paint would probably be scraped or wear off.

I'm not good with a Sharpie.

When I decided washable covers would be the way to go this year, I wanted to keep with the same color theme.  I have kids sit 4 to a table and I call out a color in French that each table has to get, so it helps reinforce colors and listening skills.

I bought the rainbow, and because I am a mathematical idiot, I bought one yard per mat.  The mats are 24 inches square.  I figured a yard per mat would be too much and I'd have a lot leftover.

This took a lot more material than I expected, even though I cut off all of the interlocking nubs.  That took about an inch off of the entire thing so they are about 23 inches square now.  This meant I had to cut the fabric several ways to get all of the pieces I needed, so I don't have as much leftover as I had hoped.

I was pleasantly pleased that scissors cut the nubs right off without breaking my hand.

Once I knew I was going to use fabric, I decided to use the Cricut to make a stencil for each place.  Then I'd use fabric paint to gets the names on there.  I couldn't think of a paint color that would work for all of the colors and I didn't want to buy a lot of different paints, so I went with a 4.5 inch banner in white.

I cut white  strips from what I had in my stash and turned them over and used the wrong side.  I did this on purpose!   I was afraid the paint wouldn't adhere properly to the print on the white fabrics.

The bottle of paint said to wait 72 hours but I did 2 coats and waited about 30 hours.  I set each one with an iron and then washed and dried them and they seem totally fine.  Who can wait 72 hours for anything???

Most came out really precise like this.  I wasn't sure with the vinyl I was using if paint would leak underneath.  I used a sponge brush and sort of blotted the paint on.

A few times I went a little nuts with the brush and went off the template.  In this case, the vinyl wasn't sticking well and as I was painting, it lifted and shifted and really ruined the whole thing.

I used it anyway but it will always taunt me.

I cut one solid piece on the back, 25.5 inches and the for the front, I cut two 11.25 inch pieces and sewed them to the strips.

I wanted them to close with velcro, so I serged the top edge for each side and then folded it over and sewed on the velcro.  I debated just doing a few pieces of velcro, but the whole width is a better choice for a lot of reasons.  Kids are really destructive and pick at things no matter how much I tell them to stop.  That's also why I sewed it in rather than using stick on velcro.

When I went to buy the velcro, I planned to get 14 yards (sometimes I am not such a mathematical moron) so I brought up the spool for them to cut.  The woman said it's much cheaper to buy it precut like this.

Shocking.  I always thought it was cheaper to get it off the roll.  So, I bought a bunch of these instead.  It meant I couldn't use my 50% off one thing coupon, but even with that, the one piece of 14 yards was going to cost way more, so it was definitely cheaper like this.

My favorite is the red and white polka dots.

I could do my whole room in red and white polka dots and be tickled.

So, I plan to wash these covers occasionally and hope that the static won't happen.  I serged everything in the hopes that they will be a little more durable and last a few years.

Making them took forever.  For.EVER.

But I love seeing all of the French speaking places and I can't wait to hear them say them!

Linking here:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Entertaining On Pennies

When my niece was here last month, we had a lot of fun.  Because she's still little, my sister and brother in law don't try to plan lots of things to do, so that means a lot of time to just fool around and play in the yard. 

In fact, it was 90+ degrees with 30000% humidity, so when she saw my parents' irrigation system on, we couldn't resist running through the sprinklers.  I haven't done that in a really long time and even though it was so hot, it was shocking the first few times, but then I was so soaked, I didn't care anymore.

One day, I took her to an open tent theatre that we have here each summer and we saw "Cinderella". I put that in quotes because it was hardly any version of Cinderella I know.  First of all, because it's such a small theater and it's in the round, there were no curtains or backdrops and very few props.  A LOT was left to the imagination. 

There weren't too many actors and the names of the stepsisters were Disgustia and Putricia, not the names I think they have in any other version where they  have names.   It was pretty long and there was an intermission that lasted about 34 hours, so by the end, we were happy it was over. 

Then we had a picnic in a park, which I think was much more fun for both of us and then did some shopping which was also fun.

When we got home, she played in my hammock and I had completely forgotten about these pictures until today.  She thought it was so funny that I swung her in the hammock and would "bump" into the hammock each time she swung toward me.

Cinderella who?  This hammock was much more fun and FREE!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wish I Could Buy A Soapbox

I've been on an email writing kick this week, writing to everyone from the local newspaper whose delivery person has a car that is way too loud for 4:45am, to the company that makes the seltzer I drink because their new caps don't screw on properly.  So, I wasn't surprised when I was compelled to write the following letter to a discount store that is offering 30% off to teachers this week.

As a teacher that isn't a reading, writing, arithmetic teacher, it would be hard for you to imagine what I think are important school supplies for my room.  And I think in 2015, this is the case with most teachers.  Many kids bring nothing to school or they bring things that have nothing to do with their age levels (protractors in 1st grade, for example) and schools only provide so much in the way of supplies.  Some parents are great about supplying the extras but it's often a last minute idea that pushes me to have to buy something myself that no one would think I would need or would deem necessary enough to give me the funds to do so.

So, here's my rant for the week:

I received your email about the 30% off for educators from my principal the other day.  I really appreciate what your store does to help teachers in the classroom and make our lives a little easier.

However, I take offense at the remark that things like sweatshirts, trash bags, hammers and other things that have "nothing to do with the classroom" are not covered.  I can't help hearing a little ha ha in the background from some bigwig who made the concession that we should get a discount... but not too much and not on everything...

Perhaps you haven't been in my 5th grade  classroom and watched the same sweatshirt walk in the door for 100 days in a row, every food and other substance imaginable spilled on it, reeking of cigarettes and who knows what else.  A new sweatshirt would do wonders for that child's well-being and the rest of us that have to see and smell it.

Or maybe you didn't realize that though the custodians do a little bit of cleaning in my classroom each day, they don't always take out the trash bags when they take the trash.  If they think the trash bag can be reused, they will leave it for another day.  Imagine that at the high point of cold and flu season.  Trash bags could really help me keep my students and myself healthier in my classroom.

Unless a person teaches woodworking, it would seem that hammers would certainly not be used nor would they be deemed safe in the classroom..  However, when a bookcase falls apart or a shelf falls off the wall and waiting for a work order to go through would just endanger everyone in the room, a secretly hidden hammer in the back of the teacher's cabinet can work magic and keep clothing from being torn or knees from getting ripped open.

What about school gardens that are popping up in many communities?  Trowels, buckets, gloves- all of those are things are actually essential in my  building as we have several gardening classes each week, but they are not considered essential for the classroom by the old standards of what was considered school supplies.
We do so much more in classrooms today than teaching math facts on paper with pencils.
So, while I appreciate the offer of discounts on so many items to be used in the classroom, in these modern times, paper and pencils are no longer all that we need to make classrooms productive and help our students find success.  Our districts and parents often cover supplies like pencils, folders, scissors or pens, but they do not cover things that we need like kleenex for runny noses, plastic ziplock bags for lost teeth or broken necklaces, or paper goods for the occasional birthday celebration when a parent forgets to send them in.  Things that are personal needs for each teacher, needs that have been determined by many years in the classroom, buying items ourselves without financial help from anyone.

Teachers are exceptionally creative when it comes to repurposing items or making do with improvised versions of more expensive items that they wish they could have for their classrooms.  As a teacher with 20 years of experience in the classroom, I could not begin to make a list of what my  neighboring teacher would consider things that have anything to do with the classroom.   I'm not sure anyone could.

In the future, maybe the sale could be shorter but could include everything in the store so that teachers can buy the things that we feel are important enough to spend our own money on. 

Linking here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Little It Takes To Make Me So Happy

It's time for a little learning session here on Aunt Mildred's Porch, so sit down and listen, while I tell you a story.

I recently had jury duty and though this is like the 7th time I've been called for jury duty, never have I served, I dreaded it with every ounce of my being.  It's summer, I have no patience for idiots who get themselves into trouble and I was raised here and teach here, so I probably know a lot of the people involved in any cases going through my local courthouse.

But, being so thrifty, I didn't want to pay the $2000 fine for skipping out, so off I went.

Barnstable Courthouse is a pretty cool looking building and very imposing.  Go look at this link if you want to see a picture and know more about it.  I thought the judge told us it was the oldest courthouse in the US but I've since checked and that is not at all true, so I must have misunderstood.

He had a Boston accent, I didn't want to be there, he reminded me of someone I used to work with and the AC felt so nice, I have no idea what most of what he said actually was.  I was too busy looking around.

It's sure not the courtrooms we see on TV and in movies!  This looks like it must have looked for the past 100 years, with just a few additions for modern times.  I'm sure that clock is original!

And since we were sitting in what basically are pews, I wasn't surprised to see the choir loft up back!

I can't even imagine who sits up there.  The jury panel is off to the side of that first picture and this balcony is directly opposite the view of the books in that same picture.

Something about this rug cracks me up.  It's more like a has been restaurant floor than what I imagine a courtroom to be!  I picture courtrooms to be sterile but this was far from it.

The ceiling is the best part.

The judge said it was handpainted, and original, but I was surprised to see that even with the new recessed lights and other items in the ceiling, that "original" paintings went right over them and incorporated them.  Maybe they are based on the original?   Something tells me the original painters in the 1800s didn't leave space for the future can lights and chandeliers that would one day be in the ceiling!

Anyway, I don't know any architectural terms, but this lovely rotunda-like thing over my head was intriguing because of the fish. 

Here's the learning:  that's a cod.  As in Cape Cod, where Barnstable Courthouse is located. 

The story, according to the judge, is that the cod was originally put on a train as a figurehead sort of thing, but it was in the way, so they cut it off.  Someone deemed it ideal for the ceiling of the courtroom and lo and behold, here it hangs this many decades later.    They incorporated it into the seal of Barnstable County and it's on everything related to the county.

And a judge wouldn't make up a story, right?

So, after we were talked to by the judge and made to watch that excellent juror video that everyone must watch, we were escorted to another court building in the complex because no jurors were needed in Superior Court that day.  The judge told us that the day before, they had impaneled people for a THREE WEEK TRIAL!  Can't you imagine! 

I would have been arrested on the spot if I had been part of that group because I would have caused such a disruption in public at the very idea of being locked in the courthouse for what amounts to just about the last month of summer!

That's the first little thing it took to make me happy that day.  That I had missed being part of that circus by 24 hours.

Once we took our field trip across the complex, we were put in a very fancy juror room.

Fancy for 1970.  Top notch.  For today?  A basement.  And it really is a basement.

We had to sit there for about an hour, with a couple of loudmouths who knew everything and talked like they were out in a windstorm and had to yell to be heard.  The rest of us sat there, eyes glued to books and screens.  I actually knew two of the potential jurors.  One is a colleague and one is a former student who I had in homeroom and also took to Quebec and France.  She's now a junior in college.

See, small town, fat chance I would be able to be a fair and unbiased juror!

So what's the second tiniest little thing that made me so so so happy?  The guy coming in and saying you can all go!  It was only 10am, so I hadn't wasted a day sitting around for no reason.

And I was on a such a high, I came home and ran.  I thought the sun was going to stay in for a little while longer, but it came out bright and hot as I ran, so I pretty much melted right into the pavement.  This was all that remained.

Now I'm off the jury duty hook for the next three years.

And I didn't even get to to say "lock up all the little effers and send me home!"