Slice of Life #5- Library Card

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As an avid reader I am embarrassed to admit this: I have not had a library card since I was  a little kid.  Ok, I haven’t had a library card for my local library.  I have a grad school library card (for e-access) and I have a library card for the community college library at school.  However, I have not had a regular old town/county library card in many, many years.

This weekend I decided to change that.  The town I grew up in has its own library system, independent of the county system, so when I moved here I never made it to the library.  My to-be-read pile, both physical and virtual, is huge an ever-growing so I didn’t need the card.  However, I’ve started to listening to audiobooks on my commute, in place of the news, and I burned through all of last summer’s free offerings.  I also used up my Audible credits.  When I realized I was running out of books to listen to I decided it was time to get a library card so that I could borrow books through Overdrive.

Saturday morning I headed over the library.  (The main branch is in the next town over). I walked in and headed to the circulation desk.  Imagine my surprise when a former student was behind the desk!  She’s 22 now (eek!) and I had her when I taught 6th grade.  I was definitely mortified, as she probably wondered why her voracious reader English teacher did not already have a library card, but we had a great conversation.  I love seeing former students who have grown into wonderful adults….even when it makes me feel old.

I walked out of the library a few minutes later with my new library card.  I’ve already borrowed my first audiobook (American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers) and I’ve jumped on the holds list for a few others.  I’m thrilled to be a card-carrying member of the library again!

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Slice of Life #4

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Today I went to Target for the first time in months.  I tend to avoid Target for two reasons: it’s out of the way and I never leave without spending at least $80.  Has anyone figured out why that happens?  No matter what I do, no matter why I go there, I walk out $80 poorer.  Today was no different of course.  The good news is I got some great deals and I pretty much finished my food shopping for the week.

While I was browsing the aisles I spied some Irish soda bread.  I’m a big fan of Irish soda bread, but only the homemade kind.  Real Irish soda bread, in my experience, is moist and cake-like.  Store-bought Irish soda bread always seems to be dry and gross.  I didn’t want to buy the prepackaged bread but it did inspire me to make my own Irish soda bread today.  I quickly pulled up my favorite recipe and skimmed the ingredients list.  I had most of the ingredients at home and only needed to grab raisins and buttermilk at Target.

I finished my shopping and, of course, the final bill was $82.  It’s like some type of witchcraft!  But once I was home and all the groceries were put away I got to work.  I mixed the dry ingredients and set up the wet ingredients.  The oven was preheated and once the ingredients were mixed together I put the batter in the cake pan and set the oven time for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes I stuck a knife in the center of the loaf and it definitely was not done.  I added 15 minutes to the timer and checked again when the buzzer went off.  Still not done!  15 more minutes added.  Finally, when the buzzer went off and I ran a knife through the center of the loaf it was done!

Now I have a huge loaf of Irish soda bread for breakfasts this week.  I already snuck a piece, warmed it up in the toaster oven, and devoured it.  Delicious, as always!

Slice of Life #3- Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

Today I had to run a lot of errands after school.  Once I packed up I headed out to pick up the dogs.  Luckily, they went to doggy daycare today so I knew they would be very tired!  By 4pm we were on the road to Agway, the feed store about 20 miles south of my house.  Agway is the only local store that carries the dog food I am currently feeding my two guys and Navan was completely out of puppy food this morning.  Thus, I had no choice.

Once I got to Agway I grabbed the biggest bag of Victor puppy food and headed towards the register.  Then I remembered that Chris had asked me to check for parsnips in the garden section.  He’s starting his seeds indoors and this year he’s added garlic (which is already sprouting in the bed outside) and a few more new vegetables.  However, we haven’t been able to find parsnip seeds anywhere.  Luckily, the seeds were near the register and parsnips were readily available.  I grabbed a package, paid, and sent Chris a text saying I got the seeds.  He responded once I got in the car and asked if they had seed potatoes yet.  I turned around and headed back inside.  This time, I realized I could hear chicks in the chick house near the front door.  That’s definitely a sign that it’s almost spring!  I quickly grabbed a set of purple seed potatoes (why not!) and paid again.

Once I grabbed what I needed at Agway it was time to steer the car towards the next county over so that I could go to the Barkery, a specialty pet store that carries the cat food I needed to pick up.  Because it was almost rush hour I decided to ask the Waze app to skip 195 (traffic city) and take the back roads.  That was a great choice!  I got to take a 25 minute drive through Chesterfield and Robbinsville, past farms and field, around all of the traffic.

When I got to Hamilton the sun was beginning to set and the wind was picking up.  I left the dogs in the car and ran into the store.  It got cold here today so I wasn’t worried about leaving them in the car for five minutes. In the store, I met a 10-week old boxer puppy, got a free sample of a new raw cat food, and picked up everything I needed.  As I was making my way to the register I glanced out the front windows and saw snow!  More than snow, actually- it looked like a blizzard!  It was a complete white-out and I could not even see my car in the parking lot!

Within minutes it stopped and the sun came out again.  But now the ground and the trees were covered in sparkling snow.  Wasn’t it 70 degrees just the other day?

 

New Jersey- where you can experience all four seasons in a single week.  How insane is that?  The dogs were excited to see the dusting of snow, at least.  And it didn’t affect my commute home.  In fact, I don’t think it snowed anywhere besides Hamilton!  I saw no snow on my way home and there was not sign of snow at my house when I got home.  Weather is totally weird!

Slice of Life #2- Field Guide to NJ Species

Last week I tried a new assignment with my 9th graders and I’m so proud of how it turned out! Our current unit is called Literature and the Land and we are focusing on nature writing.  Specifically, we began by studying writers like Edward Abbey and John Muir and moved to writers who focus on New Jersey.  Right now the students are reading excerpts from John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens. I’ve also been sharing picture books like Coyote Moon, Finding Wild, and Faraway Fox.

It’s too cold to go outside most days so I wanted to come up with a way for my students to learn about species found in NJ without forcing them to freeze.  I’ve always loved field guides so I decided to challenge them to create a field guide to NJ species. I borrowed a bunch of field guides from the biology teacher to use as mentor texts and drew up the assignment.  Using resources like Conserve Wildlife NJ and the NJ Fish & Game site, the groups of students each chose three species to focus on.  They studied our field guide mentor texts and figured out what their pages would look like.

I wasn’t sure how this would turn out but I am so glad I did it anyway.  The kids blew me away with their research and designs!  There are a few changes I would make for next year but I definitely plan to do it again. It was a really fun way to bring science into my English class while helping students learn about the local environment.  The assignment helped them practice their research skills, concise writing, and photo licensing. Definitely a lot of fun while killing a bunch of birds with one stone.

If you are interested in trying this with your students you can check out my assignment sheet.  You could focus on your town, county, state, or region.  You could even encourage students to choose animals that they see in their own neighborhoods.

Slice of Life #1- Year 10!

Happy March! March means it’s Slice of Life time and this year is my 10th participating in the month-long writing challenge. Ten years! 

Today it was 70° and humid after school: not exactly March weather. My phone buzzed with a severe thunderstorm warning on the ride home. Is it summer? I wondered. 

My normal routine is to come home, feed the puppy, then take the dogs for a nice hike. Today I did not want to be caught out in the woods during a storm so I had to hustle. Poor Navan ate quickly and then we all jumped in the car. It was dark and the wind was picking up but I wanted to get a mile in, at the very least. To save time we headed to the county park a few blocks away. 

The good news was that the park was empty due to the weather. We parked and jumped on the closest trail. 


Two miles later the clouds were closing in and the wind was picking up, but the rain hadn’t started. The dogs were tired and that means I can get things done tonight. Plus, walking in the woods is relaxing. It’s my favorite part of each day. 

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