Slice of Life #25

When my fiance’ said he needed to get gas and run to the drugstore after work, I volunteered to go with him.  But because he was working late, that meant I couldn’t start dinner until almost 8pm.  Because I love American Idol and Lost, that was not going to work for me.

“We can pick up dinner”, my fiance’ texted me.

Hmmm, I thought.  That would be easier.  But where could we pick up dinner cheap and easy?  As I went through the list of local restaurants in my head, I was stumped.  Then I remembered- Ibby’s Falafel! We had gone once, months ago, and loved it.  For some reason, we hadn’t made it back.  As I remembered the falafal and sandwiches we had last time, my mouth began to water.  Definitely.  It was a perfect night for Ibby’s.

Slice of Life #24

To Do List at School Today:

  1. Pick up four historical fiction picture books from the school media center for reading lesson on taking notes with FQR sheets.
  2. Run off preposition phrases packets.
  3. Find do-now.
  4. Conference with team about the plans for the day.
  5. Teach- homeroom, grammar, review research paper due tomorrow, reading lesson, independent reading, writing lesson about attacking NKASK explanatory prompts with the better-answer hamburger.
  6. Lunch.  Laugh, gossip, gripe with colleagues.
  7. Pick up Scholastic order.
  8. Repeat #5 for afternoon class.
  9. Prep- finish memoir rubric, run-off poetry packets, type of list of books needed for Holocaust/WWII book clubs, check mail.
  10. Pick up students.
  11. Review HW board, remind students to clear desks and keep chairs down for desk cleaning after school, make list of volunteers for the TV studio.
  12. Go home and relax!

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

A few years ago I picked up the first book in a new series, called Sloppy Firsts: A Novel. Within the first few pages I had completely fallen in love with Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie. And the fact that the story was set only a few minutes from my house on the Jersey Shore only made it better!  I immediately devoured the rest of the books and waited impatiently for the remaining books in the series.  When I came home a few days ago and found the final book in the series, Perfect Fifths: A Novel, on my doorstep, I was ecstatic! At first, I couldn’t bring myself to read it; the sooner I read it, the sooner it would be over. But I finally started it on my train ride home on Saturday, between Penn Station and my hometown station in the suburbs of Jersey (I thought it was appropriate, given the NYC and NJ settings of the books).

In a marathon reading session, I finished it.  And loved it.

Fans of McCafferty’s series will love this concluding chapter in the lives of Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie.  Without spoiling it for anyone, I will say that the ending will leave fans very satisfied.  Taking place over only a few hours and told through both Jessica and Marcus’s eyes, this is a phenomenal story of love, friendship, and Barry Manilow.  Yes, I said Barry Manilow.  (I’ve had a playlist of his greatest hits on shuffle in my head since finishing the book!)

I will admit that I was at first unsure- really, hearing the story in Marcus’s voice?  I love Jessica and her voice rings so true.  That’s probably because I sometimes think Jessica is me!  But my fears were immediately assuaged when I read the first part from Marcus.  Actually, I believe my immediate reaction was, “Why has he not gotten his say this whole time?  I love him!”  The man is just dreamy.  I can’t say any more than that.

Like I said before, the story takes place over a few short hours, but boy does McCafferty make use of those hours!  We get to see both sides of the conversations between Jessica and Marcus, which is awesome.  I was cringing with embarrassment for them at some points while cheering them on at other points.  And the senryu’s written between them are just amazing.  My heart was pitter-pattering as I read them.  I still have goosebumps, which were only exacerbated by the ending.

Perfect Fifths: A Novel will be out on April 14th and you need to preorder it now.  It’s that good!  And on April 14th I will definitely be at the Princeton Barnes and Noble to see Megan McCafferty at her signing!


*this is a YA novel, and usually marketed as adult.  Not for middle grade readers!

Slice of Life #23

Tonight I made one of my favorite recipes for dinner and decided it would make a great slice of life.  

Gingery Marinated Beef Cubes Recipe


  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (including tops) .
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless beef sirloin or top round beef or boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes .
  • 1/4 c soy sauce .
  • 5 tbsps oil .
  • 1 tsp vinegar .
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds .
  • lettuce leaves (optional) .
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced .
  • 1 tsp sugar .
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne .
  • 2-3 tsps minced fresh ginger

  • Toast sesame seeds in a small frying pan over med-heat/flame, shaking pan frequently until golden (about 3 mins).
  • In a bowl, onions, sugar, garlic, mix sesame seeds, ginger, vinegar, soy, cayenne & 1 T. of the oil.
  • Add meat, stirring to coat.
  • Cover up & put in the fridge for at least 2 hrs or until the next day.
  • Heat 2 more T of the oil in a wide frying pan over high heat.
  • Add meat, half at a time, stirring, and cook until done to your liking when cut (about 2 mins for medium doneness).
  • Repeat with remaining meat, adding remaining oil as needed.
  • Serve with rice and steamed broccoli for a delicious meal!

Teacher’s College Saturday Reunion Notes

On Saturday, I attended the Teacher’s College Reading & Writing project Saturday Reunion.  I went to three sessions, met Richard Peck, saw Sarah Weeks, Avi, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Richard Peck perform reader’s theater, and had an amazing time.  I promised I would upload my notes, and here they are!  I’m still decompressing and reflecting on my own thoughts, but hopefully my notes will help some of you who weren’t able to attend (or who were there, but in different sessions!)


Session 1: Mentor Texts Can Teach Students at Every Stage of the Writing Process: Secure the Help of a Pro to Inspire & Instruct Students as They Rehearse, Draft, Revise, and Edit


Session II: Responding to Ten of the Most Common Issues in Student Writing (Carl Anderson)


Session III: It’s Not Just the Facts: Note-Taking & Idea-Making in the Content Areas   


*I’m using a new document server, Issuu, so let me know if there are any problems.  (Scribd kept trying to convert my handwriting to typing!)

Slice of Life #22

“No!  No! Get the rebound!”  I screamed at the TV as the final seconds counted down.  Three separate NCAA games were ending and I was on the losing end of all three.  My almost-perfect bracket was was about to go up in flames.

Tossing aside my laptop, I moved closer to the screen so I would be able to read the scores in the upper left-hand corner (I have the worst eyesight).  As the seconds ticked down, my heart beat in time with the constant lead changes.  Up and down, the seconds ticked by.  Timeout, out of bounds, whistles, squeaks, passes, shots, misses, fouls….I couldn’t handle it!  

Finally, all three games ended.  My bracket is still intact (minus Marquette), and now I have to wait until Thursday for more basketball!  I love March Madness!!!

Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project Saturday Reunion

I spent today at the Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project Saturday Reunion.  I took pages and pages of notes, at 3 different sessions.  I also met Richard Peck, who was outstanding (and looks just like a lot of his characters!)  The closing was presented by ART- Authors Readers Theater and they were phenomenal.  Pam Munoz Ryan, Sarah Weeks, Avi, and Richard Peck.  Unbelievable!  (Check out a sample of their work here).

I’m still processing everything, but expect a reflection and some uploaded notes tomorrow!  It was a great day, even if I did miss seeing a bunch of blogger friends, like Stacey from Two Writing Teachers.  Next time!

Slice of Life #21

“Penn Station!”, we called to the cabbie as we dragged ourselves and our teacher bags into the back of the yellow cab. Exhausted from a day of amazing workshops at TC, my colleague, Karen, and I began deconstructing the day as the cab pulled away from the curb. Suddenly, we were pushed back into our seats by the force of gravity, as our cab seemed to have gone from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds. In traffic. Thus began a white-knuckle adventure of swerving, running red lights, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, and hitting another cab!

We made it from 121st and Riverside Drive to Penn Station in under 15 minutes. As we raced down the narrow, crowded streets, gripping the door handles, Karen kept calling out, “We can slow down a little. Oh my god….oh my god!”

“We don’t need to slow down,” the cabbie retorted, in an unidentifiable accent. “I go slow enough. I give the elderly time to cross the street. If it’s a youngster, that’s a different story. “

“O…k….” we replied. Glancing at each other, Karen and I locked eyes. Is he out of his mind? we seemed to be asking each other silently.

Outside, the streets flew by in a blur.  83rd. 81st. 75th.  As I watched the street signs disappear behind us, our driver suddenly jerked the steering wheel to the right, to avoid a van in the midst of turning left.  I swear we were a hair’s breath from bumper of that econo-van when it started to back up!  My life started to flash before my eyes as Karen and I both screamed.  

“Did you see that guy?  What is wrong with him?  As soon as he turns he starts to back up!” Our cabbie ranted.

Neither of us had the guts to tell him our light was red.  And he had run it.  

As we pulled up to Penn Station (after crossing 3 lanes of traffic, and almost causing 3 separate accidents), I swiped my credit card, signed the receipt, and jumped out.  A young woman quickly grabbed the cab and I almost warned her about the cabbie’s offensive, rather than defensive, driving techniques.  But he pulled away from the curb before she had even fully closed the door.

With my heart still racing, I walked downstairs and made my way to the NJTransit side of the station.  According to the monitor, there was a train at 3:07pm and 4:10pm.  Looking at my cell phone, I realized it was 3:06.  As I raced down to the platform, I made it just as the doors closed.

So maybe it was a good thing the driver drove like a man possessed!

Slice of Life #20

When I pulled up to my house today, I could see the edge of a yellow mailing up sticking up between the glass door and my front door.  Yes!  That meant I had a book!  Gathering my purse, lunch bag, school bag, and the Irish Soda Bread a student gave me this morning, I mentally ticked off the possibilities.  Could it be a review copy of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls? Or maybe something I don’t even know about yet?

When I opened the glass door, struggling to hit the remote control button on my keys that unlocks the house, the mailing envelope fell to the concrete of the porch.  I teetered on the edge of the porch as I juggled my school bags and tried to kick the package into the house.  I saw the return address, Random House, and couldn’t figure out what book it could be.  

Once I was in the house, I dropped my bags in the kitchen and went to retrieve the package from the front hall.  Hmm, a light package, so definitely a paperback, and maybe an ARC.  Tearing open the flap, I let out a little yelp of joy. Perfect Fifths: A Novel by Megan McCafferty! I love, love, love this series and have been waiting impatiently for the final novel in the series to come out. It’s not due out until April 14th, but I was holding a review copy in my hands.

It’s been about 6 hours since I came home and opened the package. I can’t bring myself to begin the book. The final book in a series is such a bittersweet moment- I can’t wait to find out what happens with Jessica and Marcus, but I also don’t want it to be over yet!

Slice of Life #19

As I logged onto my computer during prep and watched my homepage load, I saw that the scores for the first NCAA games were front and center on the page.  How did I forget that the first games tipped off at 12:30pm?!  And then I actually read the scores.  “Memphis is losing?!”

I watched the scores through the rest of prep and when the period ended there were still 3 minutes left in the game.  

As prep ended, I walked into my classroom.  I announced that if my students wanted to know how the games were shaping up, they needed to quiet down and start packing up.  Almost immediately, my children were as quiet as mice, looking at me expectantly.  As I read off the scores, there were sporadic cheers and groans.  Until I got to the Memphis game.  When I read out the score, one of my quietest students turned white as a ghost and yelled, “WHAT?!  I have them going all the way!”.

There was a moment of silence, and then my entire class burst out laughing.  As the first buses were called, we reloaded the scores on the computer over and over.  As the class and I bonded over our love of the game, I couldn’t help but laugh at their enthusiasm.  There were my boys, enthusiastically cheering for different teams.  And my remaining girls, who have no interest in basketball, were throwing in sporadic comments.  When the game switched to Purdue, one of my girls immediately yelled out, “Purdue!  That’s a kind of chicken!  I loooove chicken!”.  I immediately dissolved into hysterics as one of her male classmates slowly turned to her, with a serious face, and said, “I do not understand girls.”


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