Friday, February 26, 2010

Teacher Appreciation: Cake Balls

Last week when I was teaching the Pre-K babes one of the other teachers raved about how much she loved the cake balls she got for her birthday. I said I had never had them, but I knew how to make them if she wanted me to make her some. With Teacher Appreciation week right around the corner I thought this would be a fine time to get my hands, um...cakey.

I figured I'd make as many as I could and then give some to each teacher in the school that had asked me to teach in their classroom more than once. As it turned out my kids' teachers also had used me as a substitute in their class so they got a double whammy.

I can't beat Bakerella's instructions so I think you should just follow her teachings. The only thing I did different is that I went with different flavorings.

I will fully and readily own that I need to work on my dipping technique. I used a double boiler to melt the chocolate and that was overkill. I got much better results with the microwave method melting just enough at a time. The other thing that helped was to keep the cake balls frozen so that they didn't crumble in the chocolate.
So while the cake balls themselves could use some practice, nothing can distract the recipient quicker than pretty packaging. I bought a boatload of clear (recyclable 4) clam shells at the local restaurant supply house and used them along with bright coordinating ribbon.
Happy Teacher Appreciation week! Thanks for repeatedly sharing your students with me this year.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two Dollars A Glass? Ta Loca!

First of all, Happy Valentine's Day to all of your out there in bloggerland! I hope that you are celebrating in whatever way makes you happy and squishy inside.

Today my boys took me to have breakfast at one of our local favorites, Casa Maria's. We took some pan dulce (sweet bread) to go and I'll be munching on that a bit later. My boys love horchata so they had that along with their meal. When we got the bill from breakfast we were surprised that the horchata cost $2 a 12 oz. glass for something is pretty cheap to make. My husband and I grew up on this stuff for precisely that reason. Since one of our fears is losing our culture food-wise I decided that I was going to pull out some old recipes, and along with the the guidance of my MIL, was going to make horchata.

After breakfast we stopped off at the store to pick up some rice and other items from the bulk bins. I'm trying to decide if it's better to buy some items in bulk, as in from the bin, or bulk at in from a warehouse store. We seem to be right between the two sizes right now. More on that later though.

I'm telling you now this is not one of those instant drinks. One of the reasons this stuff cost so much at the eateries is because of the time factor. It's not complicated or even labor intensive it just takes time. Like making ice. Don't say I didn't warn you.
The first thing I did was add 5 cups of water to my blender.
The next step is to break up the rice in the blender. I've tried to skip this step, but you don't want to, trust me, the rice water is more water than rice without this process. Add 1 cup of long grain white rice to the 5 cups of water.

Now pulse the rice in the blender to break it up. I set my blender to "nuts", but your choice may be different. You want to break up the rice, but not pulverize it.
Then you let sit for 5 hours, but overnight is fine too...
[doo doo doo doo doo doo do...that's the Jeopardy theme, you hear it?]
Once you've blended and soaked it's time to strain. Pour the rice water through a strainer (not a colander) into the pitcher you are going to use. Then add 2/3 cup sugar (or more to taste or sweetener if you like that), 2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1 cup of heavy cream (you can skinny it up by using skim milk or half & half, but I went with the real deal).
Now I like to use my Pampered Chef mixxy pitcher thing (mine is the old school one), but if you have something else that works just as well for you, then rock on, my good friend! Mix it all up and let the flavors meld together.

Tah Dah!

When you're ready to have some of this yumminess grab a glass, add ice, mix up the concoction and pour it over the ice.



Monday, February 8, 2010

Back BK (before kids- having them and working with them) I used to wear heels. High heels. My heels were my wheels. Over the years I've noticed my heel height has decreased as the wear and tear on my feet has increased. Now I wear sensible shoes.

Last year I was in a Pre-K class with a particularly rambunctious 4-year-old. Truth time? He was being an absolute shit. More truth? I don't even remember why. For whatever reason though I told him to sit out and he ran. I had been warned that this one was a runner.

In the past I've had occasion to bear hug a child who was so upset they were close to vomiting, stop the blood flow from a 5-year-old who whacked his head in the pretend kitchen and I even had to restrain a kid who thought hitting another student was the answer. The point is I can deal.

On this particular day though apparently all my lessons left me. I was irritated that the student-in-question was disrupting the whole class so when I told him to sit down and he ran and jumped on a table in the "home center" I made the grand mistake of going after him. It all went very fast after that, and I don't look good in this story, but I ended up with my face planted on the floor and my foot contorted in a position a foot is simply not meant to go.

I was able to get back up and my graceless fall was enough to get the kid to straighten up and fly right, but OUCH! To add insult to injury I was wearing flip flops, which we can do, but there is clearly a reason why we, as teachers, shouldn't.

This was taken a few days after my fall. My foot was purple and swollen and dang it, it hurt. I just sucked it up the whole day and then came home to tend to my wounds. I wouldn't even tell the others at school because I knew it was my fault. Isn't that refreshing to have someone say, hey, I screwed up and I've learned from it, by God!

I've learned that I will not chase a kid. If you're kid is a runner and in my class, sorry for your luck, but they're on their own. Be free, little birdie, be free. I've also learned that that fashion be damned, shoes with good foot support are crucial when you're a teacher.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fairy Tale Colors

Today I substituted in Art. This is one of my favorite classes to teach. I don't have to be as structured as I am in the classroom and I enjoy watching kids make decisions outside of the multiple-choice-box that has been set for them with Teach To The Test systems required in most schools. I turn on the music and enjoy the creative free flow.

This job was especially cool since the new PC reader had been installed and I was able to show a short book-on-video to augment the lesson. As each class came in we had to ooh and ahh over the techno toy before we could get started. I gave them that because it's been raining for days and the kids have been indoors all week. I don't know who's feeling crazier the kids or the teachers. We are NOT used to the indoors in Texas. I felt that I needed to extend them quite a bit of grace in the wiggles department.

Today's lesson was on Camouflaged Animals, or animals who can blend into their surroundings (Polar Bears, frogs, certain insects). I always get the same questions: Can we used oil pastels? If we use crayons can we use the poster (dark) ones? There are always questions. As we started the draw-an-owl assignment one students asked me if they could use "fairy tale colors". Now ordinarily I would say yes. Imagination. Who told them a mouse can't be orange or a zebra can't have green stripes? Ah, but alas today's assignment was actually about the color of nature and not a "once upon a time" proposition. Next time, my sweet creative love!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Chain Gang

This week's Loopers! class brought us a heated contest of who could produce the longest chain. Tracyloopers put out a challenge to the kiddos last week that s/he (yeah, that's right, we have BOYS in our class 'cause only the REALLY cool kids can loop) who made the longest chain would win a prize.

Boy howdy did these kids take us to task on this one. Seriously I don't think some of them did anything besides a crochet that chain all week. It was awesome! The winner made a chain so long that I couldn't fit it all in the picture. It was close to 25 feet. She walled away with a super cool amugurumi frog (because we're always "frogging" (ripping out = rip it...ribbit) their stitches if they're not even. Good job!

The purpose of the endless chain isn't just to keep the kids busy, though that is a nice perk, the purpose is to give the kiddos practice so that their stitches are consistent and even. Some of the Loopers! students stitch tight which will make it difficult to when they connect chains. Too loose stitches will completely throw off the gauge.

The kids can't wait to learn to make amugurumi animals.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Make Over Monday: Dining Room Bench

It's Make Over Monday over at the Tip Junkie's place so I wanted to post what I've been up to in my little corner of the blog world.

Here is the before picture of my hand me down bench. It had been in my mom's bedroom for a long time and she decided she was done with it. I loved the lines, but the color was an green-gold and sort of blah to me.

So since it's raining outside today and my car is in the shop I decided this was a great day to tackle the reupholstery project. The bench has been in the garage a long time. First I brought it into the house, dusted it off and unscrewed the metal frame from the seat cushion backer board. I saved the original black mesh cover, the screws and and the board so that I wouldn't have to redrill.

I fell in love with this fabric in the clearance bin at JoAnn's. It's bright and uses the colors that I love - red/orange, gold, turquoise and lime. Then I laid the fabric on the floor print side down and centered the cushion on the part of the print I wanted showing.

Next, starting from the sides I used a heavy-duty staple gun to tack down one long side of the material to the backer board. After one side of the fabric was secure then I could pull tightly to smooth the out any wrinkles and staple the other side. I went gonzo stapling the fabric so that everything would stay in place, but it helped that I kept the original fabric on the cushion. It was a flannel type fabric so it added padding and gave the heavy canvas that was now on there some grip.

To cover all those staples I replaced the black mesh fabric and stapled it to the fabric and backer board neatly. Finally I repositioned the metal frame back on to the board and used the original screws to put everything back together again.

And there you have it! I placed this bench in my dining room because when we have family dinners we never seem to have enough places to sit. It's one of the hazards of having a very large extended family. This bench will pull up nicely during a meal and then serve as a landing pad for back packs and purses at other times.