26 February 2011

Is this a joke?

Seriously, Winter?

2 days of snow, plus the following day or so of nasty icy roads, is seriously cramping my style. Don't get me wrong, I loved having 2 hour delays at school. But the crazy slippery drives to school were nuts. And having to come home straight after school wasn't my favorite, either. Do not go to the Y, do not go to the volleyball game, do not go to the store and stare longingly at baking supplies. Again, I ask, "Seriously, Winter? It's dang near March, for the love."

By Thursday evening, I was going a bit stir crazy in the house. I did a Jillian Michaels workout video, I did the dishes, I did my laundry. I ate pancakes. I watched some shows on the Food Network. I chatted with the roommates that I rarely get to see. I put on my roommates boots and ran outside to measure the snow that had fallen.

9 cm. Or nearly 3 inches, for those of you non-metric folks.

And then I couldn't take it anymore, so I did this:

Yes, that is two sheets nailed over the doorway. Desperate times...
Erin's birthday is next week, and I've got big plans for her birthday desserts. I had to create an area where she couldn't see what I was working on, since Winter has decided to not let us leave the house.

22 February 2011

21 February 2011

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

I made these bad boys for Valentine's Day, using this recipe. For the most part, they worked out. The cupcake recipe called for sugar to be boiled in water, cooled, added to eggs, and then incorporated into the dry ingredients. I ended up with super liquidy batter. Not liquidy like cupcake batter is supposed to be, but liquidy like chocolate milk is supposed to be. I put them in the oven anyway, hoping that they didn't evaporate. 

They looked normal when they came out of the oven, so I filled and frosted them. They were supposed to chill for 15 minutes before the white frosting, so I took a 2-hour nap on the couch.

To be honest, I was looking forward to all the cool ideas to write on them. I whipped up my frosting, and put it in my piping bag (I love any recipe that requires me to use a piping bag) and went to town. 

I Cakewrecked these, so I scraped the icing off and tried again.

Oops... Cakewrecked for sure. (This was going to be three cupcakes that spelled out "I love you", but the "I" was so goofy I tried to change it into those squiggly Hostess lines. Not so much.)

Another Cakewreck. Misspelled. 

I finally got four of them that I was somewhat happy with to give to my Main Squeeze for Valentine's Day. Relief, finally....

Until I turned around and realized the mess this recipe had created. 

I would have had a few less dishes, except my first ganache never got glossy and smooth, so I tried to heat it over a double boiler, and then gave up and made a new batch.

Oh, and the frying pans. I'm not trying some sort of Richard Blais-Top Chef-avant garde method of frying cupcakes. We had that new pretty stove installed, but the bottom drawer didn't have runners, so it would just drop to the floor if you tried to use it. Those frying pans lived on the counter until the drawer got fixed. 

All in all, I would probably make these cupcakes again. I think I need more practice with my frosting writing. I'm pretty sure I have the bakery equivalent of serial killer handwriting.
See? Creepiest Valentine's cupcakes ever. If someone gave me these, I would think they spend a lot of time hanging out in the bushes outside of my house. 

13 February 2011

Sticker Shock

At some point in my first year of teaching, I acquired three sheets of these stickers. I wasn't sure when I would ever use them, as I didn't think high schoolers would be motivated by a sticker reward. At the end of every school year, I pack everything up in my classroom, and every summer I think about throwing these stickers away. (However, I have an issue with throwing away anything that may have some future purpose.) So I held on to them, and this semester, I'm glad that I did.

This year has been the hardest year of my teaching career, for a lot of reasons. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a training by Lee Meadows in January, and I used what I learned there to completely change my teaching style. I now use a day-to-day inquiry format, where kids work in groups to gather evidence to answer a specific question of the day, which leads them to be able to answer a larger question for the unit. It's only been 2 weeks, but I've already decided I'm never going back to traditional teaching. The new format has alleviated a lot of the issues I had first semester. More importantly, students who were struggling last semester are doing beautiful work this semester. They are engaged in class, and are actually learning. 

I've had one student who I've struggled with all year. He's super smart, but rarely demonstrates it. He carries a backpack all day, but never opens it in class. Doesn't use a pen or pencil, or paper. Because he isn't doing any work, he gets bored easily, which means he starts distracting other kids, who were just barely on task anyway. This semester, I put him in a group with kids he can't distract, and far from his friends. For the past two weeks, he and his group have been doing amazing work. Last week, they finished a little bit early, and the wingnut made a joke that he thinks they deserve a sticker. Because I was happy that they were learning, I dug out these sticker sheets, and put one on each students notebook. The jubilation was intense. I've never seen a 16-year-old get so excited over a goofy "Whale of a Job!" sticker. The excitement rippled through the room, and since then, everyone has been asking about stickers. 

Earlier this week, some kids were trying to convince the wingnut that stickers weren't that cool. His argument was this: "You know how it feels when you put something in the microwave, and then walk away to do something else, and come back right as the timer goes off? That's what getting a sticker feels like." I was a bit puzzled by the argument, but every kid in the room just got quiet and went, "Oohh". They were convinced. Guess I need to go buy more stickers...