Friday, October 30, 2015

Losing My Hot Dog Roasting Virginity

Recently, it was my birthday, and while I'm not one to make it known to the world, I thought I'd share with you my story about a gift I received.

K-ster and I don't give each other much for our birthdays or Christmas.  I prefer gifts like putting together the greenhouse or putting in a new kitchen floor.  Jewelry and chocolate are lost on me.  Well, jewelry is, anyway.  Who can resist chocolate?

This year was no different, with me reminding k-ster not to even think about getting me anything for my birthday.  Making Devil's food chocolate cake is more than enough.

So, as we walked over to my parents house, he carried a large cardboard tube and insisted it was just a little something we would use.

Because he knows he has me at "practical" or "useful".

I opened the tube to reveal:

My most devoted readers will be astounded by 3 things in this picture:

a) the idea of me eating a hot dog
b) the possibility that I might go camping to eat said hot dog
c) safety.  While I never promote being unsafe, there is many a story on this blog that might indicate that safety wasn't my number 1 decision in the long list of decisions I had to make.

I'm sure everyone would know that MADE IN THE USA tag probably cancels out anything shocking in this post.

I'm a little bit of a fan of roasted marshmallows, and usually, if we have marshmallows and he has a fire in the firepit, I will get a stick, heat it up and stick a marshmallow on it to roast.  Whether or not the chocolate and graham crackers are there for s'mores doesn't really matter.  It's the marshmallow that matters to me.

K-ster recently had to buy a hitch from this company and somehow came upon the only non-towing accessory they carry and thought of me.

I'm as astounded as you are.

I don't camp.  I don't even glamp.  And the firepit is not usually my first choice in entertainment because I usually breathe in smoke no matter where I sit and then smell like an ashtray.

So, what is the big deal about the safety sticks,  you ask?  When did roasting a hot dog or marshmallow become unsafe?

Inside this nylon bag, you will find:

4 very long skewers with safety tips.  I guess too many people have been stabbed by roasting skewers in the past, so someone decided bending the tips back was much safer.

While I applaud their efforts, I now see them as "safe" swords.  The very kids who were once stabbing at each other with normal skewers or sticks will now use them as swords and jousting spears.

I figured it would be fun to blow k-ster's socks off and suggest we have a fire and not only roast marshmallows, but use these spears as they were intended:  for hot dog roasting.

I don't have the stamina at this point (probably because I consumed hot dogs and my body is full of poison) to explain to anyone why hot dogs are the worst thing I would put in my body, but suffice it to say, this is like a once a year event.  All of the good eating I do most of the time should cancel out all of tonight's damage.

Because not only did I eat fire roasted hot dogs, I also resorted to store bought rolls and canned beans.

And then I ate some s'mores.

If I even wake up tomorrow after a night of those foreign chemicals floating around in my body, it will be a miracle.

K-ster made a lovely fire and we had just the right temperature and no wind.  We skewered our hot dogs and held them over the heat and flame, wondering how long to keep them there.  I was a little impatient and bumped my hot dogs on a charred log, so I had a little burned action going on.  K-ster was better but I think he's done this before.

I was a hot dog roasting virgin until tonight.

And I'm still no pro.

K-ster called it a night way before I did, so I was a one man band for the s'mores making and eating.

It seemed a little silly to only roast 2 marshmallows on such long spikes, but I wasn't going to eat that many s'mores by myself.  If you were making a lot, these would be great for a crowd.

K-ster also suggested we could roast shrimp this way.  A possibility, yes, but pretty unlikely.   It would make for a fun party trick, though.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Feet

In case you haven't read any of my posts about my riding hobby, click here for a crash course.

When I ride during the week, I usually change at school.  The barn where I ride is literally across the street from school, so it's really convenient.  The only drawback is that whether I change at school or at the barn, I'm usually stuck in a bathroom that isn't really great for changing.

The privacy is great, but the floor in any bathroom is not the best place for standing or sitting, both of which I have to do when I get into my riding clothes and boots.  Last year, I changed in an office that wasn't used after school, so I had a rug I could stand on.  But the door didn't lock or even latch, so I was always panicking that someone would walk in.

And there's no room for a chair in the bathroom, so that's out of the question.

I like to change at school rather than at the barn because it's nice to change clothes when I'm already used to the building temperature.  In the winter, the barn bathroom is heated but going from school, to my car and then into the barn is a lot of weather changes.  Plus, if I change at school, I bring my clothes in from the start of the day so they don't freeze in my car.

Recently, I had a brainstorm that if I made a little mat for myself to stand/sit on while I change, then I could have a comfortable little spot and I wouldn't have to balance on one foot as I'm trying to get the other sock on.

Think  baby changing mat.

I found a "pleather" remnant at Joann fabrics for a really reasonable amount of money.  I thought this would make a great back, if I put something soft on the other side.  I couldn't believe it when the words "can you tell me where I can find pleather" came out of my mouth.  And then to find a remnant and discover it was this big (like 5 feet)  was totally a surprise.
I had some blue fleece at home, also a remnant, that I was going to use for polo wraps but discovered it was too short.  Much to my pleasure, it was just about the same size as the pleather, so I decided to use it with a little bit of batting inside.  I have tons of batting remnants, so I zigzagged some together and used them on the inside.

My original plan was probably a 2 x 2 foot mat.  Enough to stand on  or sit on, but also small enough to tuck into my bag.

I am forever a one trick pony, so I decided to do my wavy stitch to hold it together and keep the batting in place.  The pleather wasn't so hard to sew with.  I used a jeans  needle and that seemed to be fine.  My issue was the size.

Because I had to go ahead and make it as big as the remnants were, and ended up with about a  2 x 4 foot, maybe bigger, mat.

And then I decided I had to edge it with something.  I had some other fleece from when I made the polo wraps, so I doubled it and used it as binding.  That was the hardest and probably the dumbest part of the entire project.  I simply couldn't do it with the machine.  It was like wrestling an octopus.  Too much movement, stiffness, and frustration.

So, I used my Wonder Clips which were waaaaaay too small for this and put the binding on.

Then I sat on the floor with it in my lap, because that's the only way I can do a binding, and had quite a hard time with the pleather side.  The fleece side was a breeze, so I saved that for last.  But my finger and thumb are pretty sore from that fabulous event.

Now I have the happiest feet ever.  And I can sit on it and have my legs still on it, so that's even better.

I might even pull it out and take a nap on it!

Because basically, I made a yoga mat!!

I'm also happy that it's flexible enough to fold up and stick in my barn bag and I can fold it in such a way that the "dirty" side will never touch the clean side!

Last week, I was featured on:

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Quick and Easy Potluck Skewers

We have a clinic coming up at the barn where I ride.  I've learned that with a clinic comes a potluck.  I haven't quite figured out the connection because it's odd to think that each person is getting a private lesson but then they all hang around and watch each other and need lunch.  I don't know of many lessons you can take in that kind of forum.

But, it's just another example of how riding is nothing like any activity I've ever done

I've made these quick and easy potluck skewers a few times and they always disappear immediately.

You only need 3 ingredients:

a large stick of pepperoni
a block of cheese
a can of pineapple chunks

I used 8 inch skewers for these, which are shorter than the typical skewer you get for grilling.

I've found that jack cheese works well for skewering.  The cheddars crumble and don't hold up.

One of the reasons I really like this is because they are easy to grab and hold while not getting your dirty barn fingers on the food.  Plus, they are wood, so if they get dropped on the ground, they break down, unlike plastic silverware.

This makes about 20 skewers which is just right for our small gathering.  You could easily add other things to the skewer and use longer skewers to make more of a variety.  I tried using plain Monterey Jack cheese as well as pepper jack and both held up well.

Take these to your next cookout, tailgate party or potluck.  They make up well the day before and don't get soggy overnight.  They aren't really messy so there isn't much to worry about when transporting them.  They don't take up a lot of space but they can feed a lot of people.  They don't require any spoons or other utensils that you might lose in the crowd!

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pottery Barn Rainbow Costume Hack

This costume was featured on:
A friend of mine emailed me this picture and asked if I thought I could make it.  I'm pretty sure it was meant to look like the Pottery Barn version I kept finding on the internet.

The hardest part was deciding if I wanted to use fleece and stuff the arcs of the rainbow, or use felt and let it stand up on its own.

After a texting discussion with my sister, I decided felt was the way to go. And she pointed out something that made my life 100 times easier.  Those arcs are all just sewn on top of each other, rather than sewing curved seams.  The seams were what I was worried about, so once I realized I could do it without curved seams, life got easier!

Not having a 2 year old at home, I wasn't sure how wide I would need to make the red arc, so I bought waaaaaaay too much felt.  I knew it needed to be off the bolt because the precut pieces are too small, but I over estimated by a.lot.

When I got to her house, I decided 28 inches wide would stand out in a cute way from her body and I did 18 inches from the top of her neck down.

Next, I cut each arc of the rainbow for one piece.  I should have cut both the front and back at the same time, but I wasn't sure if the lengths would be right and I didn't want to waste the felt.  It would have been a time saver, because I had to keep rethreading the top thread.

I had planned to be all geometry teacher-like and get a string and do a proper arc, but we all know that's just not how I sew. I winged it, in case that's not clear.

Starting with the orange onto the red, I zigzagged in the color that would be on top for each one.  I didn't change the  bobbin thread because that didn't show through.

In the original picture, the front shows the arm sticking out the front in the yellow arc.  I didn't like the look of that, I wasn't really sure how I was going to pull that off and I kind of thought she might freak out of her hands were sort of free but really trapped in front of her.

I thought the easiest thing would be to make two little straps so it would hang like a sandwich board.  Her head could go in easily and her arms would be free.

And then when she had it on, I got the idea to zigzag from from the bottom up about 12 inches so she had plenty of arm room but it stayed together.

The only white felt I could find was glittery, which I actually thought might be fun for clouds.  It wasn't especially thick, so I doubled the layers because it would have looked cheap to see the rainbow through the clouds.

I freehanded the clouds, in case you can't tell that, either.  And zigzagged the edges of those too.  Until this project, I don't think I've ever zigzagged around something for it to be seen.  I kind of liked it!

And after a major meltdown because I tried to get her to put it on, we finally coaxed her into putting i on and she was thrilled.  It ended up more like a cute dress than I was expecting.  The clouds stick out a little on the sides, so it ended up almost looking like an A line dress when she had it on.

And we found out what a cute chair cover it makes when she's finished!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

An Apple A Day

It's October in New England.  If I'm not canning Concord grape jelly or tomato sauce then I must be making and canning applesauce.

We go to the same place every year about an hour from here and pick our own apples.  People usually go and get like a bag of apples.

We get a wagonload.  K-ster has one of those foldable canvas wagons and we put about 5 bags and almost fill each one.  Last year, we got over 100 pounds but this year, I think we got less.  A lot of the apples were small this year, so it seemed like we picked a ton but it wasn't quite as much.

I've spent a lot of time doing this:

If the weather cooperates, I do most of it outside, which is great because I can make all the mess I want and not get annoyed with myself!  When I can applesauce, I usually borrow my mother's crockpot and I use mine plus I make it on the stovetop.  If I get it all going at once, I can can a good amount of jars at the same time.

Last year, we bought this large pot and the outdoor burner for our yearly family clambake, but it works just as well for water bath canning.

It's a 30 quart pot which won't even fit on my stovetop, so outside is the only option.  It takes a while to boil the water but once it's going, it's fantastic.  I love the inner basket because I can just pull it out and set it on the patio and then remove the jars without having to reach into steam.

This year, I have the dehydrator and apple rings were one of the main reasons I wanted to buy it.  I didn't realize just how many apples that would eat up!  This isn't even full and I used a lot of apples.  

Next year, I will pick more just for this purpose.  K-ster really likes dried apples but I couldn't sacrifice too many!  Plus, I haven't done it before, so I don't know how long they will stay good once they are dried.  I'd hate to do a lot and leave them for a while only to find they grew mold!

I also made pie filling, but I don't can it.  I have a real fear of canning, so I only use recipes that are USDA approved and the pie filling recipe calls for something I don't want to use.  I can't remember what, it but it's something unnatural.  I see a lot of people all over the interwebs canning all sorts of filling their own way but it freaks me out.

I freeze mine instead.  I don't make a lot of pies but it is nice in the middle of winter to remember that I have some frozen pie filling and I can whip up a pie!

It's a lot of work to pick the apples and then do all of this canning.  Since they are not my apple trees, I have no idea what pesticides are on them, but I rationalize it with at least they are fairly local and I picked them so I know when they were picked and they weren't sprayed with the stuff that grocery stores use to keep them ripe forever.

There's really no way to win this healthy eating game.  It's all a series of rationalizations, I think.  I'm willing to make the effort if some of the specifically organic and safe foods I grow can balance the freaky fast food chemicals we sometimes enjoy!

Also, this Thursday, 10.15.15, I 'm hosting a Pampered Chef show on my facebook page all day.  There will be questions to answer throughout the day to earn points and then a big trivia game from 7pm-7:30pm.  The person who earns the most points throughout the day will get to pick $35 in Pampered Chef items!  You don't have to be local, through the wonders of the internet!  Sign up for the event here:

Linking up here: 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My New Arrangement

A creature of habit, I loathe change more than anything.  In the past 8 years, I've had 4 different principals and I've been in 2 schools.  This is way more change than I like to deal with!

I'm even at a different grade level now than I was 3 years ago.

With that most recent change came a change in my classroom setup.

I was planning to be an elementary school teacher, as indicated on my diploma, so I was very well trained in the Romper Room style of the elementary classroom.  When I began teaching, I was at a middle school and the sort of classroom layout I always had in mind wasn't really going to work with teenagers.  They just wouldn't get excited about a reading nook or carpet time.

I was in the middle school for so long that when I actually changed to 4th and 5gh grade a few years ago, I forgot how to set up my room.  A friend of mine kept telling me I'd get a carpet and I was like "no way, gross, yuck, I'm not sitting with all of them on the floor!!".

And yet, here I am 3 years in and while I don't have a carpet, I do have individual mats for them to use and this year, a new layout in the classroom.  I don't have to sit with them on the floor because I found the perfect size stool for me to sit just above them but not be towering over them so as to scare them.

I'm plenty scary even when I'm sitting.

To many, it probably still looks like sterile classroom, but it's not.  Behind the bookcase that is facing you, with the lovely moving company boxes still in it, the mats mostly fit when they go to sit on them.  I sit against that colored wall by the American flag, where there's a calendar that you can't see.  A lot more learning goes on right there than in the chairs you see in front of you!  There's something about sitting on the floor and being able to turn to someone to practice a new phrase.

But, eventually the natives get restless and back to chairs we go.

My biggest concern was traffic flow.  My room is long but narrow.  I was afraid that the bookcase sticking out like that was going to cause a traffic jam from the mats back to the tables, but it all seems to flow pretty well.

I started something new this year.  As each class comes in, they have a paper they have to complete and then they usually have directions to do something on my class website.  This has  been my method since the beginning.  However, this year, I select a few students in each class every day to skip the work and choose to read from the vast selection of books and magazines that I have in French or English.  It's only 10 minutes and I rotate the students through their roster, so it's  not even once a month that each student gets to read, but they seem to like it.

For the first two years I was at this school, I had all these books out and no time for students to actually enjoy them.  When I was at the middle school, I saw them more often, so I could have a day where they did 15 minutes of DROP EVERYTHING AND READ and I felt very justified in having those books.

At the elementary school, not having the time for them to explore the books made me feel like I was just taunting them.  I'd see kids sometimes linger near a bookcase or look at a book when they thought I couldn't see them and it made me crazy.  I tried letting everyone read one day but that was just pandemonium as I sent them all to get books.  24 kids trying to get books at the same time is a very scary activity!

Dividing it up  like this works pretty well for me.  It gives kids something to look forward to if they are curious and like to read.  For those who find reading torturous and boring, it's only 10 minutes and it's only every so often and tell them I am certain they will survive.

And they get to go sit behind that bookcase on mats in the "reading area" and they love that.  They think they are hiding but I peek in to see what they are doing.  The first time they get to read, there's always someone asking for the "English books please".  I tell them there are books in English, French and both, but they are scattered all over and they will just have to get a few books and see what they think.  I have no expectation that they will actually read the books from cover to cover, whether in English or French.  But I expect that there will be pictures that catch their attention and new words they can figure out.

And some actual independent learning might go on!

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