Friday, November 25, 2011


Things I learned this week -- from my 2nd science fair, and from Thanksgiving -- that I'm writing down so I won't forget.

Science Fair first, since it was something of a debacle. I had one class hour (20 students) in which only one student turned in a project. I'm still struggling with how much responsibility for that lies with me; this page details the entire process. What usually happens is that the students screw around until the last minute and then come up with something, but with this particular group of students, that did not happen. Astoundingly, only one other group turned in a project on Wednesday. What are the other ones waiting for? The majority of them had their data and their reports drafted -- all they needed to do was type them up and make a display board. I don't get it.

Next time (if there is a next time):
* submit the facility request form (now that I know it exists) for the gym when the schedule is set
* find out the schedule for benchmark testing for language arts and math, since they either take over the computer lab or screw up the schedule, or both
* find out the schedule for standardized testing for high school, because it screws up the schedule for junior high even though no junior high students are testing
* make the all the projects due at the beginning of school on the first day of the science fair so the judges have more time
* review the rubrics with the judges to smooth out the extremes (everything was great! everything was a mess!)

Things that worked well: requiring complete typed rough drafts from the students was very helpful to the groups that did them. Making the students evaluate at least five other student presentations worked well and forced the students to look at other projects in more depth. The timing -- Thanksgiving week -- seems insane but is actually awesome, because the students know it's a short week and don't want to do anything, anyway, and then there's the four day weekend to plow through all the grading.

Wednesday was a full day at school, but even with breaking down the science fair, I still got home around 4PM, which gave me plenty of time to cook.

Thanksgiving was a vastly more pleasant experience.

* Brine for an already-injected frozen, then defrosted turkey: 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 gallon of water; 12-14 hour brining time for a very large bird.

* Cutting up the turkey before brining and roasting it is awesome. I roasted the back (for soup) while the pies were baking on Wednesday. On Thursday, I sliced carrots, celery, and onion very thinly and scattered the pieces over (double, heavy-duty, lots of extra at the edges) foil-lined sheet pans. The whole breast and one wing fit on one pan, the legs, thighs, and other wing on another. I brushed the pieces with melted butter and gave them a little salt, then roasted at 400 for about 2 hours. (These were pieces from a 22-pound bird). I checked them periodically and added chicken stock to the pans if the vegetables where charring. The meat came out perfect, and made excellent drippings for gravy that were easy to handle -- I just picked up the foil and poured off the liquid. Clean up was a snap, too.

* The cranberry apricot pecan relish needs a lot more ginger than I thought it does.

* Gingersnaps make an awesome crust for a pumpkin pie.

* Microwave cooking a full pot of green beans takes longer than microwaving a few servings.

* Store bought rolls may be easy but the home made ones are so much better. I just need to suck it up and make my own.

* Peeling and cubing the squash before cooking it is a lot easier to deal with than cooking the whole squash and trying to get the edible parts separated from the peel.

* The pies won't overcook if you don't overfill them.

* Check and make sure there's still molasses in the cupboard before starting to bake.

* When making meringue, the instructions that say "add sugar gradually" are not kidding.

* Making cranberry sauce on the stove top, and letting it cook for (at least) 10 minutes, as the recipe dictates, works a lot better than using the microwave.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

a day off

So many times I would've typed "a day, off" -- but not today.

Today was a day to count blessings, so I did.