Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Facebook Casserole Challenge!!!!

 Faye Dolen shared a link on Facebook with the top picture above and a recipe.  Here's what the recipe stated:  

  1. Fantastic for ANY meal!!

    (Share so ya don't lose it)
    1 Can Flaky Grands
    Bag shredded cheddar 8 oz.
    Half cup milk
    Cubed ham or ground cooked sausage 1 cup cooked
    5 eggs
    Salt and pepper
    Add all ingredients and mix saving biscuits for last.

    Cut biscuits into fours and carefully mix in.
    Transfer to roomy casserole dish that has been oiled. Cook 25 at 350. You can't mess this up and it comes out looking JUST like picture. Serve for breakfast or dinner w small salad.
I felt challenged by the " comes out looking JUST like picture" statement, so here ya go.   "Roomy" means 9 X 13.  25 minutes means 35.  Just sayin.  Mine was made with Jimmy Dean hot sausage, not ham (Duh, you say!)  Almost every meal in this house is served with a side of bacon.  Don't judge.  The fresh fruit canceled out all calories.  

The resident Food Snob, aka Billy Hensley, and his coworkers at Dominion Power (who shared the leftovers this morning) would like the public to know that perfection of this dish would be achieved through the use of some really good warm maple syrup.  



At the end of every school year, I ask my students to write many letters particularly to put in the time capsule to be opened at their high school graduation.  Letters to themselves.  Letters to their BFF to open in four years……..all the while I’m thinking they won’t even know their middle school BFF’s name in four years.  Letters to their favorite teacher to thank them and tell them good-bye.  Letters to their parents about what they are feeling as they leave 8th grade and travel to high school.  Just letters…….serious stuff for them because of the emotional roller-coaster ride they are on at the moment……this moment when they realize the year of being the top-dog in 8th grade is over and the time to travel the halls of higher education as a FRESHMAN is upon them.  Just letters……closure……the end……

One letter I’ve asked for at the end of every year, even when I taught 7th grade, is the letter to me.  I need closure.  I need to know the truth.  Some of you will consider this a moment of narcissistic closure.  Here’s my response to that……I get the truth!!!

I tell my kids that grades are already entered into portal, the report cards and “diplomas” are already printed, the graduation announcements already have their names printed in a 10 point French Script font, the evil Mrs. Hensley will not make an appearance, and I make the crucial pinkie promise that I will NOT be offended by the TRUTH!!!  These are teenagers.  They are hormonal little bouncy balls.  Give them the ability to tell the truth without the possibility of repercussions………..and you better watch out!!!!!!

So I ask them to write the closure letter.  The letter that tells me ……

“Wow, that really helped me learn..keep doing that!”


 “That was the worst lesson ever..don’t ever do that again!” 


 “I acted like I hated that book because everybody else did……but I really LOVED that book!” 


“Please don’t ever use a worksheet again.  We don’t learn anything from them.”


“You weren’t too boring.  I learned stuff.”


And I Quote……

“I hate when older people try to act cool, but I had a lot of fun in your class!”

Most take this letter serious.  Some put a lot of thought into it.  I put a very long list on the board of everything we did throughout the year to remind them of everything they “endured” from me.  Some students will only address one or two things on the list.  Some will write a novel and ask for extra time.  Some will ask if they can make a chart instead of a letter.  Now here’s the deal about these letters.  I read every single word.  I let every word sink in.  I meditate over them.  I’m awed by them.   I’m shocked!  I’m disappointed.  I cry over them.  I get pissed off at them (Queue the pinky promise and STOP IT)

Then I begin my closure for the year.  I read the letter from the child who has LITERALLY  glared at me every day with what I just knew was hatred and contempt…….who wrote to tell me they will never forget how to make a noun show possession because of the “stupid” chant I made them say all year long (success for me)!!!  I read the letter from the girl who never, ever, ever volunteered an answer in class who said I MUST continue doing my bellringer activity the exact same way because she learned more from that than anything.  I read the letter from the BOYS (NOTICE THAT IS PLURAL!!!)…… the BOYS that said they loved reading The Adventures of Tom SawyerI swore they were snoring!!!!  I thought they hated it!!!!  BUT they told me to read it again next year!!!!!!  I also read (with a broken heart) that the lessons that I thought were monumental, the top-notch lesson, the lesson that would make teachers all over the world cry with envy, the lesson I poured my heart and soul into, the lesson I knew that would change the world……….was a complete and total bomb.  They will tell the truth.  I learn the cold-hearted truth.  I learn they want to use GOOD technology.  They want to play games.  They don’t want to grade papers in class - they want me to do it to avoid being embarrassed.  They don’t really mind poetry so much.  They want to be read to.  They want to work in groups, but they want me to “pay attention” to the ones that aren’t productive and helpful.  They LOVE Socratic Seminars (This really was a SHOCK)    Soooo…….here’s what I do. 

If the majority of my students tell me they learned NOTHING from a lesson or process or procedure..then I stop doing it.  I delete it, I change it, I rearrange it, I tweak it, I throw it in the trash -   whatever it takes - but I listen to what they wrote and I find a little peace……a little hope.. a little closure for another year.  It’s not always rainbows and butterflies when a 14 year old tells you in writing how much you SUCK, but let me tell ya…… will ground you, it will bring your “I’m all that” teacher attitude back to Earth, and it will give you closure.

Closure for my last year in my 40’s( GASPClosure for a year in which I found out my son and his wife are going to make me a granny!!  Closure for my youngest son’s freshman year with outstanding grades and a really cool attitude!!  Closure for another year without my momma.  Closure for a year of such clarity and freedom and happiness in my life……of being ME.  Closure for a year of sadness in seeing a great friend and mentor retire.  Closure for a year of worry about a colleague with multiple personal and family medical problems.  Closure for a year of seeing teachers and students in our district pass away..leaving behind such sadness.  Closure for students being faced with gigantic problems…….problems kids should never, ever, ever have to face.  Closure for a year of such stress and anxiety and urgent significance placed on one test only to find out it wasn’t graded on time.  Closure for another year.  Another year in which I cry at our little 8th grade “graduation” when I see them leave.  Another year gone.  Goodbye 2013-2014 school year.  Onward, my friends.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Comma Flingers - Check this out!!!!

Stop flinging those commas!!!!!!!!!

1.      Use a comma to separate three or more words, phrases or clauses in a series.
Please go to the store and get bread, a gallon of milk, and peanut butter.  Here’s $40.00 to cover it. 
2.   Use a comma to set off two or more prepositional phrases.
In the morning on the way to school, may we get Cheddar rounds?
3.   Use a comma after an introductory participle and an introductory participial phrase.
Walking in the park, we watched a shooting star above our heads.
4.  Use a comma after conjunctive adverbs.
School is cool; however, I’m glad it’s almost summer!
5.   Use a comma to set off non-essential appositives
The student, Mickey Mouse, finished his homework. 
6.   Use a comma to set off words or phrases of direct address.
Mrs. Hensley, am I passing your class?
7.    Use a comma before a conjunction joining two main clauses.
I don’t need new shoes, yet I bought three pair!
8.    Use a comma after an introductory adverb clause and to set off nonessential adjective clause
After I bought new shoes, I needed a new purse.
Comma errors, which are common, can be easily corrected.
9.    Use a comma to separate parts of an address or a date.
Do you know who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC?
10. Use a comma after the salutation and close of a friendly letter
Dear Mr. President, 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

HOW DID THE HUSHPUPPY GET ITS NAME?  Below is the tale from……….

Stories about the evolution of this fried cornmeal ball are as flavorful as the product itself. Hushpuppies are a distinctly Southern food and have often been linked to catfish.
Here are several variations of the hushpuppy story:
The oldest story has hushpuppies originating in the settlement of Nouvell Orleans (later New Orleans) shortly after 1727. They were created by Ursuline nuns who had come from France. The nuns converted cornmeal into a delicious food they named croquettes de maise. The making of these croquettes spread rapidly through the southern states.
Hushpuppies are also said to have gotten their name from the dredging of the catfish that would have been thrown out. Being thrifty, the cook from the house would send them down the slave quarters and the women added a little milk, egg and onion and fried it up. It is said they were tossed to the dogs to keep them quiet while the food was being transferred from the pot to the table. “Hush puppy! Hush puppy!”
Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins cites a Southern reader’s account that in the South the aquatic reptile called the salamander was often known as a “water dog” or “water puppy.” These were deep fried with cornmeal dough and formed into sticks. They were called “hushpuppies” because eating such a lowly food was not something a Southern wife would want known to her neighbors.
Confederate soldiers would sit beside a campfire preparing their meals. If they detected Yankee soldiers approaching, they would toss their yapping dogs some of the fried cornmeal balls with the command, “Hush puppies!”
And yes, the food created the name of the famous shoe company
In 1958, Jim Muir was having dinner with a friend in Tennessee when he witnessed how his friend’s barking hounds were quieted down when given hush puppies. Jim thought about how aching feet were commonly referred to as barking dogs. Wolverine shoes, or rather Hushpuppies, were the answer to soothing one’s aching feet. Thus a legend began.

Here's my recipe.  It is amazing!!!

1/3 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp onion powder
1 large egg
 1 cup milk
2 tbsp. chopped jalapeno
Oil for frying

1.  Combine the onion, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, and onion powder in a bowl.  Whisk the egg and mile in another bowl.  Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.  Add the chopped jalapenos.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
2.  Heat 2 inches of veg. oil to 350.  Drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the oil, turning frequently.  
3.  Drain on a paper-towel plate.  Season with salt.  ENJOY!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Yep.  That’s the name of this brownie - the Knock You Naked Brownie!!!!!!

I can’t begin to tell you how ooeeyy-gooeeeyy delicious they are.  Just try it yourself and see!!

1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 bag of caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag of chocolate chip morsels
1 stick of butter
1 cup of chopped nuts - your choice

Mix cake mix, 1/3 cup cream, 1 stick of melted butter.  Mix in nuts.
Batter is VERY THICK!!!
Use half of the batter.  Press into the bottom of a greased 8 X 8 pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350. 
Place caramels on top.  Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramels.  On a cutting board, shape the remaining “batter” into an 8 X 8 piece and place on tops of chips and caramel.  Gently press down.
Bake for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

The biggest mistake we make with this recipe…………No Mayfield Vanilla Bean Ice Cream in the house.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pineapple Salsa

This was really, really, really good.  We served it with steak/veggie kabobs and Cajun shrimp.  

1 pineapple, diced
1/4 cup tequila
3 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
Canola oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 green jalapeno, diced
1 red jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine tequila, 1 tbsp lime juice and pineapple.  Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.  Drain then toss the pineapple with brown sugar.
Coat a saute pan with oil.  Cook pineapple, stirring frequently, until caramelized (5-8 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Combine with remaining lime juice and other ingredients.  Let it sit for 30 minutes.  

I will be honest.  I loved this!!  BUT..... I wanted a little crunch in it.  Billy suggested jicama.  I'm thinking Ramen noodles.  Tee hee.

Please comment below if you find the perfect crunch ingredient!!  

"Baby Rolls"

My sweet little boys loved when I made these rolls.  They asked me to make tiny ones for them, and they called them "baby roll."  This recipe is tried and true in a bread machine.  

1 cup tepid water
2 tbsp. room temperature butter
1 egg
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. yeast

Add the ingredients in the bread machine in the above order.  Make a volcano hole in the center to add the yeast.  Mix with the machine as "dough"

Bake for 15 minutes at 375 in buttered pans.  Serve with butter.  Lots of butter.  That's not enough butter.  More butter.  DON'T YOU DARE SERVE THESE WITH MARGARINE.  That's one molecule away from plastic.  Anyhoo, serve with butter.  

Inspiring Students in Common Core - Part 2

 The Cookie Challenge

Thank God for the Dollar General and their cheaper cookies.  I invest a lot of money in cookies for test prep.  We had what we called “The Cookie Challenge” this year.  Last year, it was all about “Smarties.”  Here’s the background…..

After Spring Break, it is time to crack down and review for what my state calls TCAP testing……standardized testing, filling in a bubble sheet, sit for hours, show what you know in one setting.  I take it serious…… very serious…….and I want my students to do so as well.  Here’s what they hate:

The dreaded practice book with a bubble sheet.  I’ve used them before, and I know they are beneficial to gather data about in what skills each student is deficient.  However, I committed myself to “Common Core” the practice test.  This turned out to follow the same direction I’m finding for EVERYTHING about common core which is……  All my work as a teacher is in the planning.  I spend all my time PREPARING for the classroom…..typing, designing, printing, thinking, typing, powerpointing, thinking, typing, researching, thinking……you get the picture.  However, when it is classroom time, I’m pretty much “off duty” for the majority of the class.  They take over. 

Here’s what I did.  I took the practice test apart and broke it down.  I cut and pasted the stimulus to a page with a border.  I make dazzling power point slides of the questions with the four choices.  I stalked Scrappin Doodles for every piece of free or on-sale clip art.  I praised the good Lord for Krista Wallden’s freebies during this time.  Then I designed every week around that stimulus.  They worked in their groups.  They conducted Socratic Seminars.  They wrote argumentative pieces about why they were right and the other groups were wrong.  They made posters.  They used my “Common Core Worksheet.”  They analyzed their group answers as to what percentage of the group agreed and exactly how sure were they.  They broke each piece of text down and had what we called “cookie prep” time, which just simply meant they were studying for the test.

Cookie Challenge Day:  They were ready.  They knew the text.  They knew they were right about the answers.  They were prepared.  They had even used at one point……….dare I say it……. A DICTIONARY  or their NOTES to verify their answer.

They knew the rules.  NO TALKING during the cookie challenge.  The days of talking were behind them, and it was time to show what they know!!!  I would say, “Power up your voter!!!  Enter your pin.  No talking from this point.”    Then the question would come on the Promethean Board.  It was simple.  They had discussed it thoroughly.  All of those eyes were smiling at me as I waited for them to send in their answer across the airwaves.  When the last button is pushed, the graph immediately comes on the screen.  It only gives a percentage – not the student names.  They know if 100% get the answer correct – an answer I DID NOT GIVE THEM – then they all get a cookie.  Oh, the joy and the screams and the smiles and the victory of that cookie. 

Until……….. when we come to that question……the one where there were two answers that were so tempting……the one where hot discussions were had about “I’m right because….” or “You’re wrong because…….”  That question in which the one person chooses the wrong answer.  Maybe they didn’t care.   Maybe they didn’t pay attention.  Maybe they were not persuaded to change their mind during the class discussions.  Maybe they just hit the wrong button.  For whatever reason, the screen does not show 100%.  No cookie.  Life is over.

Until the teacher in me says in my most encouraging voice, “But that’s great!!!  The majority got it right!!!!!!!”  Oh, the glares I got for that comment.  That doesn’t help.  That doesn’t matter.  That isn’t good. Don’t you understand?????????


This became their chant.  That became their motto.  One even made a T-SHIRT!!!!!!  Even though I was thrilled to see the majority ruling the board.  Even though I knew they learned these answers on their own.  Even though my pocketbook was sighing in relief because I got to keep a pack of cookies for next week’s challenge.  Even though we were actually enjoying learning.  Even though things were going great, and we were reviewing like crazy………….  It still meant that “Majority isn’t cookie!!!”

We finished the practice book the week before testing.  I had one student ask me, “Are we going to do that blue practice book before the test?”  Their reaction was priceless when I said, “You just did.” 

Test day – April 28.  I’m wearing my Cookie Challenge shirt.  They come into their classrooms to find I have finally hit  my retirement fund and splurged on ………….OREOS for test day.  Oh, the joy.   FYI – the straw beside the goody bag……….Brain-based research….give them something to chew on during stress-filled tests. 

It's been a wonderful year.  Testing is over.  The cookies are gone.  Summer break is around the corner.  I am blessed.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Inspiring Students in Common Core - Part 1

I seldom find students who beg to sit and do worksheets all day long.  Of course they are needed occasionally, but we all remember those teachers back “in the day” who told us to read the chapter, finish the packet of worksheets, test on Friday, don’t bother me.  I have found that my day and their learning is so much better with just a simple game that takes very little effort or time. 

It’s called “Bazinga” for absolutely no reason.  I found this game on the internet, and I kept the name because I am a huge fan of Sheldon Cooper!!!  The game I found was written for elementary school, and I found some of the cards too young for my eighth-grade students.  The elementary game involved “crab-walking” around the classroom three times or doing twenty jumping jacks.  My eighth-grade students simply didn’t want the physical challenges……it is all about the numbers and winning the game for these guys!!!!! 

The set-up is simple.  You need Solo cups, a sharpie pen, and popsicle sticks……..and the game board!  I have six teams in my classroom that I ability grouped at the beginning of the year.  They do everything together poster work, research, discussions, worksheets, and………competitions!!!  Each group has a cup with sticks with their name on them.  One cup has six sticks with the six group names.  Some years I let them come up with a name for their group quite important to them!!!! other years it has simply been group 1, group 2, etc. You will be surprised at what a little family they become after working together for a year.  They defend each other, fight for each other, but most importantly, help each other. 

Let the games begin!!!!  Use it for any and every reason!!!  It works for review work, worksheets, vocabulary exercises, you name it!!!  I’m asked every week, “When are we playing Bazinga?”  The funny part of it all………it has nothing to do with the show or Sheldon or Bazinga its just the name on the one card they want drawn for their team. 

Important rules to remember:

Never, ever, ever draw the stick until you are confident they all have an answer preparedjust in case it is their name.
Shuffle the cards after the Bazinga card.  They don’t know a noun from a verb, but they can track the exact location of that card from 100 paces!!!!!
Set a timer.  It can come down to the very last minute……….let the timer be the judge, not you!!!!

Hop on over to my store to purchase the game as shown, or you can purchase a special upload in which you will choose the colors!!!