Grandma’s Cookies: Gluten Free Makeover

Last Christmas I was very sad…throwing myself the biggest holiday pity party.

Every year I look forward to baking and eating our family cut out cookies. I baked them with my mom, my husband and now with my mini. The smell of them baking in the oven kicks off Christmas for me.

Last Christmas I had no desire to bake. If I wasn’t making what I knew, wanted and expected-I was baking nothing. This was probably terrible for my people because they still deserved their happy holiday. None the less that was my mindset and I did not forget to invite myself to a spectacular party.

My hubs is really a rock solid human. He saw how down I was and paid a very big bill at a GF bakery, for some very acceptable cookies and a yule log. These treats were not our festive favorites, but he and my mini were holly, jolly and supportive. Thankfully they are equal opportunity cookie consumers.

Personally I hate how much anything made GF costs!

Let me just add….they did have plenty of delicious, festive, gluten filled cookies and cakes, because they can and should, but not baked by my gluten free, miserable hands.

So, on to this year.

I did not want a repeat of last year. I try to fancy myself a person who learns from their past choices and decisions, so this year I was determined to find a way to make my beloved cookie safe and tasty.

I do not want a new recipe. I am sure there are many options out there…in fact I know there are, pinterest shows me so, but I wanted something familiar. I want my family recipe.

Thank you Bob’s Red Mill!

I found my saving grace. I found a GF safe flour that has a 1:1 conversion. No experimentation with ingredients. The front of the bag had the magic words! I was beyond pumped. I could use just like typical flour. Cue the angels singinng!!!

Cookie dough was made and seemed ok.

I baked….sort of holding my breath.

Cookies came out…cooled and then it was time to taste.

I was pleasantly surprised. They tasted very close. The texture was palatable. Gluten free happiness!

Time to frost.

These may not be the most beautiful cookie, but they are made with love.

This is what I love the most. We frost and sprinkle together!!

This year I accepted and with this positive attitude memories were made, family tradition continued and calories were not counted!

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Merry Christmas: Time to Recharge & Reconnect

Teachers on break or anyone else on a holiday break….do all the things that reboot your soul.

I am taking some much needed family time to recharge and reconnect. This fall has been hectic…filled with extra bumps and potholes in my itinerant road.

I am wishing you a joyous and peaceful holiday. May you take time to breathe in all of life’s blessings.

Gluten Free Birthday

The Cake

I’m really making peace with being gluten free and with trial and error I have found a cake that has good texture. I am very thankful I have found this mix at Trader Joe’s.

It takes about an hour to bake. This is longer than a typical mix, but it is dense. It does not rise up very high, but moist and small is worth it.

The Frosting

I don’t really enjoy canned frosting, so I decided to look for a homemade option. I went to pinterest of course! There were endless choices, but I decided to use a basic butter cream and cream cheese hybrid concoction. I am terrible at following a recipe.

I am that person that tweaks and adds things. Sometimes it works in my favor and sometimes it is an apology.

Cereal for dinner is always a back up!

I read, in a few online recipes, bakers were adding dehydrated strawberries. I figured I would give it a try. I buzzed the strawberries and added them in…fingers crossed. The result was fabulous.

Oh…and yes I made it all. I used to love to bake. I find it relaxing. Going GF has limited me. I was very happy whipping this up. I was home with my mini me…she needed a sick day, the weather was snowy and I didn’t want something from a bakery-happy birthday to me!

Ta Da

Made a wish….

The Food

I have been trying to eat better and get my yoga on. That being said…. I wanted to slob out!!!

We went and got gluten free pizza and these loaded fries. Total perfection on a snowy week night. Lots of calories and zero dishes!!!

We went out again!!!

Since I have gone gluten free I LOVE wings. Like really love them….crave them. This was the perfect way to wrap my birthday week. It was salty, spicy and satisfying.

My gluten free journey continues. Blessed to have another year to keep learning and expanding my options.

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Thank You for reading!

Holiday Teacher Gift Ideas

As a teacher I know that I am never expecting a gift, but I do love to receive something from my students…something that they put thought into. Some of my most treasured gifts have been made from paper, crayons, stickers and kindness. I think most teachers feel the same way.

I know as a parent I look at teacher gifts from a totally different perspective. I want to make sure I find something personal, budget friendly and useful. I also encourage my mini me to take an active role in the shopping process. I want my child’s teachers to know we see and value their hard work and commitment.

One thing I do in September is look around the teachers room during open house. My mini keeps her eyes and ears open too throughout the first few months. This way we can even make a gift card more personal. Knowing something as simple as a favorite color can be so helpful.

This leads me to the ideas.

Gift Cards

So I know most people love a gift card, but I have a love/awkward feeling about them. They are quick, easy, and practical…so people love to give and get.

They are quick, easy and practical…so that’s why I don’t always love to give. I feel like it says I don’t know you or had no time to shop for you, so I picked up a gift card.

This is where, for a teacher gift, I have to calm down and just do it…most people love them. I try to add something cute to the gift card that is personal and I try to select a gift card that is not just Starbucks-unless the teacher is seen with a cup daily.

A favorite coffee place is simple.

Here are some of my past selections:

  • Target
  • Favorite Restaurant
  • Pedicure/Manicure
  • Movies
  • Favorite Store
  • TJ Maxx
  • Amazon
Movies are a great way to unwind over the holiday break.

Classroom Essentials

Depending on a teachers situation sometimes they need things for the room that they can’t or shouldn’t pay for. Teachers spend a lot out of pocket to make their room a great place for their students. Picking up their favorite pens is the least I can do.

Add some flair to their holiday season!
  • Flair Pens
  • Markers
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Electric Pencil Sharpener
  • Sharpies
  • Inspirational Stationary
  • Personalized Stationary

Mugs and Water Bottles

  • Personalized cups and mugs
  • Themed cups and mugs
  • Inspirational messages on cups. mugs and water bottles

I think these are useful and can be refreshed. I personally enjoy a new water bottle or cup, especially because I forget about them(which means they get gross) or loose them in my travels.

Self Care

  • Lotion and hand cream
  • Soap
  • Lip balms/gloss
  • Nail polish and cozy socks
  • Massage certificate
Candy cane red…classic color

I try to keep these unscented or neutral. Scent can be very personal and powerful. I choose neutral or classic colors as well.

Treats

  • Chocolates
  • Wine
  • Cookies
  • Edible arrangements
  • Favorite snacks
  • Hot chocolate

One observation I have made over my many years of teaching is teachers love a treat, but not ones from a home kitchen. You may make the best fudge ever, but during cold and flu season most teachers will pass. We are looking forward to a happy and healthy holiday break, not one filled with chicken soup and tissues. So, I always purchase a yummy treat.

I like to get a box and put in the office or staff lounge for everyone

With all of these ideas my ultimate goal is to get something useful, personal and something that isn’t cluttering up a shelf or desk. No teacher needs a dozen Best Teacher mugs! And no teacher wants to feel guilty not using the multiple mugs.

Whatever you a purchasing this holiday season I hope you enjoy the process. If you can’t think of anything unique…get the gift card. I know I am taking the pressure off of myself this year.

And if you don’t have the budget for a gift consider:

  • A hand written note or card
  • A kind email
  • Have your child write or draw something
  • Have your child create something
  • A heartfelt “Merry Christmas” at pick up or drop off

I think the key is expressing appreciation. Who doesn’t like to feel respected and appreciated?!

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50 posts…I had no clue!

I know I have just started on this blogging journey, but it was a happy surprise to get this notification!!!

I am going to keep on writing and sharing. I want to thank all of you who follow and read my weekly post.

It really means a lot that you take time to give my posts a read.

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Itinerant Teacher Holiday Blues: 3 Ways to Sparkle and Shine

We get in our cars and Christmas music is on the radio, right after Halloween. We see the drive through beverages get sprinkled with peppermint. We start planning lessons with a holiday vibe.

All of these things can be lovely and delightfully festive, but if you are itinerant the holiday season, in school, can be a real bummer. I know not everyone feels this way, but I have seen a few comments on Facebook posts and I know I am not the only one out there feeling the itinerant holiday blues. Being on the go all day does not pair up with Christmas parties and Secret Santa.

Sometimes being itinerant is beyond great. We see a situation or work in situations that look stressful….are stressful and we get to leave when our time is up. If you are like me you still think about difficult students and situations after you leave, but I am not in it all day. I say a prayer for that teacher or team and move on to the next place in my busy day. This is a definite bonus to traveling.

Make tracks….and get gone!

Once the weather turns and the holidays start to happen I feel an internal shift. I do not love the cold, so that definitely adjusts my mood, but I think last year I really felt bummed out and left out of all the holiday spirit in school.

  • I see students during the fun holiday staff lunches
  • I am not in a place every day or at the right time to participate in fun group games or activities-like Secret Santa
  • I often miss the sweet holiday performances because my time is up and I am moving to my next location.

If you read my blog regularly you know there are some amazing places and people I have worked with. I have had opportunities to feel part of something and I think that when that special something isn’t happening, it can be tough to get through a time of year that personally can feel stressful or overwhelming, then head into work and I think for me it creates a little grey cloud over my head…no mistletoe to be found.

This year I am going to try to put some holiday pep in my step and not fall into a candy cane induced pity party.

Festive Apparel

Ugly sweaters….bring them on!!! Maybe you don’t go that far, but try holiday or Christmas:

  • Tee shirt
  • Socks
  • Earrings/jewelry
  • Sweater or Sweatshirt
  • Leggings
Snowflake sweater and headband

Looking festive can make you feel festive. Often these fun items are conversation starters. Students love it! This can be a simple way for you to blend into the holiday aesthetic.

Inspirational tee, headband, leggings and earrings

Holiday Lesson Plans

Even though your classroom comes out of a bag like Mary Poppins and you probably are not decorating your work space, try to add that holiday magic to your lessons.

  • Holiday Games
  • Festive Manipulatives
  • Books
  • Worksheets
  • Apps

These are a few of my favorites.

Mini erasers and felt gingerbread men for games

Look online for some inspiration. I love to find ideas on Pinterest and resources on Teacher Pay Teachers.

I know there are so many more amazing holiday books, but I try to stay away from ones I see classroom teachers read. I want my students engaged and not bored with a story they just heard.

Holiday Treats

Maybe consider a peppermint mocha, hot cocoa or hot cider to lift your spirits as you are traveling all day. I will still be following one of my cardinal rules…”If I can’t drive though it, I don’t do it.”

Add a Christmas cookie to your lunch box. #selfcare

See if there is a fun holiday lunch or staff get together you can attend. If it is something you would enjoy- it is worth an ask.

No matter where you are, the weather, the driving conditions…I am wishing you a Merry and Bright December.

If you have any suggestions or tips for December holiday survival comment, email…reach out. I would love to hear from you!

Itinerant Teacher Book Picks: Favorite Novels to Read with Students

Readers gotta read and listeners gotta listen! Let’s turn the pages!

Restart

This novel is a great middle school pick. It has multiple characters and the chapters are character specific. The chapters are not incredibly long, so it is realistic to read a chapter during part of a session.

Many of my students have enjoyed this as a read aloud. It stirs up great discussion. The language is clear and relatable for middle schoolers. It addresses bullying in a multifaceted approach. As a reader you can see inside the minds of the bullied and the bully.

Depending on what your goals are you can easily work on comprehension, vocabulary and expressive communication skills.

Hello Universe

I am currently reading this novel and we are loving it. This is another story where individual characters tell the story from their perspective. My student is enjoying the story, but finds the chapters told from the bullies perspective harder to listen to.

Bullying is such a conversation and issue within schools. It is great that there are authors writing relatable stories. And I think it is so helpful when students can generate conversation from a real and deep place.

This story is particularly great, in my opinion, because one of the characters is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. The author has done a wonderful job writing chapters from a hard of hearing girl’s perspective…..and the best part is she is not the character being bullied. She has struggles, but she is confident and strong. I love this so much. I want my students to read about smart, confident kids like them!

When we finish this book I am hoping to complete a resource to support this book. Stay tuned!

Because of Mr. Terrupt

I have read this novel with students as our read aloud and as classwork. This is how I was first exposed to the series. The first book is great and it is awesome for fifth or sixth grade students.

This is yet another book told by each character. I just realized this is a commonality with the books I have listed so far. I think the chapter break ups, personalities and perspectives make these books easy to stop and start for an itinerant teacher.

In this story there is a bit of humor, struggle, heartbreak, and friendship issues. This book is very accessible and relatable to 10-12 year old kids. There is great vocabulary and questions for discussion you can pull from each chapter.

If you do not have time or the inclination to pull the vocabulary and questions, there are really great resources you can find on Teachers Pay Teachers. I bought a resource and it is very helpful.

My Life in Pink and Green Series

I bought this series a few years ago. I had a female middle school student who needed to work on listening and engage in discussion. She needed alot of academic support and was not strong in ELA. I choose this series because it has a great friendship storyline, there are problem solving skills, but the story is light and breezy. Some kids already have heavy lives, sometimes I want to be a bright spot in their day.

These three books were an enjoyable read for both of us. This novel is told from the main characters perspective. Switching from character to character can overwhelm some kids, so this series was perfect for a student that has processing difficulties or learning disabilities. The language was also simple and believable.

We were able to use this series to tackle IEP goals and basic middle school life. I try to select books that will fully support my students. They are way more than their IEP and I strive to fully support them.

The Secrect Language of Girls Series

I think all three of these books are great. I borrowed them out of a middle school library. My student selected the first book and wanted to finish the series.

I was very happy to find out a student I once had, as a consult, also read this series. Both students loved these books, even though they are very different people and learners. I think that says alot for an author if you can touch different types of readers.

  • Realistic
  • Easy to read
  • Easy to follow the plot
  • Addresses friendship and social issues
  • The characters grow and change over the 3 books

I loved how as a reader we followed these friends grow and mature, sometimes together and sometimes apart. That seems realistic and helpful as kids wade through the turbulent waters of middle school.

These are just some of the awesome books I like to use…I will be adding more in the future. I am fairly sure one of my schools will have a book fair again and I always love to look on Amazon. I also see a Barnes and Noble visit in my future. My mini me loves to read. Together we make a dangerous combination in a book store.

I know that libraries are a wonderful way to try new books out for free. I do this too, but if I love it and know I will read a novel multiple times-I purchase. This way I can sticky note it up, underline and highlight/tag pages.

Read, Research and Respond

If you enjoy reading with your students I hope you give one of these a try. Happy reading. Happy teaching.

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