Monday, December 23, 2013

Fastest last minute gift.

A tea wallet. Go. (But not the smartest way of going about doing it.)

Materials: 20x13 piece of fabric. 2 inch bit of quarter inch wide elastic. A button. ( you could also do this with snaps, but I can't find them) 

Sew a quarter inch seam (Not pictured) down the long side of the rectangle. Press seam. 

Fold ends in 1/2 inch; press. Sew closed with quarter inch seam. 

Fold up a pocket on each of the long sides. Pin and sew the ends down. Sew pockets slightly larger than a bag of tea. 

This arrangement should allow for six pockets. Fold as follows:


First fold.

Second fold.

Last fold. This is where you position the button. Stitch down a button. 
Attach elastic on opposite side of wallet on inside of fold.

This is not how I recommend, or when I recommend doing it. I should've done this before the wallet was constructed. Oh well.

Fill with bags of tea for your friend and gift.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

American Family.

We've had rather an epidemic of a childhood virus in the area; I guess it's just a bad year for it. In any case, in an effort to stem the spread of said nuisance virus, a childcare facility I work for has been sterilizing and cleaning toys any time we get wind of a confirmed case in one of our children [at least parents are reporting]. We haven't solved the problem of how to replace any of the soft dolls yet - they dissapeared in the first round of deep cleaning [I'm for going to IKEA and getting a soft toy, and seeing how it holds up in the washing machine with a broad-spec germicide...] Anyway, while you're sending all the toys through a commercial dishwasher, you notice things like the people in the doll house. Especially after a child says "Why mommy have no pants?" About that.
So this week, the kids wanted to know where mommy went. I [okay, a lot of the workers and volunteers] had a problem with mommy not having any pants. Mommy went to the "spa" for the weekend and will be coming back to the fam with some new duds. One of our childcare workers trolls local second hand shops specifically for pieces that go with our dollhouse, so thanks to her, not only is the house fabulously furnished and accessorized with every piece of furniture imaginable, but we also now have the people that go with the doll house. We started out with one childless, single person [I can't remember if it was mom or dad] who was blessed with a spouse, much to the joy of the children, who kept asking where on Earth the actual family was that went with the doll house - not much of a doll house without people, right? And there's no fooling a three/four year old. They know which people go with which toy. And then one day, in a new bag of accessories, there arrived not just Pink baby, not just Blue baby, but their stereotype defying sibling Yellow baby. The family more than doubled over night. Yippie-skippy [surprise, mom]. And then an uncle and cousin showed up, so any interested child has some person [that actually goes with the house!] to play with now. Oh, the stories you hear being made up about the family in that doll house. Priceless.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tis the season

I do pretty good job keeping it together. At least I'd like to think so. Except for that day I walked in the grocery store to get no boil lasagna noodles.  It's Advent. Barbara Streisand is singing Christmas carols over the PA system [I find this ironic]. If you don't celebrate Advent, it's that four weeks before Christmas. I was raised Methodist and Advent wasn't a big deal; we had a wreath with the four candles in church, but the highlight of the season was, of course, Christmas. Right now it's also Hanukkah.  There's all kinds of extra super cool food in the grocery store right now. Food was super important to my grandpa. I think because it was important to his parents, because they didn't have food growing up in Sicily. Add that to the fact that they were Italian so if you love somebody you fed them. And you fed them. And you fed them. And you sent them home with left overs or canned goods you bought but realized you yourself would never eat. 

Not just whatever you had laying around. Oh no. Because what they had laying around was usually some sort of love feast for the pallet. At least my grandparents. Having lunch at their house was like a five course meal. And that was casual lunch. I'm not talking about holidays.

If it turns you off, or you have an eating disorder and this is too  much, I apologize. My grandpa was one of those guys that had everything. He would tell you as much. So for Christmas, or his birthday about the only thing you could buy him was food. Dates from the Middle East or halvah or olive oil in bulk from the Strip District*. Fresh or dried figs, those were a particular favorite. Chocolate truffles, sometimes with liqueur. Feta stuffed olives. Gorgonzola [I would make a special trip to Penn Mac and shell out for the expensive stuff]. And then I'd run down the street and get him pastrami from a kosher deli, the likes of which he couldn't find to his preference in Erie. His kitchen was decorated with olive ephemera the way some people decorate their kitchens with roosters. In my box of Christmas favors, I still have a linen kitchen towel printed with different types of pasta that I meant to give him that never made it to his kitchen.

So, there I was, standing in the pasta aisle, looking for no boil noodles, and there was a guy doing his grocery shopping and talking on the phone with his honey. He said goodbye the way my grandpa did. And I lost it in the middle of the pasta aisle of the grocery store, trying to find no boil lasagna noodles. Because this time last year, it was the beginning of the end. We just had no idea.

So I came home and finished up my Christmas shopping online. Because who wants to be that girl crying in the middle of the pasta aisle at Christmastime? 

*I wrote this initially by voice recognition software on the fly in a general stream of consciousness [hence the terrible editing], and I would like to note, for anyone not from Pittsburgh, that the Strip District is neighborhood of Pittsburgh where you go to buy food. It's where many of the city's specialty markets, as well as Pittsburgh's own Public Market is located. Asian, Italian, Latin American, spices, tea, fresh roasted coffee, bread, chocolate, seafood, organics, you name it, it's down there. And a crazy, delightful fabric shop[quilting to lux upholstery], the only place physically in the city to get sewing thread. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I can hear you groaning right now- God, not another one. Anything but another one. So let me first put it out there right now that I am not one of those going shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Period, end of story. I just spent the day being grateful for a day off, for the family that's still alive and well, for the things I have. And now I'm going to go out and trample someone for more stuff? Huh?

Last year, and I'm not even sure why we were down here, but in anycase my family and I had Thanksgiving in none of our usual places. And our hosts completely blindsided [at least] me by asking us to share around the table what we were thankful for that year. I'd have been okay with this if I had some warning. Perhaps, you know, a week ahead of time. "Oh, come on, it's not that hard to think of something you are grateful for,"

The statement "I'm grateful my family didn't kill each other this year." or "We were able to co-exist in general peace and concord." is not something you share with the class. In fact, these are the responses that get you a fast track referral to the guidance office. So while I was scrambling to think of something, I resolved to come up with a solution to handle this problem next year. I would show forth evidence of gratitude. Or at least not sit and stare blankly with what sounded like a flippant response.

To my credit, 2012 had been a little rough. I thought "surviving this year" was a fair statement to make. But alas, it was disqualified. I started a gratitude jar on New Years. I would have evidence of gratitude.

I figured I would start small. Once a week in January, drop a slip of paper with something on it I was thankful for that had happened. And I jumped into student teaching.

So. Some high lights from the jar. Because as we know, we don't argue with what comes out of the jar.

My appendix didn't rupture.
I got my masters. 
Hanging out at the zoo with 1sties. 
Positive feedback - "hey there stranger, thought that was you. haven't see you around the building - are you getting work?"
Taking myself out for lunch. 
Friendly faces. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mystery quilt a not so much

I tried. I really did. Sigh. Maybe I'm just not good at following directions. By the time the second set of directions for the mystery quilt tranquility came out I realized I had a big, big problem, made glaringly obvious by the photographs supplied by the director of the project. 

This is what I should've had. This is not what I had. All the little squares I cut? I followed the directions and sewed them all together. This was not what you were supposed to do. I like to think that my first hiccough in referencing pictures agains instructions was because the instructor used fabrics that were very, very dark and terribly close together on the color wheel... And the pictures weren't terribly well lit.

It wasn't until I got a look at the next set of pictures in the next set of directions that I realized exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing. This is not what I had sewn together either. There was much rending of seams and gnashing of teeth. At which point, I bagged it.

The whole project, by the way is finished; all the instructions are posted on the website and the participants are voting now on their favorite finished project. Life kind of, you know, happened and I got busy. Which is just as well. Had I kept merrily sewing away I would've had a lot of seams to work out.

I think I need to go back to first grade or maybe even kindergarten and have a lesson in following directions. :P

So since this is a mystery quilt, I will be posting pictures of this project as it happens in the order in which the pictures were posted on the website. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Apple season is more or less over now. Picking, anyway. My friend and I went picking a few weeks ago and decided that a half a peck per person, minimum, sounded too small. So we went with the full peck each. And then I had the genius idea to get half a bushel of seconds just for apple sauce, because that was infinitely less expensive than getting a bushel of the pretty ones straight off the tree. 

Ha. About that.

We did the next logical thing when you have almost a bushel of apples. We made sauce. And butter. It was her first time. 

We also made pie. Because that's what you do when you have almost a bushel of apples and there's vanilla ice cream in the freezer. 

Mmm, pie. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

sub bag.

Wow, okay. It's been a busy couple of weeks. I never thought I would invest in a paper planner in my life ever again. Until I did. I can hear my mother doing the "I-told-you-so" song and dance...
In my last post, I mentioned that I kept a dedicated sub bag. And that I kept some things in it.

Cuppow coffee jar, planner, box of tissues, ice bag [i get migraines] wet wipes. I heard there were saline wipes, and I've been trying to find those, since they would do what I want the wet wipes to do, without being baby scented. Filler paper [handy for attencance in upper levels, scratch/assignments in lower levels] post-it notes, a folder with my own run-off sub note forms, and a children's book. First aid kit-in-a-bag for the body [the help packets have 8 doses of something in a blister pack, and the packaging is recyclable/biodegradable], techie kit with charger, cables, thumb drive [loaded with PDF copies of all current clearnces - this has saved my life] and a cleaning cloth. I bring my own pens and pencils. And a highlighter, scissors and a pack of 24 crayons - I found the really good ones for a $1 brand new. Obviously I keep a water bottle with me - migraines, have to stay hydrated. The bottle and jar come out of the bag to be cleaned, but the rest stays in. The bag itself was a gift from my cooperating teacher and class. It was made by Thirty-One and has 7 exerior pockets. It holds everything listed above, plus a packed lunch [depending on the bag lunch is in]

Everything stocking the bag is brand new, however, I did not pay full price for it. Except the Cuppow lid. And the pens. Those pens never go on sale. Recently, I also started tossing in an ID/change purse that holds hair ties and quarters. Some of the schools have soda machines that are increadibly inexpenstive. Or there's an older student who went out of their way to meaningfully participate and they had a box of chocolate with them to raise money for a trip... so I've been known to support a cause. Miss O likes chocolate...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

19 notes from the substitute.


I began writing this first out of frustration, and then I met a student teacher who found out I was a recent grad who was subbing. She had all kinds of questions for me, and was shocked at some of my answers, my cautionary tale for upcoming graduates: subbing is not at all like student teaching [surprise!]. I student taught as a graduate student, so my experience was a little different than an undergraduate's as it was. With age comes experience; I am not a shiny faced 22 year old any more... those were the days... Without further adeu,

Notes from the Sub

I met a fair few subs while student teaching. Some examples may have included the awesome and super helpful, the "see student teacher if you have questions" note and choses to write the day off as a free pass to effectively take a nap all day, and the left the minute the day was over and saying "You will see her tomorrow; I do not need to write a note. Besides, I am a single mom and my student teaching experience was horrible so yours should be, too. Have a great evening!"

This is the sort of thing that no one [unless you have a parent that is a teacher, or an epically awesome co-op... or both] warns you about. You win some, you loose some. You might be able to talk about it to your co-op the next day. You might have to swallow it and keep your mouth shut. We have all been there. This is that part of life that some folks refer to as "paying your dues", and some of them say it with a fair amount of schadenfreude. 

If you are fresh out of school and new to this whole subbing thing, or your still in school, be prepared. You may walk into a classroom and find a pile of clerical work to do; this is how some districts are saving money on aids. And while you are about doing that clerical work at the copy machine, do not be terribly surprised if you get stopped by another teacher who asks you copy, colate and staple 25 copies of this, this and this for room 205 by 3rd period [never mind that this is your first day in this school, you have no idea when 3rd period is or where room 205 is]. It will probably happen. Again. And again.

Are you beginning to see why teachers say there are not enough hours in the day? I do not have enough hours in the day. At least as a student teacher I knew where I was going from one day to the next. As a sub you will be driving from one end of the county to another, spanning the gammut of grade levels and disciplines, and hoping that you have work secured for tomorrow or next week. So far this month I will have taught Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, Music, and Home Economic and Consumer Sciences. And  at the 12th of the month, we're not even half way through yet.

Classrooms may not have tissues because they were all used up yesterday, and the kids have to supply them - some years are tissue boon years, others are bust. Reality check. Sometimes you need a post-it note, and there is not one to be had for love or money. I can hear you saying to yourself "But none of this is my responsibility" and I am saying to you a.] districts vary in what they will supply to classrooms [office supplies is not one of those things] and b.] is it worth the stress of you not being able to find something you need? No. It is not. Plus, snot is gross. All.The.Time. At. Any. Age. Have I mentioned that? Discharge from the cranium is disgusting and likely germ infested. You probably do not have health insurance yet under A.C.A. You need this job, especially if you don't have parents that floating you along and/or a steady part time job with a reliable pay cheqye. Stay healthy out there.

Furthermore, disctricts have specific district wide policies, but each individual building within the district has different rules and policies. For example, in Cheerful Valley School District, 1st and 2nd Street School kindergartens both have snack, but 1st Street kindergarten has rest time; 2nd Street school does not. You end the day at 2nd street wishing the students had rest time. Kindergartens at both schools will have snack, but only 2nd Street 1st grade has snack. Both 1st and 2nd Street School have the same behavior chart systems for kindergarten, first and second grades.

If you are with a temp agency who has a portfolio with more than one district, let us say they service Cheerful Valley, Bethel Chapel and Lower Saint James, you will be notified of absences in all of those districts if you wish to be on those lists, but remember that the policies are different between all of those districts, you will be jumping around between cirriculum materials and behaviour management styles, and that the expectations of you from building to building will vary greatly. Even within a quote "plum" district, some of the schools may pull different population demograpics because of specific geographic areas they are servicing within a district. Assume nothing when you walk in that door about the students you are about to meet for the first time.

Fellow and future subs, some common courtesies to consider, some smacks of the obvious. Feel free to ignore everything beyond the bold face. Bear in mind there are some funny stories you might miss if you do.
  1. Please do not use the classroom roster in the sub folder to take attendance. Even if it is the only thing you can find and it is "logical". USE ANOTHER PIECE OF PAPER. Any other piece of paper. In point of fact, bring paper with you so you have paper to use for this purpose. Write down the absent children's names, plus your room number and the regular teacher's name. You will need that roster later. Or the sub tomorrow will if the teacher is sick again. And the next day's sub will be ripping their hair out wondering who the heck all these children are who have destroyed their desk name tags. You could be sub, take one, day two, and trust me when I say if you are the next day's sub, you will be silently cursing the sub from the day before. So seriously. Be kind and considerate. Use a different piece of paper for attendance. Even if it is a post-it. The office will understand the message, even if the message is "ROOM 106: ALL PRESENT"
  2. Make note of the office phone number, and if you have to, put it it someplace you know you can find it fast, or commit it to memory.  Because no child has ever freaked out and needed to be removed from the class, thrown up on your shoes, been marked absent but was not actually, or arrived right after you sent attendance down, or...
  3. Make friends with the secretary and the custodian. In that order, because the secretary is the first person you are likely to meet, anyway. In fact, it might be a good idea to casually ask at the office who the custodian at the school is when you get there. It is always a good idea to be friendly to the lunch ladies if you are in a school where you have lunch duty. Being friendly gets you places. Maybe not immediate places. These places look like kind words when you have been used to some other than [remember that they are encountering the same plesant children]. Or a cookie. Or a small bottle of water. Seriously. Smile and be kind. Always.
  4. When in doubt, talk about the freak snow storm and how it took 5 hours to make a 2 hour drive at lunch or ask if any one has been to the new cupcake/coffee/noodle place and what do they think? Have no opinions, especially about politics, if you know no one. At any time, anywhere. Fastest way to a faux pas ever. 
  5. Be sure to pass along a thank you with who ever is in the room to the responsible people for the frosted pumpkin cookies in the faculty room at lunch. If they are not delicious, say thank you. Especially if they are delicious and the responsible party is not there, say thank you. If the responsible party comes back before you leave, make sure you say thank you personally  for bringing them. They did not have to bring them and they sure did not have to share them with the sub.
  6. Bring your own box of tissues - and I hear you say "Not my problem" "But they cost money"
    SNOT.IS.GROSS. At any age. And if you are at someplace like Tar-get at the right time, they are always blowing out their little square Uppity store brand boxes of tissues because what is printed on the box is a few weeks out of season. I snagged several boxes of tissues 2 for the equivilent price of 1 the other day in boxes that looked like wooden blocks - 64 cents a box. At that price, it will not kill me to bring a box of tissues with me to school all the time. When you have a cold, do you want to make a run for T.P.? Also at that price, leave the box behind. Those students already do not have tissues, and it will be a nice thing for them to have some tissues the next day if they are not all gone. Courtesy is a beleagured trait in this country, and people look for it. 
  7. Consider saying more than a child had a "bad day" in the note. If they were slapping someone else up side the head in the hall, pinning someone down to the ground at recess and standing on their desk during math, say so. The teacher told you thus and so has a behaviour plan for a reason. They ask you to leave a note for a reason. Is it a half day and the teacher is coming back? Say why so and so has a yellow post-it on his desk. "Because Name would not stop messing with with their pencil box while I was teaching; I gave them three warnings, and then a yellow post-it, according to the class system. Also, I confiscated the pencil box after the warning, and I said they could have it back tomorrow." Then stick to what you said you would do with the student. The class will pick up on inconsistency and run with it.
  8. Say who was really helpful. Sometimes those kids never get a break.
  9. Keep an emergency activity with you for the little kids. Like a short book, and use it if you have to. Mo Willems' Pigeon books are a pretty good choice for young audiences. They are generally brief and amusing, and will fill 5 awkward minutes that could spell chaos otherwise. You might not be able to find the class library, or they may not have one. Or, this should not be a surprise, the kids are already familiar with all their class books, because they've read them all. So a book you bring is something special to share because of it's novelty. Preview your books though; do not just grab one off the shelf, and know what it is you are reading [this should go without saying]. The kids do not even have to leave their seats, will be captivated and the room will be under control and quiet for at least that 5 minutes before lunch. Success.
  10. Leave everything at the end of the day in one place. On the teacher's desk is probably a great place to do this, or a nearby table, with the sub note on the desk in plain sight. The manuals, any extra papers, anything that did not get passed out. Every. Thing. To. Get. Her. See the note about the regular teacher being sick again the next day and being the next day's sub not being able to find anything. At. All. Take five minutes at the end of the day to do a sweep of the room.This way the teacher can find their own stuff day. Or the next day's sub... manuals are kind of important. And you can't leave the room to ask someone for materials. OR rely on a 5 year old to ask an adult for something.
  11. Be careful about your food and the food allergies you might encounter. Speaking for myself, we had allergies in our house to milk, wheat an corn. Nothing involving anaphylaxis, but enough that we shopped at a food co-op before anyone knew what that place was, or what whole eating was about in the late 80's early 90's [back when it was 'lame' and scoffed at] Rice ice cream was just wrong. But that was then and I digress. So.
    Here is the set up: you walk into a room bright and early with your almond fruit granola and pint of milk to splash in your coffee and over said granola because your milk went surprise rancid over the weekend and you did not have time to replace it. You stopped on the way and got that pint of milk, and you figured you would be early enough to inhale breakfast and read the plans before the children came in. Wham. There is a tree/peanut nut/ dairy allergy in the room so severe you could have caused anaphylaxis simply by opening both containers before the kid got there, and you did not sanitize a surface or wash off your spoon and left it out. The note says please see the school nurse STAT. Some more common allergies include Soy, Eggs, Dairy, Gluten, Peanuts, Treenuts, Sesame, Shellfish. There can be more obscure allergies out there like hand sanitizer, mangoes, bell peppers, wheat, ham/other meats.
    But Miss Zara. Surely you jest in all this. No. I surely do not. You caught my personal narative about milk, wheat and corn? Something like milk/peanut/treenut story will happen. The office will not
    tell you about your class; this is information that the teacher leaves for you. The office may have a note front and center saying that the school is allergy aware; please only eat in the teacher's room and cafeteria. Sometimes you will have a handy note about these allergies when you walk in the door of the classroom and sometimes you will not. Sometimes a kid shows up with a med-alert charm bracelet and that was your first clue [facepalm]. Also depending on the school, you may have a crash course in how to use an Epi-pen with the school nurse. It is actually very helpful if you have never used one, because they are different from other injection devices such as a migraine injection delivery system for adults. All this varies from school to school, and even then with in districts. If the sub notes do not mention an allergy in your room  and you have never been there before, it is a good idea to ask another teacher; better safe than sorry. Always, always ask. It is too big a deal not to know about this. You should have this information; if you do not someone else was not doing their job.
  12. On that note, it is feast or famine out there, especially if you forgot your lunch. Or coffee. Lunch prices and availability for adults vary by district. Sometimes the school does not tell you about lunch availability and how much it costs. I wish I was kidding, but there was one school disctrict I  visited on tour when I used to act where adults were "strictly forbidden" to buy lunch. 0_o Too bad you are sad...? Keep snacks on your person if you even think you might get hungry, and some change [sometimes there is a drink machine or a fridge stocked with 50 cent cans of soda - your lucky day. Be thankful for those]. Why on your person? Because you can not trot out to your car once you enter the building. Lunch is not the time to figure out you are more hungry than you thought and now you can not order a lunch. But again, be aware of your room's allergies, and do not crack open the peanut granola bar if the school or your room is on peanut lock down. Also, a peanut is not the same thing as a tree nut; almonds are tree nuts. So are hazelnuts, Nutella fanatics.
  13. Assume nothing about that coffee pot, Keurig, or the creamer in the fridge the room. First of all, it is not yours, it is the personal property of someone else. What if you break it? Remember what your mother taught you about touching things that did not belong to you? I've broken more glass coffee caraffes in my life than I care to admit. Also, that creamer costs money, and was purchased by someone else, it is not community property. The faculty room is another story, but there may be money involved; ask first. Always ask first until you know the drill. Until then, pack your own everything. Even if you are dying for another cup of caffeine. If there is a mini-fridge in the room, you can probably stash your lunch in there, though.
  14. Also, ask at the office, when you get to to the school, where the adult restrooms are. First thing if you do not already know. Because the sub folder/notes may not tell you, if there even is a sub folder. And when you have the opportunity to use the restroom, use it. You say this to the students ad nauseum; follow your own advice.
  15. What is that fragrance you are wearing? It is a little much.  I mentioned allergies before, but forgot to mention it's fraternal twin asthma. The two are not mutually exclusive though some students with allergies have asthma and an allergic reation to an airborn allergen can trigger an asthma attack [fun times two! this I say from personal family experience, and I say it sarcastically] Some students with allergies/asthma are highly sensitive to fragrances, and even the perfumes in the deodorant you used [men and women] can cause an respertory event. Sorry, Old Spice, you don't send me. Calgon, you take me to the E.R.. As an adult, I have to be careful in upper elementary because of the, ahem, liberal usage of Axe body spray; I will get a migraine. I almost cried when I realized my cooperating teacher had the most benign perfume in the world; it meant that I wouldn't have a migraine triggered every day just by working with her.
  16. Save sarcasm for your friends.  
  17. Kind words go far. As frustrating as people are, try not to get involved in gossip, or speak ill of the last teacher you subbed for. So you did not like the way someone did something. Be mindful of the way you say you did not like it. We are entitled to our opinions in this country, but remember, as a sub, you are on a job interview every day. I know there are certain people with whom I can speak fairly freely. With others, I smile and quietly agree with everything they say, despite my true opinions.
  18. As a courtesy to the other teachers, you should probably close your door. You are the sub, it is probably going to get a little louder in your room than during normal business hours. 
  19. Make-up remover wipes are nice, but baby-wipes cover a multitude of sins. Also, they remove make up, they are already made for sensitive skin [because they are made for babies], but are also made for sensitive sensitive baby skin, so ... they are even more gentle and sensitive, they clean up everything, you can get them unscented so you do not smell like a baby and they come in  travel size, durable packages that you can refil that mostly do not look like a box of baby wipes. If you baby-sit on top of everything else, you will probably find a use for them after work as well. If you buy the big plastic box of wipes that is colorful and you find yourself babysitting toddlers and you are even slightly crafty, you could make this and bring it with you for at least an hour of sensory entertainment. Do not say I did not warn you.
If you were wondering, yes. I carry a dedicated subbing bag that my first grade friends surprised me with. More on that, and the contents later. I did mention some things in this list.

A note to the regular teacher:

Zara is a well behaved substitute teacher in the metro Pittsburgh area. I did my best to protect the innocent and the guilty, however, some of these are legitimate situations that I or friends of mine have encountered in public and private school situations. We are just as interested in keeping students safe as the regular ed teacher. If I have, in anyway, mis-spoken, PLEASE tell me. I want to keep my facts straight. Also, if there is something you might want to know as the regular teacher, tell me. I will throw it on the list. As a sub, I am not a part of  professional organization, because I have found that often professional organizations want to know with what district's payroll and union I am affiliated. Technicially, I am not affiliated with anyone, but I would certainly like to be.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

a box-o-baby wipes: a toy story

my friends just moved into the city, and they have a little girl who has taken to calling me "Myzara". Myzara, came across a toy that she's going to make for the kiddo who calls her "Myzara".

It involves an empty baby wipes box and fabric scraps, a specific baby wipe container with a button and a rubber opening. Guess who has lots of fabric scraps. Okay, so I don't have an empty box of wipes laying around, and neither do my friends, since they just moved and were in the business of leaving as much behind as possible, so I might just buy a box of wipes and gift them with the wipes as well. But it isn't as if my friends aren't going to need the wipes as well.

You will need:

  1. a Huggies box of wipes [empty, preferably. Or not, but if it's not, take all the wipes out of the box, put them in a gallon ziploc bag, and give the wipes to the parents of the recipient]
  2. 25 or so assorted squares of fabric.
  3. scissors, preferably pinking sheers [they will make crinkle cuts]
the pinking sheers will help keep the edges of the fabric from fraying.

I did this project with a little help from a friend who has an amazing stash, which is where I got some of the fun novelty prints from. I mixed in some flannel for some fun sensory things, too.  And then found out that the flannel sticks to the other fabric, so for as fun a feel as it is, it hampers the whole "let's start pulling fabric out of this box!!!" concept. Which, when you are two, is ultimately what you want to do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

intelligent donky

This appealed to the teacher in me, especially after reading "Pat the Bunny" to a two year old Sunday night. I think he will think it's funny, because he's interning with kindergardeners. I think he'll think it's funny any way, but...

Perfect card for your snarky younger brother. Snarky younger brother? What?

Happy birthday, bro.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

about that...

Step 3 of the instructions for the mystery quilt came out sometime this week; somewhere, I missed something important. I sewed a bunch of stuff together that shouldn't have been sewn together and cut something else to the wrong size. Which wasn't clear until I saw the instuctions for step 3 and got a look at where things were supposed to go and had a panic attack because what I have on my cutting mat is not what is in the picture.

About that.

So when things like this happen, I try to focus on other things. Like how super thankful I am that I said someone could send my name out as a good sub last spring. Because it didn't just go building wide, it went district wide. I went in to sub for someone on Wednesday and another teacher approached me about subbing for her; she kept telling me how familiar my name was but neither of us could figure out why. We did finally figure it out and I ended up subbing for her two days in a row. And she's keeping my name for future reference.

I also processed 7 pints of dill pickles this afternoon. There would have been white chili but the chicken is still a giant frozen brick in the bottom of the fridge. Hopefully by tomorrow it will have thawed and I can throw everything in the crock pot.

Other silly things come to mind... like this ring. Which fit my right ring finger when I got it [it was a fabulous fake engagement ring in a pinch]. When I was in graduate school I could wear it on the middle finger of my right hand. I put it on the other day and it almost fell off. It now also fits on the thumb of my left hand. It's scary to think that my left thumb and right index finger are the same size.

I see things about how this is the worst economy since the Great Depression and I wonder sometimes how accurate those statements are. And then I remember that I'm part of the unemployed 15% in the region, which is exporting jobs and families. I kind of need families to do my job because families support schools with their taxes and send their kids to school, which in turn gives me a reason to work [totally oversimplified I know, but...] I'm not buying pickles, I'm making them in quantity, otherwise I wouldn't be eating pickles if I wanted to this winter. I'd rather not spend my time making pickles, but it's more cost effective. And I'm dying for a blinkin' dill pickle. On a sandwich. And not a PB&J. And I have an extensive J cabinet. [the apricot mango peach jam is a particularly good accompaniment to "I-have-no-groceries-Curry"; serve with orzo and pretend it's rice]

I stood in a food line today and watched students from my recent alma matter laugh and joke uneasily with each other before offering free testing services to those below the150% poverty mark. The woman beside me was asking about what they offered and then reminded them it wouldn't take much for them to be standing in that line. An accident or massive closures whereever they worked. Something. Which is when it occured to me that last year, I was one of those students, and now I was on the other side of the line. Because the economy is still in the tank. 150% below the poverty line, waiting for food, barely able to feed my cat. True, I could have moved south. I could have just moved anywhere. Thanks, Grandpa, for dying on me, and thank you, me, for being more attatched than I realized and not being able to pull myself together when opportunity was knocking.

I don't think I would be this angsty if I was still waiting for people to pay me for work I did in August.  Seriously, people, I have a cat.  Which is not the same thing as a child, but I am still responsible for a small, living, breathing organism that cries. And also beats me in the face.

Monday, September 23, 2013

quilt along. or something.

Mystery Quilt - Tranquility

In the  choice between doing an online bee and a mystery quilt, doing a mystery quilt along won out, for several reasons. Mystery quilt doesn't involve paying for postage. Or driving to the indy/ specialty fabric store and buying 'modern' fabric. I can use stuff I've got laying around my house. Until I have a paying job offering disposible income, this seems like the more responsible of the two choices [as fabulous as it would be to get a package from out of state or potentially internationally].

I've seen mystery quilt-alongs before, and I've always thought to self "but what if you get done and you hate it?" This is the chance taken when signing up for anything with an unknown outcome. In the battle between "but what if I hate it" and "just try it", the urge to just give it a shot won out. This project requires three color values, which I was able to scrounge up from my stash. Like the majority of my work, it's going to be a scrap quilt, but hopefully with a slightly more unified, cohesive feeling. Maybe someday I will go to the fabric store and buy more than 1 yard of something at a time. Really go wild and buy 3, with the intention of using it on the top and not the back.

There is also a time deadline to this project; the moderator gave 2 weeks to finish cutting and sewing the squares, and I'm a little behind, partly because of the scrounging. Shout out to Center for Creative Reuse for their fabric section and the yardage I found there for $1.50 that matches the colors of this project. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without places like CCR.

Here's my fabric selection, which is still in a state of uncut. I need to get on that at some point.

Friday, September 20, 2013

cutting on the bias

sewing bias tape [a haiku]

paired triangles...
parallelogram ...
no bias tape. hell.

It's my not so favorite time again - time to bind quilts. Or almost time to bind quilts, which means finding the fabric I set aside for the binding and making bias tape. Despite viewing and reading multitudinous online tutorials, I still mess up making a continuous strip every time.  I think it has something to do with offsetting the the corners when making the fabric tube; somehow, what starts out as say a 3" offset ends up 2". Or 1 3/4". Even if I put the lines on the fabric to line everything up. Still doesn't work.

This is supposed to be easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy. And yet, I am defeated by two triangles of fabric sewn into a parallelogram. If you know who Pidgeon is, you understand my frustration: right now I'm asking why. Why. WHY?!

So for my latest two projects, I opted to finish one with bias tape [refer to haiku above], and the other with simple non-bias strips, sewn on with mitred corners. Which I've never done before but had the added bonus of me not having to worry about everything lining up on the bias tape parade.

Needless to say, option two went a lot better for all parties involved. Except that I accidently snipped a corner of the binding off. So I have to figure out how to patch the corner... hmm...