Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trying a New Web Tool.

 I chose not to go to ISTE, but I can follow it on Twitter and learn some new tricks.  Here is a web tool called AnswerGarden.  I am going to try it in my classroom (although it just looks like an uglier Padlet, frankly)  It's easier to share on Blogger, though. 

AnswerGarden: What is your favorite project around your home? ...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Not at ISTE

Okay, when the invitation to apply to ISTE for this year came out back in November, I kind of had this moment of dread.  I just didn't want to fly all the way to Atlanta.  San Antonio just about killed me last year - plus, I was all excited about the possibility of teaching Summer School. 

Now, I am half way through Summer School, and the folks all left yesterday for ISTE, and I am watching Twitter and feeling mildly sorry for myself for not being there.  On the other hand, they met at the airport at noon yesterday and only landed a few hours ago, so yeah, getting there sounds like my own personal vision of hell.  But...all that excitement, all that new stuff to learn, being in the same state with my 3rd child and making sure he's okay.... (I do admit reason three is lame, and the umbilical cord was cut 16 years ago!).  Also, I always put off a certain kind of session, because there is so much to do - and now I wish I experienced and Ignite session.  I feel in need of some "passion igniting" right about now.

I come home from work earlier than I ever can during the regular school year, but I am about 10 times more exhausted.  I think it is because each day is like 2 and a half regular days worth of lesson planning and work.  I want to do so much with these kids, but there is only so much a human brain can get at a time.  I'll have to re-think some concepts next year - especially if I leave this open to 10th graders, again.  They really aren't ready for it, in general.  Not all of them, I have some super 10th graders in the morning session and a couple in the second session, but most of them need an essay writing class first - which is how we did it at my old school.

No gardening or even cleaning is getting done (by me, at least).  My husband did an incredible amount of laundry over the last few days.  He took the opportunity to clean out the son's room while he was gone.  I can't believe how many clothes that kid has - he got some from his brother, some from his cousins, some from me, and apparently, he hasn't had to do laundry for something like 3 months.  I am barely exaggerating, and yes, I know that is disgusting.  Oh my goodness.  Piles and piles of folding.  (I helped with that.).  He's coming home to a reduced wardrobe. 

Two weeks left and then I can do at least one project before the real school year starts! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Griddle Done!

I am so happy with how the cast iron turned out.  I had to spray the griddle three times with oven cleaner, but it looks great, now.  What a satisfying project. 

In the process, I have also discovered coconut oil.  I like it!  I bought it because my daughter wanted it for her hair, but it worked wonderfully for the cast iron.  I cooked eggs with it, and ham, and it didn't taste coconut-y at all.  Even though I bought it, it is nice to think that if I were so inclined, it is something that I could make from locally grown plants. 

I have two and a half weeks left in Summer School, and I have all these dreams of finishing my quilt and getting my house in order in what's left of summer.  The reality is that I really only have a couple of weeks left, and some of them are extra volunteer work days for technology in-services and SAT prep in-services.  So, maybe I can do part of one project.  I want to ride my horse (a project all on his own, since he's so skittish) and get a few blocks done on the quilt - but I really should do those big household projects that get put off to major breaks.  The other reality is that even though this Summer School class is a blast, the schedule is exhausting.  I am plum worn out, to be honest. I haven't figured out how to teach without making myself so worn out by the end of term that I need to sleep for 3 days.  

Part of the tiredness is that the youngest daughter came up with huge post auricular lymph nodes, which necessitated various doctor's trips and blood tests (I really don't like driving into town much  and worrying is tiring all on its own)  and resulted in a rather amusing incident where I asked to feel her spleen and we got the giggles.  It is probably Cat Scratch disease, but I am also wondering about leptospirosis, because of a family expedition to a waterfall. Both of those are scary, but she just seems mildly ill - like a cold, although if she runs, her abdomen hurts a bit (hence the spleen request).  Her running coach is probably irritated, but I am not risking a ruptured spleen for June conditioning. 

At least I got the cast iron project done.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Restoring Old Cast Iron

I was inspired to go out into the old cabin and find the cast iron we had.  It was in pretty bad shape, and I was wondering if I could fix it.  A bit of googling, and I decided I could try. 

I sprayed both pieces liberally with oven cleaner.  I do have a self-cleaning oven, but the last time I used the function, the oven box developed holes.  I don't want to make the problem worse, so I am stuck with the oven cleaner and trash bag method. 

This did work very well with the Griswold small frying pan which only had surface rust and not much gunk.  The skillet is much more gunky and I had to re-apply the oven cleaner several times.  I am considering a wire brush if I can't remove the gunk with a rag this evening. 

For the frying pan, I sprayed it twice and let it sit for about 24 hours.  I rinsed it off and then let it soak for about an hour in a vinegar and water solution and scrubbed it with Hawaiian salt to remove the rusty bits.  I heated the pan over the stove and then rubbed it with coconut oil and popped it in the oven.  I had two different directions open - one said 450 degree oven, and the other said use the smoke point of the oil.  I went with the later, which meant an oven at 350 for 45 minutes, with an additional couple of hours in the oven with the heating element off, but still warm. 

The pan came out black and the scrambled eggs I made for dinner didn't stick at all!  I am pretty proud of my self, and I hope I can have a similar success with the skillet. 

I did a little research on my pan, and I am figuring it was made somewhere between 1920 and 1950, which is pretty darned cool.  I haven't braved the thick coating of oven cleaner on the skillet to find its providence, but we'll see tonight. 

I feel guilty that I let them sit out there for 10 years (!) without a second thought.  I never had good results with cast iron - thing stuck to the pan and I didn't quite know how to clean them properly, but after research, I kind of got excited about the whole subject.  I do have a Dutch oven made of cast iron that I really like, but I have been having mixed results with taking care of it.  I live in a rain forest and there is a lot of environmental moisture, which complicates matters.  I am looking forward to reseasoning it with coconut oil rather than olive oil (it kind of stays tacky and sticky) and seeing if I have better results. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Just Call Me MIA...

Sorry, it's been a crazy few weeks.

Yes,  I am done with National Boards - at least until I find out I didn't pass (although I certainly hope I do!)  I took the test on May 30 - it was actually so much fun.  I quite enjoyed reading the new literature and writing about it.  By the 6th essay, I must admit I was pretty tired - and that last one is a piece of student work. You pick out errors and tell what you would do to correct them.  (I am allowed to say this - the directions are available online).  I was so tired and the sample had so MANY errors, I kind of got stuck on where to start.  I wasted 10 minutes of my 30 just looking at it and thinking, "Umm, all these errors are massive.  Where do I start?"  Other than that, though, I got done and felt a bit disappointed it was over. 

I am sure I qualify as a geek. 

I had a very short break, in which I tried to clean the house and organize things, and then I started Summer School.  We're only on day 4 of Summer School, and I am totally exhausted.  Teaching two 3 hour classes is much more strenuous than teaching four 80 minute classes and one 20 minute class.  I think it's the fact that lunch is only 30 minutes.  Also, I have 23 papers to grade every three days - detailed grading with a ton of descriptive feedback.  It's a lot of fun, but I am tired. 

Over the weekend, I walked 12 miles (my usual walk, two days in a row) and then we hiked to a waterfall and swam.  It was a very nice weekend. 

The hens started laying a new spot and now it's like Easter all over - they keep moving their laying spot.  My husband is getting there on the new chicken coop with the fancy laying boxes, though, so hopefully, this will be a problem of the past soon. 

I have looked at the greenhouse and thought about planting lettuce - isn't that lazy of me?  We have two coffee berries on one of the larger seedlings - which is exciting, but isn't going to make anyone even a cup of coffee.  Maybe a teaspoon of coffee. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Easily Pleased and Other Flaws

I work for an extremely generous organization.  They offered me two days off to work on National Boards.  I took them.  I usually don't take the offered days off because I would seriously rather be in my classroom, but I am finishing up on my last two entries and I needed this day. 

One of my co-workers told me to go to a coffee shop to do the work, but I wasn't that tempted to do laundry or clean the floors or go outside and weed.  I just want to finish this thing and upload it and forget about it until December, when they tell me the scores. I'm at the point that every time I re-read my entries, I find something I can do better, and I just have to finish it.  I have been doing every end-of-the-year checkout thing they send me right away and turning right back to National Boards.  (Except, well, I haven't graded the 75 essays - though I have been hounding the kids who didn't turn them in). I did spend 7 hours in intense concentration, finishing the penultimate entry.

But now I am distracted! At this moment, my son is pole vaulting at the State Finals.  I wish I were there.  I wish, at least, my daughter was there so she could text me.  I have no patience - I just want to know if he got a PR.  I would be happy with a PR - and so would he, which is more important. It won't get him even in the top six, but it would be cool. 

So, I am sitting here, distracted, needing to ho Ľomau and just get through this last stupid entry.  Thinking about my son.  Thinking about (everything else that needs to get done). 

I am also thinking that the sound a chicken makes after laying an egg is awesome.  It's like trumpets announcing a present when you have old hens who are sporadic layers.  Yay! An Egg! 

I am easily pleased.  I admit it. I am easily pleased; I forgive at the drop of the hat if someone is even remotely kind; I have the sense of humor of a 15 year old.  I consider all these things both flaws and blessings - blessings because I am pretty happy a lot of the time, and flaws because I look foolish a lot of the time, too. I mean, who has chickens for years and still gets ridiculously excited when she hears that egg-laying cackle? 

Okay, time to get back to work.  I really want to not have to do this tomorrow.  I want, on the contrary, to go to work tomorrow and scan my entries on the nice copier and upload the entries on their nice internet and then finish writing my final exams, grading papers, and studying for the test portion of National Boards.  Tests I like better than watch videotapes of me teaching over and over and over and over again and then writing about what I see.  Ugh.  I guessed I am not so easily pleased when it comes to myself.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Not farm progress - well, that, too, I guess.  My husband jerry-rigged the tractor to mow the lawn (we've been having a problem with the belts - the expletively expensive John Deere belts that break the first time out).  It looks great.  He still gives credit to Gibby Crazy Horse for keeping it mostly mowed and making it easier.  The new hens are completely integrated with their older flock mates with not much squabbling.  And I weeded a little, a very little, around the greenhouse and in the asparagus.  

No, the progress is on my bid for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. I think I am done with two of the four entries.  I feel like I dived deep into writing today during my Study Hall, during my preps, during my meeting (cancelled) period, and during lunch.  I barely looked up from my drafts or computer screen. I can't believe I've been in this room for 10 hours. Fortunately, there were two periods with kids in here, but other than that - yikes.  I can't even tell if what I wrote makes any sense.  I need to step away and not think about it for a few hours. 

In the middle of all that, I fielded tons of email and wrote one version of my final exam - two more versions to go! I corrected one paper - just 74 more to go!  I texted my husband to ask him to pull something out of the freezer because I am so fried, there is no way I can cook tonight.  I had the temerity to ask my walking buddy if she wanted to go for a walk, but she's getting the school newspaper out, so I went back and persevered with my National Board.  Good thing, because one part I thought was pretty solid -I re-read it and it was utter crap. Well, half utter crap, and half so-so.  Now it is all so-so.  Sigh.  I don't think any of it is perfect, but it's due, so it's done.  You know what I mean?