The Pumpkin Party

After my sister got married in the summer 1996, she and her husband began an annual tradition of hosting a family pumpkin carving contest, aka The Pumpkin Party. Over the years, the contest became larger and more elaborate. The rules became more specific. They introduced the use of a different required object each year that had to be incorporated into the design. It was always a lot of fun to see what everyone would create.  

After 8 years, they stopped hosting The Pumpkin Party. There were toddlers in the family now - far too many to be in a small space with the knives, power tools and other equipment that had become standard for our contests. For the next 8 years, we carved pumpkins on our own. Then this year, The Pumpkin Party returned!

Since Trevor had never attended one, it took awhile to explain the concept to him. He was particularly confused by what we meant by a required object. (This year, all pumpkins had to feature either a toothpick or a wooden skewer.) Once he understood the rules and the scoring, he sketched out a plan which involved three pumpkins.

At first, the rules stated that we would carve as a family group. This later changed when some families weren't able to attend, which opened up more carving space. Everyone else decided to carve as individuals, but we chose to stick with our group plan. Trevor and I headed out to the pumpkin patch with three specific shapes in mind.  

At home, we primed and painted our pumpkins.

No one is allowed to pierce their pumpkins until the official start time. On the word go, we began to carve. My beloved Fiskars Craft Drill came in handy.

We did some more painting.

We attached the required toothpicks. Then, it was time for a Sharpie.

Here's our entry: "Angry Squash."

Trevor was THRILLED with how they turned out. The judges, however, were not as impressed. We did not score well overall. I expected to get almost no points in the Carving category (since all we carved were the beaks and pig ears, plus drilling pupils and nostrils). I expected mid-range points for Name. I thought we'd score well for Creativity and for Use of Required Object, perhaps enough to make up for Carving. But alas, no. When the points were totaled, we weren't in the top half.

Top Honors (and a year's worth of bragging rights) went to my brother-in-law Brian. He carved the Gourd Foreman Grill. 

He had a smoky candle burning in the grill, which was a really cool feature. His win was well-deserved. 
Oh well!  There's always next year!


Curriculum Development

During my very first staff meeting as a 23-year old first year teacher back in 1995, my principal introduced me to the assembled group of teachers and asked, "Does anyone have any advice for Cindy?"  One co-worker blurted out: "Yeah, never volunteer for anything!  This job is enough work without doing any of the extra stuff."  Everyone laughed.

As it turned out, I followed his advice for only a couple of months before I started volunteering for extra stuff.  Some of the extra stuff was important but not very fun (serving on School Site Council, for example).  But every once in a while, I volunteered for something that turned out to be just as important but amazingly cool and totally fun.  Probably the best example was starring in an instructional video.  

When I made the instructional video, I'd already worked with the Lawrence Hall of Science as part of their curriculum development process.  The first time was in 1996.  LHS put the word out that they needed 5th grade teachers, four per school site, to test some new units for their Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) series.  One person would serve as School Lead.  I thought this sounded awesome, so I talked three of my coworkers into participating.  (Interestingly enough, one of the three was the coworker who'd told me not to volunteer for anything.  He took a bit more convincing than the others.)

As Lead, I was the go-between for LHS and the other three teachers.  I did scheduling, got the materials, and made sure all of us taught the investigations.  After we'd taught the unit, I gathered feedback from my coworkers and met with the LHS reps to go over our suggestions. It was a lot of work, but it was so much fun that it didn't seem like work.

Fast forward a few months.  I heard from LHS that they'd completed field testing and were ready to move on to the printing stage.  Would I be willing to allow a photographer into my room to take the pictures for the completed manual?  Yes, of course!  Permission slips went home.

On the big day, the crew from LHS showed up with massive amounts of photography equipment.  They also brought all the materials for the lessons, including about 5 coolers of dry ice.  The kids did investigations while the photographer snapped away.  It was pretty cool.  When the manual finally came out, they sent me a copy.  I couldn't wait to see it.  

Those aren't my students on the front cover.  They used models for the cover.  Then, on the next page ... my students!
Every other page or so has a picture of my kids.  

They were beyond excited to see themselves in the manual.
There are a dozen or so pictures in the manual.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed not to be in any of them.  I searched the background of all the pictures.  No sign of me.

But there's my name in the credits!

One final point of interest.  After all the field testing was done, LHS decided to issue this material as 6th-8th grade curricula instead of 4th-5th.  It seems that some of the field testers reported that it was too difficult for their upper elementary students.  Mine did very well with the material and I felt that, with proper scaffolding, it was a good fit for 5th grade.  I continued to teach the material to 5th graders for many years to come!


Three Kinds of Time

Sometimes I feel like there are three different kinds of time in my life: 1) Real Time; 2) Blog Time; and 3) Scrapbook Time.  Allow me to explain.  Back in June, I told you about Trevor's LEGO party.  His party was on Sunday, June 3.  That's Real Time.  I blogged about the party over the course of four days:

LEGO Cake - Monday, June 11
LEGO Party - Games and Activities (Part 1) - Tuesday, June 12
LEGO Party - Games and Activities (Part 2) - Wednesday, June 13

That's Blog Time.  Blog Time differs from Real Time by a week or two.  I write all of my posts at least two days before they run and usually closer to two weeks before they run.

There are several reasons for this.  The main reason is that a lot of what I do is for sites other than my own blog.  The various companies and individuals I design/write for have specific dates that my posts need to run.  I can't run a project I made for someone else on my own site before it runs elsewhere.  Another reason I blog ahead of time is so that I can write as many posts as I'm inspired to do when I'm in the mood to write, then feel no pressure to blog when I'm not feeling as inspired.  The final reason I write ahead of time is so that posts continue to run when I'm on vacation.  I'm not comfortable announcing to the world (via nothing on the blog for days on end) that we're away from home. 

But then there's Scrapbook Time.  I completed the layout about Trevor's LEGO party on Wednesday, October 17... more than 4 months after it happened.  Hence, Scrapbook Time. (I'm typing this on October 17 as well, but this post won't run until Monday, October 29. Another example of Blog Time.)  

I don't really care that Scrapbook Time is 4+ months after Real Time.  While I totally admire those people who have a party, print the pictures, scrap the layouts, and blog about it before the rest of us would have even cleaned up from the party (I'm looking at you, Julie Tucker-Wolek!), I have no problem with scrapping things well after they happened.  (More on that here, where I wrote about being "caught up.".)

Anyone else relate to Real Time vs. Blog Time vs. Scrapbook Time?


3rd Annual Fiskateers ORANGE Blog Hop

Welcome to the 3rd annual Fiskateers ORANGE Blog Hop!  This weekend we are celebrating Fiskars' signature color, ORANGE.  Almost everyone is familiar with Fiskars' famous orange-handled scissors, but Fiskars makes so many other wonderful products for crafting, sewing, gardening, and more.  Each stop along our Hop will feature different Fiskars' products with a big helping of ORANGE.

Cindy #4113   www.cindyderosier.com   *YOU ARE HERE*
Groovy Deb #2644   www.ifitsgroovy.blogspot.com
Jennifer Ashley #6361   www.asecretvintage.blogspot.com
Sue in CT #6150   www.sueinct.blogspot.com
Emily K #7021   http://emily.kincke.com
Pamela #8040   www.cottagebelow.com
BerylM #6388   www.berylmorgan.com
Marianne #6701   www.number1aunt.blogspot.com

When I thought about what to make for an ORANGE Blog Hop, my thoughts immediately went to, well, oranges!  

We have a very prolific orange tree in our backyard.  At any given time, there are ripe oranges hanging there ready to be eaten.  Consequently, I've tried a lot of recipes over the years using our beautiful oranges, including orange sorbet, orange sherbet, and cupcakes baked in an orange.

By far, the strangest recipe I've tried was for an orange bread made with a whole orange... including the peel.  It actually turned out to be really tasty!  It was so good that I decided to see if there were other recipes out there using a whole orange, including the peel.  After a quick search, I found several different cookie recipes.  I read through them, made some notes, and set out to make my own version.    

I grabbed an orange from the tree.  One quirk about our tree... the oranges range in size from small to gigantic for no apparent reason.  This orange was huge!  I couldn't fit my hands around it.  Check it out next to the baking powder container.
I cut the orange into chunks and put those in the blender.  

After a quick whirr, I had this: 
I measured out 1 1/2 cups of the blended liquid to use in my cookies and set the rest aside to make a glaze.  

Orange Cookies

                    1 whole orange, including peel             3 c. flour
                    1 c. shortening                                     1 tsp. baking soda
                    1 1/2 c. sugar                                      1 T. baking powder
                    1/2 c. milk                                          1/2 t. salt
                    2 tsp. vanilla extract                            1/2 c. powdered sugar

Begin by washing the orange.  Cut it into chunks, removing any seeds.  Do not remove the peel!  Put the orange chunks into a blender and process until smooth.  Measure out 1 1/2 c. orange puree and set aside. 

Combine shortening and sugar.  Mix until light.  Stir in milk, vanilla and orange puree.  Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Let dough sit while the oven preheats to 400° F.  Drop onto cookie sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Mix powdered sugar with a small amount of reserved orange puree to make a glaze.  Drizzle over the cookies.

I put some of the cookies on a plate to take to a potluck.  I set the rest aside and headed to the craftroom.  I got out 1/4 inch ribbon, some Fiskars stamps, a stamp block and black ink.  

I stamped the word friend across the length of the ribbon.

I tied the ribbon around the bag.  Then I made a quick tag with a Fiskars' thank you stamp, then added an orange flower and brad.  All ready to give to a special friend!

I hope this got you in an ORANGE mood!  Now hop along to the next stop, If It's Groovy


Family Movie Night

This week, Trevor had a Cub Scout assignment to make a family scrapbook.  We dumped out my big container of printed-but-never-scrapped pictures and he dug through them to pick a bunch for his scrapbook.  (I'll show you his completed scrapbook soon.)  While Trevor was focused on looking for pictures from his favorite vacation spots, I did some digging of my own.  I set aside a picture of Trevor at age 2, squatting beside our popcorn popper with a quizzical look on his face.  It was from our very first Family Movie Night, which was also the first time Trevor had tasted popcorn or seen it being made.  

As I've mentioned before, I am a HUGE fan of Young-Me-Now-Me layouts.  I absolutely love combining an older picture with a recent picture of the same person doing the same thing. So when our next Family Movie Night rolled around, I took a picture of Trevor, exactly 4 years later, next to the hot air popper.  He tried squatting and staring at the machine curiously just like in his 2-year old picture, but he kept cracking up and falling over.  So I settled for a picture of him just smiling.  

The day I picked up the newer print, Heather Landry posted a sketch that I knew would be perfect for my page.  Here's my layout:


And here's Heather's sketch:

I stayed pretty true to the sketch.  As you can tell, I was especially inspired by the gold scalloped border!  It went really well with the background paper I'd selected, a random piece that's been sitting in my stash for at least 10 years!  


Potato Leek Soup

There's nothing I love more on a cool fall evening than homemade soup and fresh-from-the-oven bread. Potato Leek Soup is one of my favorite soup recipes. I always prepared it with my 5th graders back in my teaching days. I don't think I EVER had a kid who didn't like it.

As is the case with most of the foods I made with my class, the recipe I developed makes a huge amount of servings (22). For a class of 32 kids, this was just the right amount for each student to have a small serving that didn't ruin their appetite for lunch. Here's my family-sized version that makes about 5 servings:

Start with 2 lbs. of potatoes and 3 leeks.

Peel the potatoes and chop then into small, even-sized pieces (the smaller they are, the faster they'll cook). Wash the leeks, remove the dark green portion, and slice the white and pale green part into rings.  

Heat one can (14.5 oz) of veggie broth in a saucepan. Add potatoes and leeks and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Turn off heat. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender - and I think everyone should- then you can use a food processor or blender, but you'll have to let the soup cool a bit first so you don't damage the appliance.) Stir in 1 cup half-and-half, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Spoon into bowls and eat as is, or top with crumbled bacon, grated cheese or both.


Here are some other soups you might enjoy!


My Film Debut

I've been stalking the Mythbusters website every single day to check their schedule to find out when our episode is going to air. They only post the schedule 1-2 weeks out. So far, our episode isn't scheduled. It's really hard waiting!  

Someone asked me the other day if I knew when my film debut would be, referring to the Mythbusters episode. Her question made me realize that I've never shared my ACTUAL film debut here on the blog. You see, back in 1998, I starred in an instructional video for the FOSS (Full Option Science System) Landforms module, produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS).

At the time, I was teaching 5th grade in Vallejo, CA, about 30 minutes from Berkeley, home of the Lawrence Hall of Science. I'd been involved with curriculum development with them in the past (more on that in a future post). They were looking for a school in which to film their instructional videos and ours was a perfect fit.  

After a fairly long process of forms, permission slips, and other legalities, it was time for filming. Filming took five days. Before each session, I met production assistants in the bathroom to get taped up with a wireless mic. Then we went over what I'd be teaching. The kids were coached in how to behave (don't stare at the camera, don't sharpen a pencil or make off-camera noise, and act normally).  

Neither Steve nor Trevor had ever watched the video, so I turned it on the other day. What a blast from the past! It was so fun seeing my 26-year-old self back in my classroom! I snapped a few pictures as we watched:

This next picture cracks me up, because you can see that the bulletin board behind me shows what we were ACTUALLY studying in science at the time (the Solar System) and not the Landforms module that we were pretending to be in the middle of during the filming. Don't get me wrong- I was actually teaching during the filming and the kids did all the proper procedures, assessments, etc. But we were in the middle of our Solar System unit when we dropped everything to do the filming.

On the third day of filming, I woke up with a 102 degree fever. I was absolutely miserable, but knew that The Show Must Go On. When the production assistants touched my skin to tape my wireless mic, they commented that I was burning up. Yeah, no kidding! Amazingly, looking back at the video, I can't tell that I was sick that day even though I remember it vividly.  

My favorite teaching tool, an overhead projector. I'm kind of sad that they aren't in many classrooms anymore.

Check out what's behind my head: stockings that the kids sewed. We filmed in December.

And here are the credits. My friend Marcia (who I thanked here on the blog on Teacher Appreciation Day) did Investigations 2 and 3 (I did 1, 4 and 5).

After the video was produced, LHS gave each of us a copy and invited us to a wonderful evening reception at their facility. They are high up in the Berkeley hills with a stunning view of the Bay. It was truly a fantastic evening.  

When I looked up the LHS FOSS kits to link them to this post, I found out that their instructional videos are now online. You can watch me here:

I'd recommend Investigation 5. Trevor and Steve both especially enjoyed that part. Trevor really wants to do something like this at home. Fortunately, I'm well-qualified to teach him how.  :)


First Day of First Grade

Here's my latest project for The Scrapping Stamper Design Team:

Here's the sketch I used:

I stamped directly on the page again. Seriously nerve-wracking! I didn't want to mess up the adorable alphabet patterned paper. I know that mess-ups are an opportunity for embellishment, but I wanted to keep this really simple and clean. Fortunately, I'm two-for-two of stamping directly on the page!


A Non-Traditional Fourth

We usually spend the 4th of July going to the downtown parade, celebrating with friends, and watching fireworks at night.  The pictures are full of nothing but red, white and blue.  This year, we spent the July 4th weekend at my inlaws' cabin at Bear Valley.  We wore red, white and blue, but the pictures are full of the greens and browns of nature.

I struggled for awhile with how to scrap them.  Traditional red, white and blue Independence Day supplies didn't really work with my pictures, so I went with the greens and browns that reflected the hiking, geocaching, fishing, beach play, and exploring that we did.  

But I did want to showcase the fact that it was Independence Day, so instead of focusing on the colors of the flag, I focused on the stars and stripes!  The background paper is striped.  I placed stars in a visual triangle - the first by the photo of the Bear Valley sign, two stars layered at the end of the title, and a banner of stars in the upper right corner.  

A non-traditional Fourth and a non-traditional layout to match!


Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I love baking for potlucks or events.  What I don't love is remembering that day that I need to bring something.  Or being invited to something last-minute and needing to whip up a treat. I end up digging through the pantry to see what ingredients I have enough of so that I don't need to run to the store.  Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often.

Recently, I've dedicated a section of my recipe file box to recipes that I can count on having all the ingredients on hand.  That way, when a baking emergency pops up, I can pull one of those recipes without worrying if I have enough of whatever.  When I saw this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars at One Ordinary Day, I knew they'd be perfect for those last-minute baking situations.     

The recipe starts with a yellow cake mix, which I always keep in the pantry.  The only other ingredients are eggs, brown sugar, butter, and chocolate chips.  I can count on those always being on hand. 

Another great thing about this recipe is that the batter comes together very quickly and only takes 20 minutes to bake.  Since they are bar cookies, there's no time spent shaping, dropping, or rolling cookies.  Just bake, cool, and slice.  

I added walnuts to the recipe since I had them on hand.  I imagine just about any nut, candy, or chip would be a fun addition to this recipe.   
Verdict: tasty, easy, and fast.  A definite keeper for my recipe file. 


Trouble's Birthday Party

We have a rabbit named Trouble, who we adopted in June 2011. He turned two on Monday.
Last year, Trevor and I had great fun planning Trouble's first birthday party. We made cards, wrapped gifts, and baked Bunny Biscuits (for him) and carrot cupcakes (for us). It was a really fun party. This year, we planned an equally fun party. We made cards and wrapped gifts.  

We made Bunny Trail Mix - dried strawberries, dried bananas, dried apricot, raisins, Shredded Wheat, rolled oats, and Cheerios.  

When it was time for the party, we took the Guest of Honor to the backyard. He noticed the Bunny Trail Mix right away. (Note that we only gave him what you see on the plate. Even that was more of a treat than he should have in a day. Good thing birthdays are just once a year!)


Then he retreated under Trevor's chair. 

Trevor took the opportunity to eat all of the leftover Bunny Trail Mix.

Next, Trevor showed Trouble his cards.  Here's the one he made.

And here's what I made: 
Trouble sniffed his first present, but didn't attempt to open it.  

Trevor opened it for him. It was a new paper towel tube (Trouble loves to play with tubes) with a portrait Trevor drew rolled up inside!

Trouble tossed the second gift around a bit.

It's a harness so that we can eventually teach Trouble to do rabbit dressage. (Not for competition- just for fun in the backyard. There are some ADORABLE videos on YouTube, by the way...) 

Trouble's harness fit well, but he HATED it. This was the only picture where he wasn't actively trying to remove it. Not surprising, considering last year's Wonder Bunny Halloween costume.  

"Phew!  Got that awful harness off!"

Trevor spent the rest of the party reading books to Trouble. They both really enjoy reading together. 
Happy 2nd birthday, Trouble!