Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Again

My favorite time of the year is here, the run from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  This year we're having the big meal at my sister's house, so we'll head down there tomorrow morning.  In spite of the weather guys calling for all sorts of ugly driving for today and tomorrow, it looks like it won't be as bad as they originally anticipated.  That makes me happy, since part of our drive is over a notoriously treacherous stretch of highway through large hills.

 Molly, bird-watching from the back window after our first real snowfall last week.

Yesterday I made cranberry-orange bread, and today I'm making pumpkin bread.  If I'm really ambitious, I might make some biscotti, just for fun, later tonight.  I got the Christmas lights put up last week, ready to be turned on this weekend, and we'll get our Christmas tree on Sunday or Monday.  I don't go bonkers with decorating, but we have our own traditions.  We have special ornaments for the tree, and I do the lights simply because I find them to be pretty and festive - simple red and white lights on a few bushes by the porch this year, since I don't have the energy to want to deal with lighting the cherry tree.  We each have stockings, and I make certain goodies throughout the season.
The Princess, who was NOT enthused about the first snow or the cold temps.  
She's wearing long PJs, soccer socks, a fur-lined hoodie, 
and wrapped up in a double-layer fleece blanket.
After this photo, she also put on a scarf and gloves.

I enjoy sharing and giving through this season, and I try my best to not get caught up in the insane consumerism that surrounds us.  I'm doing some homemade gifts for many family members this year, which has been both fun and relaxing.  Some things I purchase will be from local stores.  A few gift cards will also be given, since it's hard sometimes to find what is just right for someone who really would enjoy picking out their own gift from a favorite store.

Christmas cookies, bourbon pecan cake, fudge - it's a good season for eating, that's for sure.  I'll try to share a few recipes before Christmas, in case you want to try one of my family's favorite goodies.  Here's one to start off with: 

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups light brown sugar

Combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar, and mix well.  Then add:

3 cups flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Mix until all ingredients are blended.  Stir in 2 cups of chopped walnuts.  (Optional:  this recipe is equally good with miniature chocolate chips, or both chips and walnuts, or with cinnamon chips.)

Scoop batter into three medium foil loaf pans, which have been given a light coating of vegetable oil/oil spray/greased and floured.  Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (The bread will crack lengthwise along the top as it bakes.)  Let cool for 10 minutes, turn out of pans, cool to room temp, wrap, and store.  It freezes very well.  You can also make this in mini loaf pans (6 mini pans, 350F, 40-45 minutes).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Enjoy the day as much as you can, hopefully with your families and good friends.  If you have to work, I hope you stay safe and get to see your family before or after your shift.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life Rolls On

Whoops, it looks like I totally lost October.  I apologize to my friends and family that follow my blog - I just didn't have the mental energy to write about all the things that were happening (good and not so good) over the past seven weeks or so.  There have been good days, and bad days, well days and sick days, ups and downs, stress and fun.  A pretty "normal" month and a half, in other words, but I wasn't up to writing about it.  

Here's a pocket summary of the past month or so:

The kids survived their first semester of school.  The Princess gets her report card tomorrow, SG soon after that.  The Princess has had a very good fall, after a rocky start in math (she was intimidated by the teacher, and not liking the new Common Core curriculum at all).  Safety Guy has had a real roller coaster, great days and good choices, off days and frustration, and a couple really bad days with poor choices.  Thankfully, the new assistant principal really GETS him, and his teachers this year have been very good about working with him to help him make better choices and deal with peer interactions.  It hasn't been all smooth sailing, but at this point the good is outweighing the bad, and I'll be happy with that.

I took my first quilting classes!  That was my big treat to myself this fall.  I can't show you pictures of my project, though, because it's a Christmas present, and some of the other things I've been working on will be Christmas presents too.  I'll share some pictures of my creative endeavors after the New Year.

The garden has limped it's way to the end of the season.  I've got most of the yard clean-up done, and I treated myself to $25 of bulbs (two kinds of tulips, two kinds of daffodils, and an ornamental onion).  I finally got those planted just last week.  I really lost my motivation and joy in my garden this summer, which makes me quite sad, but sometimes it took all my mental energy just to move through a regular day.  There wasn't much left over.  I'm hoping for better things next year.  The bulbs are my gesture of hope for the future.

Grape jelly, made from my very own grapes.  Tasty, too!

I'm still looking for a permanent teaching job.  Realistically, next to nothing permanent will be posted by schools until late winter/early spring, when hiring begins for the 2014-2015 school year.  I've branched out into subbing for our local BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services, for my followers who don't know what that is - they provide special education services, vocational education for high school students, and continuing education for teachers and an assortment of classes for the community at large).  I've been in all sorts of classrooms over the past month - severe needs classes for elementary students with autism, high school classes for students with moderate educational needs and varying disabilities, middle school classes for moderate to severe special needs, and tomorrow a pre-K special ed class.  It's been interesting, to say the least!  It has, however, served to solidify my preferences:  I'd really like to work with senior high students with mild to moderate special needs, either in a 15:1 class or as a resource teacher.  We'll see what's available in the spring.  Realistically, I'll have to apply for everything I'm qualified for, and I may not have the luxury of picking and choosing one kind of class over another.  At least I'm getting to know professionals in other schools and programs, so my name won't be completely unknown to them when I apply for jobs.  There will be a handful of retirements in the two districts I sub at the most, plus undoubtedly more in other districts nearby.  I hope somebody will give me a chance.

Sunset view from our house, early October.

A lot has happened in my life that has raised a host of other issues this year, but many of those questions won't be answered until I have my own permanent, full-time job. And so the winter of waiting begins.  I'd appreciate prayer for my family, and for my future job (wherever and whatever it may be).  Thank you.