Archive | November, 2012

New Vocabulary Word Group Strategy

30 Nov

Happy Friday! The lost awaited school post. Although I have been blogging about food and fitness for the past couple of weeks since I was on vacation, I did originally start this blog for teaching.



Eeek. I’ve tried many a strategy. We all know that having students look up words in the dictionary is ineffective, but I remember being told to do it. Who uses a dictionary anymore??? If want to know a word, I Google it.

I find that my students don’t know many on level and even below level vocabulary words ( I had many students in 9th grade last year who were unaware of what ‘courage’ meant). But you can’t teach students EVERY word in the entire world that may or may not be on a standardized test.

I’ve always heard that the best way to learn new vocabulary was to read more. Duh. But how should you approach vocabulary in your classroom? I’ve tried things like:

The Frayer Model


Our American Dream Frayer Models on the articles we read:



I’ve tried Marzano’s six steps:




Also, teaching root words, suffices and prefixes seems to be popular with the common core today. I used the method two years ago while teaching 7th grade English. It was semi-effective. Just because I tried it once and it didn’t work that well doesn’t mean it definitely doesn’t work, but what I noticed is that even if the student knew the root, it didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to decipher a random word containing that root. Case in point:


Even if the student knows that BIO means life, they still need to have extensive knowledge of the suffices to understand what the world means. And again, you can’t teach them EVERY prefix, suffix and root in the world.

I’ve even tried having students pick their own words from the books they are reading to look up, study and take quizzes on, and that didn’t seem very effective either.

I decided to try a new strategy this year that revolves around what I call word groups. Students don’ t need to know the full definition of a word (how often do you recite the entire dictionary definition of a word when you hear it?). They just need to understand the basic connotation of the word. I give students a list of words that all mean something similar to study. I have had this poster in my room for a couple of years and it seems to be successful. Students look at the poster when thinking of words to write instead of ‘sad’ or ‘mad’. So this is where the idea of teaching the word groups came from.



The first word group I did was ‘sad/negative words’:


I created a sequence of activities for students to complete for ‘bell ringers’ at the beginning of each class surrounding these words. The idea to work with the same set of words for five days came from a co worker of mine, who is doing the same thing but using root word groups instead. I modified her idea to use my ‘connotation word groups’. The sequence goes like this:


Students aren’t necessarily working with ALL of the words each day, but my goal is for them to just sight recognize them on the quiz so they can tell the difference between that ‘sad’ word and another word that they may or may not know when answering multiple choice vocabulary questions.

I just finished my first round of this and the quiz grades were great! The strategy seems to be successful. We just started our second word group today.

Question: What strategies have you tried for vocabulary that have worked or failed?

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

28 Nov

I totally failed at my ‘vegetarian’ dinner’. I thought I was going to be all nifty and make quinoa stuffed peppers and acorn squash patties a la Paleomg, but then I went and put BACON in them both! Bacon makes everything better!! Austin hates squash (and I make A LOT of squash) so basically the only way to make it better is to put bacon in it. Problem solved.


Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Makes 2 servings

Total Time: 30 mins

1 large bell pepper

1/2 cup of quinoa

2 strips of bacon

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

1 clove garlic

1/2 of a small onion, minced

1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

1 tbsp olive oil

Optional: Red pepper flakes- if you like it spicy



Pre-heat oven to 375. Put your vegetable broth on to boil. Cut pepper in half lengthwise and discard seeds. Rub pepper with olive oil and salt and pepper. Pop in the oven when it’s preheated for about 10-12 minutes (I do this while I’m cooking other things so the peppers take less time to cook in the end. You can skip it and cook it longer in the end if you want). When chicken/vegetable broth reaches boiling, dump in your quinoa, bring to a boil, then turn down and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.




Meanwhile, fry up your bacon. Cut your onion and garlic while it’s cooking. When done, transfer to paper towels and let cool. Throw the onion and garlic into the leftover bacon fat and cook until translucent.

Now it’s time to put everything together. In a bowl, mix cooked quinoa, chopped bacon bits, cooked onion and garlic, parm cheese, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using. Scoop the mixture into the pre-cooked bell peppers. Pop them in the oven for another 15 minutes. You could even put more cheese on the top to get a nice browned look.

They were good! Technically you could change up the filling anyway you want- with meat, more cheese, spices, etc. This is the combo I love! Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for a much needed school post later in the week!


P.S I actually tried being a vegetarian once. I got scared because I accidentally ate raw chicken without knowing it and decided I was grossed out by meat.It lasted three days. That’s my story.

Pad Thai Chicken

27 Nov

I normally wouldn’t just do a blog post about someone else’s recipe, but I just ate dinner and it was AMAZZZZZING!

I got this  Pad Thai Chicken recipe from and I just had to share. It took less than a half an hour to make and it was so good.

Skinny Taste was one of the first food blogs I started reading. I have taken countless of recipes from it. This recipe, I modified slightly by

a) Using PB2 instead of what it called for, which was Better N’ Peanut Butter.

b) Using a cut up red onion and a red pepper instead of the broccoli and carrot slaw- because it was what I had on hand.

I have never eaten Better N Peanut butter, but the PB2 actually has LESS calories than it does, so the calorie count would be slightly lower. YUM!!!!! You must try this.




What blogs first inspired you to get into cooking/blogging? Peanut Butter Fingers is another one of my favs!

Arm Burner Workout

26 Nov

What a great start to the week! My students- surprisingly- were amazing. It’s great to come back to work when I have such hard working and dedicated students. It honestly felt good to get back in the swing of things. Many people may be upset or grumpy because vacation’s over- but I try to avoid the negativity.  Negativity will drag you down so I’ve learned recently to just avoid it and instead of focusing on what’s bad, try to look at positive things (it’s easier said than done). I just focus on the fact that I actually have a job and everything that went well with my lesson. It makes the day go by so much faster when I actually take the time to notice the good things instead of focusing on the bad.

I topped off this wonderful Monday with a great at home workout. Austin and I brought home his weight bench, which is now conveniently located in our basement. It has me debating whether or not my gym membership is worth it!


Although, after I came home to workout today, I felt like I could easily just sit on the couch or start dinner! So I think keeping the membership would be smart. I just feel better paying for something that holds me accountable.

Since it’s Monday, I decided to start the week with a killer arm workout:


I finished with some core work that consisted of:

25 Thai Sit ups

25 Toe Touches

50 Russian Twists

1 min Plank Hold

If you are unsure of what any of these moves are- just You Tube or Google them. Again, I do not have professional training or experience with weight training- so complete the workouts at your own risk!

Dinner was a healthy and yummy pepper pasta that I stole from the blog Undressed Skeleton. I love my carbs, but I try to avoid most of them at all cost. Instead of eating pasta, I just made myself  several sautéed peppers to substitute for it. Delicious and healthy! Of course I have to make real pasta for Austin.


So good and good for you! Happy Monday!

Question: How do you feel about going back to work the first day after vacation? How do you avoid negativity?

How to choose the right DJ for your wedding

25 Nov

Austin and I have just returned from an amazing and fun filled week long vacation for Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that I have so many loving friends and family to spend time with- as well as a job that allows me to have a full week off. Since we were home for the last week, we were able to get some wedding planning done which included meeting with a couple of DJs. You may think at first that a DJ doesn’t really matter- you could just hook up your Ipod, right?- but I honestly think that having a good DJ is one of the most important parts of a wedding. I wanted to be thorough and talk to more than one to get an idea of their personalities and make sure it was the right fit. But what does one look for when booking a DJ?


You want everyone up and dancing!


My search revolved around a couple of things:

1. Price. Let’s face it, this is a major factor. It really depends on how much you want to spend, like I said the DJ is important so if you really like a certain DJ and he’s a little bit over the budget, you have to decide if you’re willing to sacrifice that. But I wanted to first look for a variety of DJs within my price range and then pick form among them.

2. Reviews and word of mouth recommendations. I’d much rather have positive reviews online or an actual recommendation from a friend instead of blindly searching online and picking anyone. Even if someone had only a few negative reviews, I strayed away. I know accidents happen, but if you notice a pattern of bad reviews online or more than one person has told you the DJ acted inappropriate, there’s no reason to even consider them.

3. Personality.  Just like the photographer, I think I need to feel comfortable with the person who is basically going to be running my wedding. I need to feel like he/she really cares about making my day go perfectly and ‘special’ and that it’s not ‘just another gig’ for them.

4. Musical Knowledge. I basically drilled the DJs we met with on their knowledge of what music to play. Austin and I are country fans, and we know that’s not all we want played but we want good dancing country played, as well as the new hits. I want a DJ that knows how to get EVERYONE dancing, not just the older folks, or the younger ones.

5. How much freedom do I have to choose music? I made sure that I could submit a ‘Do not play’ and ‘must play’ list, as well as asked how much freedom I had in actually picking individual songs. Some DJs even have an online database where you can hand pick every single song that you want at your wedding. I want to be able to submit a list of songs we want, but we also want a knowledgeable DJ who can read the crowd and play the most appropriate music at key times.


We’re huge Eric Church fans!

It’s going to be just another one of the millions of decisions I have to make when it comes to my wedding! Like I said, I will submit the must play list, but I want a DJ that is going to have a good mix of new country, new as well as throwback dancing music, and some older classics that will get everybody dancing. I know everyone doesn’t love country, but we do and so do the majority of our friends.

One of the DJs we met with seemed more personable and that he would make sure everything ran very smoothly- he’s been to our venue before. But the other DJ, while I didn’t get as much as a warm and fuzzy feeling, seemed to have more knowledge of music.

Any advice from people who have just had a wedding or have gone to many weddings: What do you think makes a good DJ? What do you absolutely hate to see the DJ do at a wedding? I’d love to get some advice and experiences from people who have gone through it! Thanks!


Getting your fitness before the feast

22 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving! Honestly I’ve never really given much thought to fitness on this day….so this year is a first. Normally I have one too many the night before during the infamous ‘Thanksgiving Eve” holiday and continue to shovel food and drink into my mouth the next day.



pumpkin- not as pretty

I’m happy to say that last night was tame compared to recent years and I was able to fall asleep and wake up early to get a run in and begin cooking all the delicious things I will eat today while feeling a little less guilty than usual. Thanksgiving should be a time to truly enjoy family and not worry about the added calories so getting my workouts in yesterday and today will allow me to do that.

Yesterday I had a great workout while experimenting with Austin’s weight bench that we will be bringing from his parents house to our house. I ended up getting a pretty intense full body workout in that looked like this:

Warm up and stretching

Mountain climbers: 4 rounds 40 seconds on/20 seconds off

Barbell Chest Press: (Just the bar 😉 ) 10 reps/ 4 sets

Lunge Jumps (ughhh): 4 roun 30 seconds on/30 seconds off

Lat Pull Downs (30 lbs): 12 reps/ 4 sets

Burpeees: 4 rounds 30 seconds on / 30 seconds off

Squats (with 25lb weight plate): 12 reps/ 4 sets

Superset 2 times through – Glute Bridge: 15 reps

Thai Sit ups: 15 reps

This morning, as mentioned, I was able to get up bright and early and go for a run. I had a running partner this time! It was so beautiful about -55 degrees and sunny- very warm for Thanksgiving around here. Now I can enjoy my Thanksgiving guilt free.


Ruby, my parents’ dog and my running partner.


Tonight I actually will be going Black Friday shopping after dinner. I’m excited, but I feel bad for the people who have to work. I think they should change all this Black Friday nonsense to start on Friday again like it used to. I feel this way…but it’s not enough to stop me I guess lol. I am so thankful that a) I have a job that I can have a vacation from and b) that job gives me ample vacation time to enjoy my family and friends.

How are you getting your fitness in for Thanksgiving? Or do you think you should just go all out because it’s a holiday? I’d love to hear some comments!




Peanut Butter Banana Protein Oats

20 Nov

Can someone figure out how to make oatmeal look delicious on a blog?

I am not just obsessed with pancakes. I guess I’m obsessed with breakfast in general. And coffee. And anything breakfast related. Anyway, oatmeal is another big winner. I buy plain and do variations of flavors. Sans all the added sugar in the instant oatmeal packets that are already flavored. One of my go-to flavors is peanut butter banana. Made easier and lower calorie by the best invention in the world, PB2. I also add some of my favorite whey protein (Designer Whey). But you can add any vanilla whey protein.

PB2 is God-like

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Oats

Serves 1/Cook Time 2 minutes!

One serving quick oats

2/3 cup water

2 tbsp PB 2

One half scoop vanilla or plain protein powder

Half a banana

Sweetener (optional)

Put oatmeal in a bowl with the water. Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir in protein powder, PB2 and a quarter banana mashed. Add more water and stir. Microwave for 40 more seconds or until thick. Slice the rest of the banana on top. You may also want to add your sweetener of choice (honey, stevia, sugar, etc). I really don’t need sweetness so I don’t.

I used Organic plain Better Oats:

Anyone else have ideas on what to put in oatmeal to flavor it? I stick to two or three variations, usually banana, chocolate and peanut butter. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Coconut Peanut Butter Pancakes

19 Nov



Happy Monday! Since I’m on vacation this week, the posts will mostly consist of non-teaching related stuff. But be prepared for some recipes as I get ready to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner later in the week. I know I’m on vacation but I am really trying to stay on track as far as food and exercise. It is hard. It’s hard to get out of that ‘I’m on vacation…screw it’ mentality. And family and friends are sometimes no help. Sorry!

This weekend I was excited I got to go browse in my local Natur-Tyme organic food grocery store. I was like a kid in a candy store! All of the cool alternative baking ingredients that I read about in blogs were right there! I left with some of my favorite new ingredients ‘PB2’ (the greatest thing on earth…if you haven’t tried it….GOOGLE IT NOW), and some coconut flour to try with some of the Paleo and pancake recipes I’ve been meaning to make.




This morning I got right to work to make a coconut flour pancake recipe…since I’m obsessed with them. I got this recipe from Dashing Dish, one of my favorite recipe blogs, but modified it a little because I wanted to make it a smaller serving.


Coconut Peanut Butter Pancakes

Makes 3-4 medium pancakes / Cook Time including prep: 15 minutes

3 tbsp coconut flour

1 1/2 tbsp peanut flour (PB2)

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 -3 tsp sugar or sweetener of choice (I don’t need my pancakes very sweet, but if you do you might want to add more)

4 egg whites

1/8-1/4 cup of water



Mix all ingredients besides water. Then add enough water to make a batter-like consistency. The original recipe said that it would be a lumpy thicker style batter. Cook until browned on one side and bubbly on the top, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. I topped mine with 1/2 a banana and some pancake syrup. Yum!


How do you stay on track while on vacation? Or is it no-holds barred? I’d love to hear some thoughts!


Easy Sunday Workout

18 Nov

Happy Sunday! I’ve been busy with preparations for Thanksgiving so I haven’t posted in a couple days. Can’t wait to try some recipes!

I don’t usually work out on Sundays but I figured since I’ll probably be shoving my face with some less than healthy food and drink later this week I would force myself to. I started off wanting to do some easy cardio on the elliptical and throw in some intervals. Once I got going and got my heart pumping, it got me in the mood to do a legit workout. I’m glad I decided to force myself because now I feel great! This is what ended up doing:

Warm up and stretching
10 mins elliptical
1 min burpees
1 min jumping jacks
1 min mountain climbers
1 min ice skaters
1 minute squat jumps
10 mins elliptical
25 crunches in exercise ball
25 chest press with dumbbells
25 more crunches on ball
25 push ups
25 more crunches

Turned into a nice little Sunday! Moral of the story- just push yourself to work out even if you don’t feel like it. I convinced myself by telling myself I was going to do something easy then I got into the mood once I got going. You’re not going to regret it afterward…. You’ll regret it if don’t!

Question: I’d love to hear your opinion on cheat/skip days. How many days a week do you rest? Do you have a cheat day or just cheat meals? I am currently struggling with this and trying to get better.


How to use QR reader in the classroom

15 Nov

Another school post! Today more students brought in their food from their fake restaurants we have been doing in the Creative Exploration class I talked about in this post. I was amazed! Tuesday, a student brought in chocolate eclair cake, another student brought in ice cream sundaes, and another brought in chicken empanadas.

Today we had three (3!!) different kids of cake: a cinnamon cake, a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, and another girl brought in a coconut cake with vanilla frosting complete with the name of her fake bakery on it!!

It was awesome!!!

Anyway, today we did a pretty cool thing with the I pads in class that worked out well. I talked previously in my blog about using QR reader. It really is quite a simple thing to use. I had 4 different videos to show students about The American Dream, the unit we’re working on. They had to

watch the video and determine what it was trying to say about The American Dream. Instead of giving students a long URL to type out which usually gets messed up because it’s difficult to type on the I pad, I gave them a QR code with the video in it. They scanned the QR and it took them right to the video. Easy way to integrate technology!

Here were the four videos I had them watch:

Interviews about the American Dream-

Obama speech-

End of American dream? Informative Cartoon

Michele Obama speech-

To generate QR codes, go to a website like QR stuff. It’s pretty simple. Students like it because they love anything that we do with the I pads. Although there were a few technology hiccups at first (when are there not?), it worked out well!

smile you’re having fun!

Now I just have to get through one more day before Thanksgiving Break! Bring on Friday!

They also liked the cake…

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