Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas, Teachers!

It's the most wonderful time of the year…for those who aren't trying to corral rambunctious seven-year-olds that are hyped up on Santa and sugar! Thankfully we have 2 weeks to rest, recover, and hopefully pamper ourselves with some nice presents.

Teacher gifts can be broken into the following 5 categories:

1. Homemade

This kind of gift is mostly candy and food. It is important to find out if they are parent-made or child-made.

2. Kid-picked

While the sentiment is nice, the child is usually more attached to the gift than the teacher. Over the top excitement once the gift is unwrapped is absolutely necessary.

By the way, that bird pen actually came from a co-teacher.

3. Really Nice

Often this gift leaves the teacher confused. Is this an apology for a "special" child? Is this an attempt to encourage me to focus more on your child? Or am I really just that awesome??
4. Body Products

Sprays, gels, lotions, bubble baths, etc. Is it a friendly gesture or do I smell bad? If you're basing that on the odors in my classroom, I can assure you that it's coming from the children.

5. Gift Cards
You usually can't go wrong with gift cards. The only exception is picking a place where the teacher doesn't frequently shop.
Parents, thank you very much for the gifts. It's nice to know you care. Don't worry, I'll be ready to jump back into gear in January. I just need a little break first! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010


Today I found this bracelet:

Which made me think of these sweet boys:
I love these guys! Only a few more months until I see them again. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ridin’ Solo

Tracy's Tips for Staying Awake on the Road

*Set your iPod to all songs and hit shuffle. Try to identify songs by name and artist in 10 seconds or less.
*Turn on Glee songs and belt it out. Preferably "Hate on Me" with Mercedes and "Rose's Turn" with Kurt.
*Alternate humming and whistling along with songs.
*Make loud popping sounds (like Donkey on Shrek)
*Run over a UDO (unidentified dead object)
*Drink a LOT of water. Just keep in mind that some rest stops are spread really far apart.
*Brian Regan
*Dance to Single Ladies and Bad Romance.
*Mentally calculate the miles to your destination. Divide by your current miles per hour. Add extra time for each small town that you must travel through. Determine the exact time you intend to arrive. Recalculate as needed or after every town.
*Sing the entire soundtrack of Wicked as loudly as possible.
*Wave at all the cars that pass you.
*Enjoy the scenery and fall foliage. (This one does not apply to travel in Texas during the winter.)
*Play the jelly bean game with yourself. Make sure to only eat half a jelly bean so that you don't have to spit it out and guess what color it used to be.
*Roll down the window, chew some gum, and listen to a country radio station.
*Make a list of things to write about the next time you get around to blogging.

As an added bonus, here's my personal collection of songs that I cannot resist singing along with:

The "Gotta Sing Along" Playlist

Fidelity - Regina Spektor

Gold Digger – Glee Cast version

Hemorrhage (In My Hands) – Fuel

White Man – Gungor

Go West Young Man – Michael W. Smith

Take Me to Your Leader – Newsboys

Mr. Brightside – Killers

I'm Yours – Jason Mraz

Company Car – Switchfoot

Grandma's Feather Bed – John Denver

Drops of Jupiter – Train

Don't Stop Believin' - Journey

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recipes of the Week

I occasionally fix something super delicious that is worthy of sharing with my friends. This recipe was requested often enough that when I made it this week I thought, "I should share this awesomeness with all my blog readers!" So…for the two of you that I haven't given this to yet, please enjoy!

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

2 chicken breasts

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

8 oz. light sour cream

Whole wheat tortillas


Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

Boil chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Add flour, then slowly whisk in milk. Continue stirring until the mixtures comes to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to thicken. While that is cooling, shred the chicken. Whisk sour cream in to the white sauce.

Spray a 9x9 or other small casserole dish a begin layering. Tear pieces of whole wheat tortillas, chicken, salsa, sauce, and cheese. I usually make 2 layers, ending with tortillas and cheese on top. Bake @ 350 for 15-20 until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.

This makes enough for me and a friend with some leftovers. I would double everything to make a family-sized portion.

Tracy's Recipe for Procrastination

The following may or may not be based on real life experiences. ;)

To do: Read and respond to two current events articles and two journal articles.

Check email while watching TV. Decide to take a one hour nap to increase potential energy later in the evening. Wake up. Eat a snack while fixing dinner. Clean off desk to use as a workspace. Eat dinner while watching TV. Organize supplies needed to complete the work. Check email again. Adjust light and temperature settings. Begin working. Review numerous articles in an attempt to find the perfect one. Wander into the other room to find a resource that was left behind. Semi-finish two of the responses. Decide to bake cookies. Set out cookie dough. Empty dishwasher. Wash every dish in the house. Put cookies in oven. Read some more articles. Stop reading to eat cookies. Finish reading articles. Write some more. Realize that it's getting late. Decide to stop working for the night and get ready for bed.

Still to do: Finish four responses. <sigh>

Monday, August 30, 2010

What’s new?

My Class
The 2010-2011 school year promises to be exciting and fast-paced. I've got 19 precious new kiddos, a student teacher, a new classroom layout, and a new ELA curriculum that hasn't all arrived yet. Here's a "before" pic of my classroom. It looked awesome for Meet the Teacher, but I forgot to take an "after" picture before the kids came. Sooo…it will probably never be clean again. :)

Grad School
Yep…you heard correctly. I'm starting my master of education this year. Each class meets for 4 hours one night a week for 8 weeks. I'm already trying to figure out how to adjust to having homework. The keyword for this semester is "discipline." I'll let you know how that works out for me.

I've had my hand-me-down TV for the last 5 years. It's so old that I couldn't even connect a DVD player to it. There were more important things on my list of things to buy (couch, car, etc.) so I'm just now getting around to updating my TV. Lots of research, reviews, and pricing later, I found a good deal on a TV that I'm happy with. It's sooooo big compared to my last one. Almost like being in a movie theater. Who wants to come over for a movie night??


Chris was looking to down-size her class pet collection, so I eagerly offered to adopt these two fire-bellied toads. Today was their first day in our class and I learned that 6 year old boys are highly distracted by amphibians in the classroom. Let's hope that wears off soon. We're voting for names later this week. I'll let you know how that works out.

I've about reached my limit of new stuff to adjust to, which means I can expect something else to show up any day now. Here's to a school year of fun (and potentially overwhelming) adventures!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer: A Summary

I'm feeling overwhelmed, which has led to blogging procrastination. There's just too much to tell about my summer! So I'll sum it up:

School's out! Colorado. Buddy & Jessica's wedding. Lots of driving. 5th grade summer school. TAKs test. Pool. Friends. Register for grad school. Free time? Packing at Cyndy's. Oreo balls. More swimming. Peru planning. Peru packing. PERU! New friends. Old friends. Cesar Vallejo boys. Churros. Hot chocolate. Translators. BFFs. Cusco. Pisac & llamas. Meet up with Mom & Dad. Machu Picchu. Hard to leave. Austin is hot. PD classes. Fly to Michigan. Overnight in MSP. Rachel & Chris' wedding. Shopping. Back to Texas. Summer's over. Start school!

Obviously there's much more I need to share about my Peru adventures. Until I make time to blog about that, you'll have to be satisfied with a few pictures.

Cesar Vallejo Casa

Kaci, Tracy, Andres, Alejo, Carlos, Tamara

Friday, July 9, 2010

Favorite Things Friday – the Peru Edition

Since I'll optimistically (but not realistically) be packed and relaxed this time next week, I'm going to do my Peru post a little early.


"Uno dulce de leche churro, por favor." That's the extent of Spanish that I need in order to survive in Peru. There is nothing as delicious as a churro from that yummy little bakery around the corner from our hotel after a long day of corralling kiddos.

My New Tennis Shoes
Aren't they cute? Keep an eye out for these guys in Machu Picchu pictures. That is if I can get them broken in before then. Right now they're just rubbing some nice blisters on my heels.

Machu Picchu

Welcome to one of the new seven wonders of the world. It's nearly impossible to take a picture that is not postcard worthy. This year I'll be headed up the mountain with Mom and Dad. I can't wait to introduce them to the fascinating ruins and the great little shopping village at the base of the mountain.

Miguel Miguel began the orphanage many years ago when he invited some street boys home to live with his family. He calls it "the community" and all of the children are a part of his family. Although he appears calm and laid-back, he is a fierce protector of the kids and he works diligently to meet their needs. Miguel is more like Jesus than any person I've ever encountered.

These Sweet Faces

All of the hard work and time we've put into planning and packing is worth it the moment we see these sweet kiddos. I can't wait to see all my little boys again. They are so precious and full of life! I pray that we can be a blessing to Miguel and all of the community's children.

One week to go! I can't wait to be back in Peru again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Favorite Things Friday

I want to share with you some things that I love!

Cassie is all that I aspire to be as a blogger someday. Her witty updates on life, family, fantastic finds, and photography bring me great joy. And she likes to give away prizes! I stole the "Favorite Things Friday" from her. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Lentils - the other Legume

Although I never tire of black beans and rice, Laura raved about her love of lentils so often that I finally went out and bought a bag. They're dirt cheap, cook in about 15 minutes, and easily adapt to any recipe. I've just begun to scratch the surface of my lentil cooking. I like to cook them in vegetable broth and spices, toss them with some other cooked veggies, and eat them over rice.

Hey Cupcake!

This Austin landmark began as "that place in an airstream trailer with a cupcake on top." I've tried almost all of their cupcakes, but my favorite is the snowcap (chocolate with vanilla buttercream frosting.) Then yesterday I branched out and tried the 24 Carrot. Oh my!

This is just the beginning. There are many more favorites to come! :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eclipse: The Review

(Spoiler Alert)
If you're reading this and you haven't read the books or seen the movie yet, then I doubt you're someone who worries about me giving away anything.

When a book that I love is made into a movie, I'm a fan of sticking closely to the text. I understand that some adjustments must be made for the sake of plot movement and time restrictions, but let's not mess with the good thing that the author created. There are some expections to this, such as Tom Bombadil in LOTR. You don't even remember him, right?

Twilight the movie was a disappointment. It did a poor job of illustrating the depth of connection between Edward and Bella. In fact, I was so distracted by Jasper's stare and Carlisle's hair that I didn't even know why they were pretending to be lions in the middle of a baseball game. Which left us wondering why Bella was so distraught in New Moon. The second movie followed closer to the story line and it introduced us to shirtless-Taylor. Nice.

On to Eclipse:

The Good
My expectations were met in both the tent and engagement scenes, two of my favorite parts in the book. The movie included just enough time with Bella's mom and dad to show that she was concerned about the choice she was making. Emmett was a nice comic relief, as always. What I most appreciated was the shortened versions of Rosalie's story, Jasper's story, and the Quileute legends. They provide crucial character development in the book, but I've read them so many times I just skip over the chapters now. We also were treated to more of Taylor's abs. Nice.

The Funny
Jasper's eyes still make me laugh out loud. Esme took some notes from him to make herself look more intense just before the fight scene. We all snickered at that one. Edward also commented on how Jacob can't seem to find a shirt to wear. The whole theater laughed when Edward pulled out the ring and the lady behind me said, "That's an ugly ring!"

The Disappointing
I know steriods can help Taylor grow muscles, but the poor guy can't seem to catch up to the 6' 7" that Jacob is supposed to be. It's hard to be intimidated by a small, scowling 16 year-old.
Why won't they let Bella cook? Is it not possible for her to be making dinner while she's talking to Charlie? Half of the book is Bella cooking dinner for her dad. Maybe it would take too much time and effort to teach Kristen how to use a kitchen.
Did they re-write Jessica as the valedictorian just because she's the new breakout actress? I felt a little sorry for Eric's character.

The Unacceptable
I fully expect that the screenwriters will take a few liberties with the story, but that last scene went a little too far. What was up with Bella's "I've never been normal" speech? And why did they feel the need to directly contradict what Bella said about there's no point in being immortal without Edward? Don't remember that part? Go look it up. Page 276.

Why the Midnight Showing?
It's all about the community experience. The evening started at Cheesecake Factory where the waiter commented on our matching t-shirts. Tamara and I were a little embarrassed, especially when the guy said a bunch of his (teenage) friends were going to the movie too. Once we got to the theater, it was awesome to have 8 of us in our "professional" shirts. Tamara and Rachel and I kept looking at each other and making faces during the movie. I couldn't stop laughing at the Jacob fans sitting next to me. Then there was the guy that decided to make a bunch of enemies by saving 30 (...yes, 30!) seats for his friends.
I did take a few pictures, but they were not quite worthy of publishing. If they were negatives, I would probably destroy them. Since they're not, I'll keep them around in case I need to blackmail Tamara or Rachel someday. ;)

It will be interesting to see how yet another director interprets the last book. At least he'll have two movies to stretch out all of the craziness that goes down in Breaking Dawn.

What is there to look forward to while we wait? Harry Potter!

Monday, June 28, 2010


I knew before the school year ended that this would not be a long, relaxing summer. After a quick weekend trip to Colorado, I jumped right in to teaching summer school. Fortunately, summer school ends this week. Unfortunately, I only have 2 1/2 weeks of summer free time left to soak up.

I have managed to squeeze in a few of my favorite summer activities:
- snow cones, usually watermelon with cream
- pool time (with my SPF 50)
- afternoon naps
- lots of reading

And have some new experiences:
- picking strawberries and blackberries in Marble Falls
- Blues on the Green at Zilker Park
- Austin Farmer's Market

But there's a lot left to do:
- go to Peru!!!
- pack and finish all the preparations for Peru
- see Eclipse at midnight (tomorrow!)
- get a library card
- spend more time at the pool
- eat more snow cones
- take some classes
- go to Michigan
- pick blueberries
- go to Six Flags (How have I not used my season pass yet?)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Life after LOST

LOST was one of the few shows that I watched from beginning to end. (The only other two I can think of are Felicity and Home Improvement.) My experience with LOST began in the fall of 2005. We would wrap up Wednesday night devo no later than 8:15, shush the talkers, and become absorbed in this mysterious other world. It was really about the community experience. We would share theories, connections, and the lastest news from the internet. I became so addicted that I rented and watched all of season one over Christmas break.

Then things changed. LOST moved from Wednesday nights. Life got busy. Thankfully Hulu came along and I was able to catch up on shows that I missed, but the experience just wasn't the same. In the end, I was caught up in the joy of the reunion and honestly didn't care about the unanswered questions. Someday I'll watch it all again just to catch some more of the little tidbits that I missed the first time around.

What can fill the LOST void? Well...nothing, but here are some shows I recommend:

It's CSI without the gore, more interesting science, and great characters. Plus David Boreanaz.
Why you should watch it: Did I mention David Boreanaz? It's also witty and interesting.
Status: Season 5 just ended. I've only seen some of seasons 1-3, so I plan to catch up this summer.

The best fake detective show ever. Every episode makes me laugh out loud.
Why you should watch it: James Roday is hilarious. USA isn't kidding with their "characters welcome" slogan. This show truly brings out the best of the craziest characters.
Status: Season 5 starts July 14th. Set your DVRs now!

A delightful show for music geeks and anyone who secretly enjoys teenage soap operas. (I might have watched the first 13 episodes in one day.)
Why you should watch it: Again with the characters - Rachel Berry, Sue Sylvester, Emma Pillsbury, Brittany - each quirky one pulls the whole show together. And the singing is awesome.
Status: Two shows left in season one. :(

The Bachelorette
Let it be known that I am not proud of this weakness...and that I don't even care for Ali. I guess I am a sucker for hyped up drama in a "reality" setting.
Why you should watch it: You should only watch it if you plan to read Lincee Ray's comments on Lincee is not afraid to say what she really thinks (and what you were probably thinking too.)
Status: Just started the new season

I'll probably also tune in to the summer seasons of Royal Pains and Burn Notice (both start June 3.) Did I mention that I like the shows on USA?

What do you like to watch? Am I missing out on any awesome shows this summer?

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Every teacher reaches that time of year when they know it is in the best interest of everyone that things wrap up quickly and smoothly.
I know you think that kids are the ones that most need a break. This is not true. Young children recharge over a weekend...and sometimes overnight, but adults need a considerably longer amount of time away from the source of the "issue" in order to completely recover.

Top Ten Signs It's Time for Summer Break:

10. I can't remember the last time I brought home work to grade
9. I've stopped buying lunch stuff and just take whatever happens to be on top in the pantry
8. The dust on top of the pass along box of student files is almost 1/4 inch
7. All of the student headphones in my room are broken...ALL of them
6. I'm overcome with the itch to take down all of my bulletin boards
5. The desks in my room take on crazy configurations (none of the normal group stuff)
4. I'm giving up precious weekend/socializing time to take pack up my classroom
3. I didn't bother to get folders/school supplies for my new student (what's the point?)
2. DRA tests are finished!
1. I missed 3 days last week, two mornings this week and I'm still considering the need for a personal day between now and the end of the year :)

By the way, there's only 8 1/2 days left! The end is in sight!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Strawberry Pickin'

Laura, Kellsey, and I decided to add some adventure to our Saturday afternoon. We headed out to Sweet Berry Farm in search of some Red, Ripe Strawberries (without the Big Hungry Bear).
It was worth trip to Marble Falls. It wasn't too crowded, we found more than enough strawberries, and we even got to feed some baby goats. Plus they had amazing homemade strawberry ice cream and strawberry lemonade.
We saw lots of marble, but thought we would further investigate the "falls" part of the city. We found a lake, a dam, and a "fishing" area that would be the perfect setting for a horror movie. To top it all off, when we stopped to take wildflower pictures by the land mine warning sign we found what we hope is an animal skeleton. (Check out the rest of my pictures on facebook!)

We took that as our cue to head on out of town. The route back just happened to take us by 183A and 1431, so I introduced the girls to Nothing Bundt Cakes.

My berries are all sliced, in the freezer, and ready for me to make a strawberry cake. We're planning to go back to pick blackberries at the end of May. Anyone want to join us?

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Waiting to rise:

Usually I divide the dough in half to make two loaves of bread. This time I made four mini-loaves.

Ready to eat!

Baking Bread

I had a little free time today, so I decided to give my kneading muscles a workout by mixing up a batch of challah.

My challah days began in college. I think I made bread every Saturday of my senior year for our pasta & parsha Bible studies. It took a bit of adjusting various recipes before I finally settled on my own version. I personally think it's the best bread ever!
I should warn you, it takes a considerable amount of time to make - mix, wait to rise, knead, braid, wait to rise, then finally bake - but it is definitely worth it.

Tracy's Challah
2 1/2 cups warm water (110 F)
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp. oil
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. salt
5 cups unbleached flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
extra flour for kneading

In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Add salt, oil, honey, and eggs. Add whole wheat flour, then unbleached flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup. (After about cup 6 you might need to mix by hand.)
Cover with a wet dishtowel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Pull out half of the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for about 3 minutes. Divide into thirds and braid. Repeat for second half. Let rise, covered, on baking sheets for 1 1/2 hours. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 until light brown. Serve with honey.

I'll add pictures of the steps along the way. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hunger Games

Hi. My name is Tracy and I'm addicted to reading.

I know you don't believe it. But it's true...ask any of my friends. When I encounter a new book I literally devour it. I have no concept of time. Sleeping and eating become meaningless. I can seriously become so absorbed that I will spend an entire day reading the book. When I discover a new author, I become obsessed with the thrill of tracking down everything that person has ever written. (Do they have programs for people like me??)

Anyway, my current passion (aka obsession) is the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
My dear friend and librarian, Jenny, mentioned it to me while I was visiting her mid-February. I just happened to drop by a bookstore to purchase it later that week. I read the first chapter one night, a few chapters the following night, and then finally stayed up unreasonably late to finish it.
Immediately remorse set in....why had I not purchase the second book in the series when I bought the first one?!?!? Luck would have it that I needed to make a quick stop by Walmart and they just happened to have a copy of Catching Fire on the shelf.

I often tell my friends about the latest book I read and how much I loved it, but rarely do I strongly persuade others to read it. In the last month and a half, I have successfully turned 5 of my friends into avid fans.

What, you ask, makes this book so great? heart-wrenching and fast-paced. The premise is despicable, but the characters are charming. You ache for a happy ending, while realizing that it isn't possible. Just when things can't get any more painful, another unexpected twist changes the entire direction of the book. It shows injustice at its worst, addresses the superificiality of our culture, questions the nature of government, but still manages to encompass love, hope, and all that is good in our world.

Please read it. And to save yourself the pain - buy both books at the same time. Oh...and the second one will leave you hanging, but feel free to join me while I wait in line to buy the third one on August 24th. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Commitment Phobia

I'm a nomad. Since graduating high school I have resided in 8 different places. Yes...eight places in 9 years. (With a few additional in and out of storage moves in between.)

I like for my residence to feel "homey," however deep down inside I realize that I'm in yet another apartment and it's hard to settle in. I unpack all of the boxes and hang curtains and do a bare minimum of decorating.

Enter the phobia - I don't like the commitment of hanging things on the walls. It feels too permanent. It leaves behind the holes that I'll have to patch up the next time I move. It also takes a lot of effort to pick out the pictures and to dig out the frames and to find the right place and to get it level. So I usually just look at bare walls.

Last March, I decided that I would be proactive about hanging things up. I even spent an entire afternoon finding the perfect pictures to put in my hallway. I added a few other things in the living room and then I stopped.

After my trip to Peru last summer, I thought it would be nice to make a little "Peru corner" in my dining area. I ordered the pictures, bought the frames and shelves, and got everything ready. Then I left it sitting on the floor waiting to go on the wall. The layer of dust I wiped off the pictures last weekend suggests that they spent approximately 4 months just waiting to go on the wall.

At last. . . here's how it turned out:

Now to tackle the bare walls in my bedroom . . .

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Reason to Blog

Ever since blogging became the new MySpace, I've been a fan of reading them. I've always wanted my own blog, but I never felt that my life was quite interesting enough to merit my own corner of the web.

Today that changed when I took this picture -

These are the Easter egg and bunny sugar cookies that I took to school to sell today. I thought that they were just too cute to be eaten and then forgotten about. I must share them with the world! I am. Starting my very own blog. All because of some cookies. :)