Check this out.

My little sister, who is both hilarious and resourceful, has created a new blog with a very practical bent. Called The Red Kitchen Project, it is a collection of recipes using only ingredients you can find at lower-tier grocery stores like Aldi or Save-a-Lot, where bargains are plentiful but product selection usually isn’t. 

You can get some awesome deals on groceries at the discount places, but unless you really, really, really like casseroles that involve macaroni and canned peas, you probably aren’t going to be able to buy all your groceries in one place if you shop at the cut-rate joints.

Most of us don’t have time to make a scavenger hunt out of the grocery list, so we just suck it up and go somewhere more expensive.

Enter Grace, who has decided that the general suckiness of our current economy makes this a perfect time to experiment with simple ingredients that are available from dirt-cheap discount stores. Her Red Kitchen Project is basically a foodie blog for those of us who know better than to serve red wine with fish but are living on budgets that raise questions like, “Which flavor of Kool-Aid goes best with Spam?”

Grace is a good cook (obviously — she is, after all, related to the woman who brought you chicken-fried sausage, Buffalo chicken enchiladas, and the world’s most decadent mushroom soup), which means you can trust her recipes. She is also a smartass former newspaper columnist, which means her recipes read like what you’d get if Mike Royko edited Julia Child. 

Go check it out.


Back in town

Sorry ’bout the recent silence. I left Red Fork on Saturday afternoon and drove to Illinois to visit family one last time before school starts. I didn’t get back in until yesterday evening, and now I’ve got to hit the ground running on bulletin boards and lesson plans and such.

On the way home yesterday, I got a most welcome phone call: Ron was calling to tell me that he had just gotten off the phone with Zaphod, who had seen my kids’ test scores, and they made AYP. (AYP stands for “Adequate Yearly Progress,” which is part of the No Child Left Behind requirements.) I’d been a little nervous about the test after hearing a few students say that they had gotten bored with the test and started filling in random answers instead of reading the questions.

It drives me nuts when they do that, but I blame the system more than the kids. How many 16-year-olds do you know who will take a long, boring test that doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on their grade? The whole notion that you can make accurate judgments about kids’ knowledge of the subject matter on the basis of a zero-accountability test is absolutely ridiculous. Apparently somebody finally got wise, because the students I have this fall will be required to pass a certain number of state-mandated tests next spring before they are allowed to graduate. Long overdue, but better late than never, I suppose. 

In any case, I’m pretty happy with our results, because they make my kids look good, they make me look good, they make Zaphod look good, and they make my new principal’s job easier.

Anyway, I’d better get offline, because I have a Grapes of Wrath quiz to write, bulletin-board signs to design and print out, and mountains of materials to take to my classroom and put up before Ron gets up and around. We’re heading to Evelyn’s for lunch, and then we’ll take Gretchen over to Sapulpa to pick up feed and some classroom materials I ordered from a little specialty shop over there. Busy day, and I really want to get some more work done at school before I get too far into it.

I’ll post pictures of Jamie and Hazel when I get a hand free.


Behind the classroom door

Given the amount of time I’ve spent talking about all my classroom projects lately, I thought some of you might enjoy a quick peek at my handiwork. Apologies in advance for the image quality; I shot these with my cell phone because I keep forgetting to bring the Rebel to school.


First look into Ms. Priddy’s class. (Oh, dear … what have we gotten ourselves into?)


A glance at my desk. See the bouquet? Those are actually pens, tricked out with silk flowers and nylon butterflies to discourage inadvertent theft — an idea I swiped from our main office. The file cabinet to the left of the desk desperately needs to be sanded and repainted, but I don’t have the time or inclination to mess with it right now, so I’m just covering it with bumper stickers in honor of our road theme. Most of my stickers will be from places along Route 66, but I couldn’t resist including the “HOWL if you love City Lights Books” sticker. We’ll just let that one represent Sal Paradise….


Zaphod was very big on posting our daily objectives. I’m going him one better this year by drawing attention to them with these Route 66 party lights I picked up at the museum in Clinton. In keeping with our theme, I’m calling the PASS objectives our “road map” and the behavioral objectives — written in kid-friendly language — our “trip itinerary.” If the kids will look at the objectives when they come in, they’ll know exactly where we’re going and how we plan to get there each day.


It’s hard to tell from the low-res cell phone picture, but these used-car-lot-style pennants have literary terms and their definitions written on them. These serve a dual purpose: They’re a way for the kids to learn something while staring off into space (not that any of my kids would do that, of course), and they’re a reference point for lessons — when we’re discussing a particular term, I can say, “OK … somebody find the word ‘assonance’ on the flags and tell us what it means.” Some appear to be backwards because the pennants are translucent. I just wrote on one side of each pennant and alternated between front and back to make them accessible and easy to read from anywhere in the room.


Two posters about writing and a map of Route 66, all laminated and taped to the whiteboard .


Here’s how the classroom looks from the back of the room. The letters across that top bulletin board spell out the address for the class Web site. I want to get some wrapping paper or something a little more attractive to cover the board. The writing on the right-hand side of the board says “START YOUR ENGINES,” with the first activity for the day written below.


Here’s the view from where I sit. I’m still finishing up bulletin boards, but I think the room is starting to take shape pretty nicely.


Last but not least: This is a map I made for the kids to chart their grades. It’s kind of a parody of the old postcard that says “Here We Are on Route 66.” Instead of points, we are counting miles (1 mile = 1 point), with 2,448 miles available for the semester. The kids will keep the map in their portfolio, where they will use it to track their progress.

Hope you’re as excited about the new school year as I am.


Aug. 5 Daybook


For today…

Outside my window… a quiet morning.
I am thinking… it’s been a long time since we went to Tahlequah.
From the classroom… shopping for party lights and a couple of other odds and ends.
I am thankful for… my job.
From the kitchen… nothing yet.
I am wearing… jeans, Crocs and a Woodstock T-shirt.
I am’s list of Oklahoma attractions to see where we can go today.
I am hoping… that my latest classroom idea works.
I am creating… a fun space for learning.
I am praying… to remember that others’ fears aren’t my own.
Around the house… a mischievous kitten and a husband who isn’t doing a very convincing job of sounding mad.
One of my favorite things… my car.
A few plans for the rest of the week… trip to Tahlequah this afternoon, classroom photos tomorrow, finishing up some projects later this week.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…


I made this chart for the kids to track their “mileage” (grades) this semester. It’s sort of a parody of this old postcard:


I thought it turned out kind of cute. I needed a map of Route 66 for the kids to use in tracking their “mileage,” or points earned. Basically, we’re taking an imaginary journey down Route 66, and the kids can earn one mile per point, with a total of 2,448 miles available for the semester, corresponding to the length of the road. Kind of gimmicky, but I think it will be a fun way for them to keep track of their grades.

On a completely unrelated note: I love you, Bill.


Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

So I went to school this afternoon to put away some books and hang up some decorations I’d bought for my classroom. It was a little late in the day, but I figured I could get a few things done and then go back later in the week to finish up if need be.

Ron can tell you how easily I lose track of time when I’m working on something that interests me, so I wasn’t very surprised when I glanced up at the clock in my room and noticed it was 5 p.m. — 15 minutes past the time the office was supposed to close. I’d seen a lot of cars in the parking lot when I pulled in, so I figured somebody would still be hanging around, and maybe several somebodies.


By the time I packed up my stuff, put away the project I was working on, and locked up my room, it was 5:10, and the building was devoid of human life (aside from yours truly). I noticed chains on the front door as I walked past, but I didn’t think much of it until I got to the door that leads to the teachers’ lot and realized that it was chained up, too.

Undaunted, I wandered the halls until I found a door that appeared to be open. I pushed on it, and it opened … about six inches. Evidently the last guy out had left through this door and chained it from the outside.


I didn’t have my new principal’s number (probably a blessing — I don’t think he’s figured out yet that I’m kind of an idiot sometimes, and I’d just as soon keep that information from him as long as possible), so I called one of our assistant principals, who was gracious enough not to laugh at my predicament. She assured me that she would find someone to rescue me and told me to make myself comfortable while I waited.

I bought a bottle of cold water from a vending machine and settled in to wait. Within minutes, the assistant principal had tracked down a custodian who lives nearby and advised her of my situation. The custodian, who is technically on vacation this week, was gracious enough to make a special trip to school just to let me out.

I think I’ll put her name on one of those jars of honey in the cabinet. It’s the least I can do to thank her for rescuing me from the less-than-thrilling prospect of spending a night on the couch in the faculty lounge….


Aug. 3 Daybook


For today…

Outside my window… methinks the free-ranging dogs in the neighborhood got to someone’s trash before the garbage truck arrived. Fortunately, they didn’t drag any of it into our yard….
I am thinking… that I really need to figure out where I put the information about my teaching certificate so I can make sure it doesn’t need to be renewed right away.
From the classroom… heading out to pick up an extension cord for my Route 66 party lights and a roll of packing tape to put up posters.
I am thankful for… my animals.
From the kitchen… string cheese for breakfast again.
I am wearing… jeans, Crocs and a Get Fit Tulsa T-shirt.
I am reading… a lot of papers that are scattered about my office and need to be organized.
I am hoping… to finish Dawn’s menu today so I can get that project off my plate.
I am creating… the aforementioned menu.
I am praying… to overcome the idea that right activity could result in pain.
Around the house… clutter that really needs to be picked up.
One of my favorite things… my Barack Obama calendar. Because I’m just patriotic like that. (Hey — who you callin’ “fangirl”?)
A few plans for the rest of the week… menu layout, maybe a trip to Illinois.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…


Two cute guys. If you look closely, you can see Riggy sticking his tongue out. Funny little dog….


Aug. 2 Daybook


For today…

Outside my window… a truck going by with a black dog riding shotgun and sticking his head out the window.
I am thinking… it’s a beautiful day.
From the classroom… putting literary terms on the pennants for my ceiling.
I am thankful for… sunshine.
From the kitchen… not today. We’re off to another barbecue joint for this story I’m trying to wrap up.
I am wearing… Dockers, Crocs and a Route 66 shirt.
I am reading… the lead article in my hometown newspaper.
I am hoping… to get back from lunch in time to change the oil in the truck (a project that keeps getting deferred for one reason or another).
I am creating… that feature article on barbecue.
I am praying… to know that I am capable of working out all the details of my schedule, no matter how many things are on it.
Around the house… a very busy kitten.
One of my favorite things… Route 66.
A few plans for the rest of the week… article, menu, maybe a trip to Illinois.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…


Our beautiful but camera-shy rat terrier, Riggy, reluctantly sits still for a photo.


Aug. 1 Daybook


For today…

Outside my window… darkness.
I am thinking… despite the backlog of work I’m trying to catch up on, life is very, very good.
From the classroom… I bought a used-car-lot-type pennant garland to hang from the ceiling. I’m going to write literary terms on it with a Sharpie so the kids will see them every day.
I am thankful for… my camera.
From the kitchen… a glass of V-8 juice and a handful of pita chips.
I am wearing… frayed jeans, brick-red toenail polish, and a Route 66 Quarter Marathon T-shirt.
I am reading… other people’s Facebook entries.
I am hoping… I get caught up on some of my projects tomorrow.
I am creating… a feature article about barbecue restaurants on Route 66 in Oklahoma.
I am praying… to know that I have the time and energy I need to accomplish everything on my list for the next couple of days.
Around the house… piles of projects and a bathroom that needs to be cleaned.
One of my favorite things… freezy pops. 
A few plans for the rest of the week… article, menu, maybe a trip to Illinois.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…


Items received at the finish line this morning: orange Gatorade, coaster denoting my status as a “Double” finisher (back-to-back quarter marathon and 5K), Route 66 Quarter Marathon finisher’s medal. Can you guess which one I was the most excited about at the time?