Thursday, December 09, 2010

Season of "Gimme"

Christmas is coming, and the beats and squeals of John Denver and the Muppets are sounding in my classroom.

This week we are focusing on the “Gift of the Magi” story. Once of my favorite stories, right up there with “The Christmas Carol” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”. I’m wondering whether it was too much to bite off for the kids in my class, but we are forcing our way through it. The big language is difficult for them, but the ideas and concepts in the story are so applicable. “My” kids need to hear a different version of the ideas of Christmas (and really, don’t we all?), not just the commercialized version that we see and hear. I’m always saddened by the idea of “gimme” instead of “giving”.

I’ve eagerly anticipated the Christmas season. I’ve been trying to discuss Christmas/Holiday traditions with the children in my classroom. When I listed off the important days in my family’s December/January calendar, their eyes became huge!
*Monday was the first day of celebration for me, with St. Nicholas day. Eric, Heidi, Tim and Gustav came over for an evening of Roast Beast, and shoe gifts. ☺ Some were too big for shoes, but there was much excitement on all of our parts as we discovered what had been left for us.
*Next comes St. Lucia day on this coming Monday. No gifts are exchanged, but it is a special day with lots of childhood memories involved. I’m just glad I no longer have to get up early and carry lighted candles on my head while singing to family members and bringing them treats. I was always jealous that they were able to wake up and have breakfast in bed.
*December 25, Christmas Day. Eric and I will celebrate for several days between the two families. We will also make a trip up to the farm over New Years, to enjoy some more Christmas celebration.
*January 6 is Three Kings Day. I’ve never celebrated this day before, but Eric is bringing this tradition with him. We always talked about the Three Kings coming in our house, but it was more attached to the time period we actually took our Christmas tree down, rather than anything else. I’m excited to add another day of celebration and another new family tradition.

Things to be thankful for:
*The trip to Chicago went well. Eric and I had a great time, and certainly not enough time. We went to the Aquarium, and a Bears game. We also ate at a few restaurants, and showed me some of the area. We’ll have to go back sometime, because there is still so much I want to see!
*I also went to Denver for a long weekend. The school has asked that I be on the Social Studies Curriculum committee as the Special Education representative. They also tapped me and asked that I go to the National Social Studies Conference in Denver. I had a wonderful time, meeting and getting to know more people from the district I now work for, as well as taking in the various parts of the conference. Usually teachers are reluctant to go to in-services and conferences because we are never sure what we will have to sit through. This was a completely different experience for me. Every session I went to was fantastic, and I was able to come back with plenty of ideas to implement in my own classroom. I also came back laden with all sorts of freebies from textbook companies and tour agencies. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to travel as part of my job!?! Someday…
*Thanksgiving weekend brought family from near and far, as well Eric’s safe arrival in Kansas. For good. ☺ There was, and is, much to be thankful for! I had a great time with the Buller family members, and I always enjoy my time catching up with the cousins. I have been blessed by a wonderful, supportive family (both Johnson and Buller sides). I also was able to spend time with Eric’s side of the family, and the Wallaces did a great job of making me feel welcome.
*Work continues to be a place that I find joy. I love the people I’m working with. I love the people I’m working for. I love the subject matter I am teaching. I love the kids that I’m working with…. Life is good. Eric also seems to be enjoying his new job (started Dec. 6), and I’m impressed with all the people he’s already met. I’m hopeful that he will find as much joy at his new job as I have with mine.
*I’ve been busily making cookies to celebrate the Christmas season. Last night I made gluten free Spritz cookies, and I have to say it was a huge success! There have been several recipes that have proven difficult to convert, and I’m happy to say that these are no longer on that list! Also on the table at home are peanut butter kisses, chocolate oatmeal nobake cookies, and white chocolate peppermint brittle. I think I may have to make another round of Spritz, fudge and possibly try some cutout sugar cookies to decorate. Oh, and I’ll need a few volunteers to eat it all!

Christmas blessings to all of you! Take time to count the things you have to be thankful for!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heidi is begging again...

Or in fact, she's being pretty pushy with her demands about a new blog post. She feels that I have much to share, and she's probably right!

Life in Hutch is going very well. All of my feelings of wonder and excitement are still here, even after almost 9 weeks of the school year. Each day I look forward to going to work, a feeling that I haven't had in a long time. There are still times I don't want to get out of bed, but that's more because I don't want to leave the warm little nest I've created.

I'm currently doing a novel study with my literature classes. We're reading the book "Holes", by Louis Sachar. I love this book, and I was eager to have another class to read it with (I taught it during my student teaching). The kids seem to be loving it, although most have seen the movie which is providing problems. The book is always better, but it's hard to convince children of that!

I'm thankful for the friendships I've already made here in Hutchinson. I know that I've been blessed. The people I work with are looking out for me and including me in their invitations. There are times that I feel like I'm never home, and as I look at my calendar I realize that I rarely am. This is "normal" for me, although my "normal" schedule involves me doing more massage/work in the evenings and not as much hanging out. I'm sure that will change again whenever my "newness" rubs off. In the meantime, I'm very thankful.

Since my last posting I've also had several wonderful things to attend. These are in no particular order, just as I thought of them!
*My favorite weekend of the year (3rd weekend in September) rolled around, and with it the beautiful music and surroundings that is the Walnut Valley Festival.
*I've been able to attend the wine tasting that I go to with my friends Cindy and Phil. The art, tapas and wine pairings are always wonderful, and an enjoyable time spent with friends. This year the highlight may have been Julia Child (in drag), who made appearances at each of the tapas/wine tables.
*My friend, Chris, also threw a wine party. It was fun to sit outside on a beautiful evening with a roaring fire. Lots of good conversations and wonderful food.
*Shalom's Brew Club had an apple picking afternoon and evening. We harvested apples, and then turned them into cider. It was a wonderful family experience, and it was nice to be able to spend time with Heidi, Tim and Gustav, in addition to all of my wonderful church family members.
*Heidi and Tim hosted Hutoberfest. Always good to see the people they invite and taste the good foods brought. Each year it seems to get bigger and better!
*Pedicures with my friend Whitney and my cousin Carmen. Ultimate pampering for my birthday, plus a dinner at P.F. Changs! Love their gluten free menu!
*My birthday was on the 23rd of September. I have had many (MANY) opportunities to celebrate. Thank you for thinking of me! I truly have felt very special.

Things to look forward to:
*Tonight I get to see my friend, Becca, and her little family. It's been several months since we've seen each other, which doesn't make much sense since we live so close to each other.
*Tomorrow evening I get to go hear Straight, No Chaser in concert for the second time. The put on a phenomenal concert, and I can't wait to go again.
*Friday evening I leave to spend a few days in Chicago. Which brings me to the information Heidi is really wanting me to share! :) (Love you, Heidi) I have a boyfriend. He currently lives in Chicago, but will be moving to Kansas soon. Buller family members, you'll get to meet him at Thanksgiving. Johnson family members, we're hoping to go to the farm over New Years, so that may be your chance to meet him. If you don't fit into the Johnson or Buller categories, feel free to email me and we'll figure out another time to see each other!

Love to all of you,

Sunday, September 05, 2010

God IS working His purpose out!

The last months have been filled with stress and heartache, and yet so much happiness as well. It was hard for me to make the decisions that led up to me leaving Marion, but it is evident that I made the right decisions. As much as I hated to leave my church family and friends, God has had His hand in it all, and I know that He has good things in store for me.

Thanks to all that helped me move! The crew that helped load the truck and the crew that unloaded in Hutchinson both did a great job. It was a busy and very hot day, and I am thankful for all that volunteered their time. What added more stress to the entire event was the fact that I wasn’t able to stay in Hutchinson and unpack everything. Instead I spent most of the rest of the weekend in Hutch, only to drive back and teach another 2 weeks of summer school in Marion. It is difficult knowing that you have so much work waiting for you (unpacking), and that you aren’t able to go and do it. That last 2 weeks was a good time for me too, because it meant that I had 2 weeks devoted to spending time and making memories with my good friends in Marion. Thanks to Julie and Quinn, and Kym and Troy who opened their homes to me when I was homeless! Thanks for the meals, the beds, the running water, and especially the time spent together talking and laughing!

Before leaving Marion, I took in 2 different trainings, one on Reiki (for use with massage therapy) and the other on Macs. It’s been many years since I’ve worked on Apple computers, but my new position in Hutch requires me to. I wanted to make sure I had brushed up on my Apple skills before being confronted with an entire class full of kids staring at me, and me not being able to bring up the activities I want. Both classes went well, and I’ve already used many things I learned in those days.

Tuesday, August 10th, brought the first day I needed to report in Hutchinson. It was a day filled of training for Special Education teachers new to the Hutchinson district. The following 3 days were new-teacher trainings for Hutchinson. After that came a week full of trainings and meetings for all teachers that work for Hutchinson.

We’ve had two full weeks of school with kids now, and I have to say, I LOVE my job! I love the people I am working with, I love the subjects I am teaching, and I’m really excited about the kids (I can’t say I love them yet…but I’m sure that before the year is out, I’ll love them too!). I’ve been so impressed with the levels of support built into the Hutchinson school district. I’ve got a mentor teacher (even though this is my 8th year of teaching), I have a “professional friend” (a different person who is assigned to make sure I have everything I need, as well as invitations to events, and a person to sit next to in trainings, etc…), the teachers I am working with have all been really supportive, and I’m enjoying my time with them. The administrators that I work with consistently show their support of their staff (what a refreshing concept!); I’ve got two great paraprofessionals that work for me… My list could go on and on…

The unpacking is coming to a close. Most everything has found a home, and I’m anticipating being completely done with it by the end of the week. The only room that isn’t unpacked at this point is the room that will be my office and massage room. I’ve already got people asking when I’ll be ready for clients, so I’m happy that that is all falling into place too!

Thank you for the many prayers you’ve said on my behalf! I appreciate them so much! Please make sure to drop by next time you are in the area! I would love to show off my new home and I love having company!

Much love,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bit by bit...

The summer is seeping away.

I was supposed to babysit a daughter of one of my friends each day, but that fell through the day before it was supposed to start. While I was disappointed, I know God had a hand in it all. My summer has been jam packed even without that time, and I know that HE made it so that my schedule this summer was more manageable!

People ask what has kept me so busy, and I honestly can't point to one thing and say "that's it!". My life is normally very busy, and while I often wish for it to slow down (and think that summer will be the magical time of the year when it finally does!), I don't know that I would actually enjoy the slower pace if it were ever to appear.

I've been glad to have the time this summer to visit my grandparents, uncle, and aunt on the farm with my parents. We went to enjoy the Chautauqua that was in North Platte for almost a week. It was nice to have the time to enjoy the afternoon sessions and spend time together in the evenings learning about the 30's and the Great Depression. Really interesting stuff, and very applicable to what is happening today.

I've also had the freedom to pick up and spend time with Heidi, Tim and Gustav. I've been able to do some babysitting when it was needed, and I always love anytime I get to spend with my nephew!

I'm slowly packing up my house at 912 Highland. Every couple of weeks I make a trip to Hutch to check on the new place, get the mail, do additional cleaning, pick up things at the school. I also make a point of taking a full car-load of items at the same time and unpacking them while I'm there. Hopefully it will mean less stress on moving day, and less stress to unpack before school starts!

Moving day is set for July 24. I'm unsure as to how many people will be showing up to help, and this is an item that is a bit stressful for me right now. I'm sure it will all work itself out, but until the actual day I will continue to worry that there won't be enough people. I'm also praying for a cool, cloudy day, with no rain. July can be beastly in KS!

I've been fairly busy at the massage clinic these weeks of summer. While I was anticipating no longer working at the clinic after the last week of July, I believe that Carolan and I have come to an agreement that I will still come back to Marion once per month to help with Saturday clients. This will be good for both of us, I think! I'll get to keep some of my clients (hopefully), plus I'll be able to visit some of my loved ones on a fairly regular basis! I am continuing to plan for and prepare for opening my own massage business in Hutch. It is another item that I worry about, because I've got a client base built up in Marion, and now I'll be starting over. I'm sure God will have his hand in that too.

As I write this, I'm sitting at my cousin's house in Omaha. Craig and Jen invited me to come up for a few days. It has been great to be able to spend time with them. We've spent the evenings drinking wine and catching up. While they are at work during the day I've just stayed at their house and caught up on some of the work I've been avoiding as far as looking through my new curriculum for Hutch. I've actually enjoyed the time that I've spent looking through my teacher manuals, and figuring out which books are used and when. I'm really excited about what the next year will bring and the types of lessons I'll be able to teach! I've also been working on creating items for my MAC class that I've been taking this summer (sidenote: The SPED teachers all get MACs at my new school, and I've been working on a PC for many years. While I used a MAC in college for newspaper, it has been awhile. I was confident that it wouldn't take much to figure it all out again, I also decided that it was worth taking a summer class, as well as being able to have some more credit hours!, so that I don't look like an idiot those first days of school). Yesterday Jen and I met at Whole Foods for lunch, and then I spent much of the rest of the afternoon poking around in that store, going up and down each and every aisle. I left with purchases for myself and for my sister (somehow she got more than I did!). I could so easily live in a big city! :) Today I went out and had to buy a cooler to take my purchases home with. This is something I actually needed, so I don't feel so bad about it! I'm forever having to borrow one from people when I need to transport things, so it will be good to have one of my own now! I believe that this evening Jen and I will be going to get pedicures while Craig has a late meeting, and then we'll all meet for dinner somewhere. This little visit has been wonderful, and very restful for me! Thank you Craig and Jen!

This last Sunday marked the last time I would sing at Marion Presby Church. The last several times I've attended I've been much more emotional, and I know that it is because this church has been such a special place for me for my time in Marion. They love me and it is evident! I was dreading this last Sunday because I was doubtful as to whether I would actually get through the song without dissolving into tears. I was able to, but just barely. Pastor Jeremiah said some very nice things about me right before I sang, and I nearly lost my grip! I will miss this congregation, but know that I can always come back to visit easily.

While I've been in Omaha one of the things I've needed to work on is my Grad School Loans, and financing things. This morning I spent quite a bit of time looking at it all. From what I can determine, I've been awarded a Teacher Scholarship from the State of KS, and it will cover all of my expenses as far as college hours. While I haven't gotten my formal letter in the mail yet, the money is showing up in my financial aid package, so I'm very optimistic! I'm still going to take some loan money to cover expenses like books, etc. This scholarship is wonderful, and will help relieve some of the financial burden that schooling can be! This is a scholarship I also got for several years of my undergrad work. It is set up like a forgivable loan program, where as many years as I get the scholarship, I promise to work that many years in Special Education. If my circumstances change (as far as I decide to get out of teaching, or I change to teaching something besides SPED) then I will be responsible for repaying whatever is left from the loan/scholarship as far as how much time is left. I am rejoicing that it all seems to be working out!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thank you!

Thank you to those of you who have sent up prayers on my behalf since my last post. All 3 items of prayer have been taken care of! :)

1) Facebook can be a blessing, although sometimes just as much a curse, I'm sure! In this case it was a blessing, as it greatly eased my responsibilities regarding breaking the news to the children in my classroom. I have several parents that have "friended" me on facebook, and thankfully they did much of the "dirty" work. I am thankful for the private conversations they had with their children, and how the kids handled it. The kids spread it to each other, but I was amazed at how well 3rd and 4th grade students processed it and shared with each other. Don't get me wrong...there were tears shed by me, and many tears shed by the children, but overall it was a very smooth conversation and much easier on me than it could have been.

2) I have found a WONDERFUL place to live. After a day spent traipsing through some hell-holes and being bitten by fleas, my last appointment of the day was a little bit of heaven. A 2 bedroom duplex, that is just a bit more expensive than what I was hoping for, but still within my price range. Beautiful wood floors, clean and well taken care of, and with very good landlords from what I can tell. Knowing that I couldn't afford to rent 2 places until my move, I wasn't thinking that I would have much luck looking so early. I am so thankful that they are working with me, and made a special deal with me that I could pay 1 month's worth of rent for June and July (basically 2 months for the price of 1), plus a reduced deposit. The duplex came with appliances, but quickly agreed to move them all out so that I could keep my own. Such a relief that I won't have to figure out how to sell everything before moving! Best of all, even though the duplex was advertised as a no-pet property, they have agreed to let me keep my kitty, Manje, and aren't even charging me a pet deposit. I even offered to make her an outside only cat, but they said that as long as she was litter trained that it would be OK. My new place is very (VERY) close to the Cosmosphere. Please stop by and visit! I love to host people in my home!

3) After many worries over whether I would be able to do a home-based business (Massage Therapy), I have been pleasantly surprised. I have been officially approved to have a home-based massage business. The formal process only took about 20 minutes of my time (and was in the same building that I needed to go to anyway to get my utilities turned on--convenient!) As long as I promise not to have more than 3 people working for me or more than 5 people for massage therapy on the property (all this in a two-bedroom house?!?!?!)---and really there were a few more things that I agreed to--the city of Hutchinson is OK with me. I even have an official letter saying so! :)

So far the summer has not gone as I anticipated, but things are working out for the best. I was supposed to be babysitting during the day for the daughter of one of my friends. My friend had said that at some point her fall day-care option might open up (she was thinking mid July) and at that point she wouldn't need me to babysit. Instead, the position opened up the last week of May. So...I haven't been babysitting. Somehow my time has been filled anyway, and I'm thankful for all the ways things have fallen into place. I really feel God's presence in my life right now, and I feel like I am moving in the direction that He wants me to go in. I've made several trips to Hutchinson to clean the duplex, go to my classroom at the 8th grade building, and figure out utilities/details that moving to a new home consist of. While I know I would be able to get it all done even if I had been babysitting, I have to say that it has been very stress-free so far... I'm also thankful for the ease in picking up and driving to Newton to spend time with family...I've been able to stay overnight many times (Thanks Hubers!), spending afternoons and evenings canning, laughing, talking, watching EuroVision, grocery shopping with Heidi(One of my favorite activities!!!!), making Elderflower syrup, working at the massage clinic... So much to be thankful for!

Things to look forward to:

*Travelling to see family in Hershey, Nebraska and taking in the Chautauqua activities.
*Travelling to see family in Omaha, Nebraska.
*Several concerts
*Spending time with family and friends at the reservoir and county lake
*Spending time with family and friends; going out to lunches/dinner and just spending moments together!
*Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables.

Again, thank you to those of you who have sent up a prayer (or two!) on my behalf!

Much love to you all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm resigned.

I've got 3.5 days of school left with students, and 1.5 inservice/work days after that. After those 5 days I will be done with my teaching career at Marion Elementary School. As of about 11:15 a.m. today, I have resigned my position with MCSEC. I will live in Marion through most of the summer, and anticipate moving sometime at the end of July or beginning of August. I will be teaching summer school here in Marion the last 2 weeks of July and the 1st week of August. Since I'm not wanting to rent for that week in August (more specifically I don't want to pay rent and utilities on 2 houses), I will most likely be house hopping for that last bit of time in August. Hopefully my friends will be generous and open their homes to me for a bit of time! :)

The last several months have been filled with stress and sorrow as I've watched the progression of things. While I'm under no allusion that my stress will end, I do think that it will be a different kind of stress.

I will be starting a new teaching position in the middle of August at Hutchinson Middle School. I will be a special education teacher, teaching 5 sections of literature, and 1 section (team taught with reg. ed.) of social studies. I've always thought that my "perfect" job would be working for a publishing company in the young adult division. I'm hopeful that my love of YA lit will mesh perfectly with my new position. I'm very excited about the possibilities that the new school year may bring.

In the meantime, please pray:
*That I can figure out how to break the news to the kids in my classroom.
*I will be able to find a nice place to live. I'd like to have at least 2 bedrooms and be able to keep my cat. I'm not so sure about her wanting to keep me! :)
*That I will be able to figure out how to make the massage angle work. I will be sad to leave our massage clinic here in Marion, and want to be able to continue working with massage. Currently Hutch is having zoning discussions about having businesses run out of the home, so I'm uncertain how this will all work out. I would prefer having a home-based business so that I can control a bit more and not have to pay additional rent.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Right now

A friend posted this on Facebook earlier today. I've read an email that circulated awhile back that was very similar, but this is worth a watch. It hits home right now, considering the situation we're facing with the cooperative I work for. The last month or so of my life have been filled with turmoil. I don't feel like I can share right now what all has gone on and is going on, but I would appreciate it if you kept me in your thoughts and prayers. The entire experience has left me feeling very much alone and as if I have little control over anything.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

1, 2, 3, 4….5…6, 7, 8, 9, 10….11…12…13!!!!

The other night when Heidi, Tim and Gustav came over I sang this to Heidi to see whether she could remember the song and where it came from. She did. Do you?

This past week I’ve been singing this song quite a bit. We’re counting down the days until state testing, and to help prepare have turned our little small groups into test prep groups. We’ve each taken a state standard and planned several days’ worth of activities for our groups, and then rotated the groups so that each child in the grade will have a session with that particular standard. Because of how few days we have left, one of our groups got combined with another group, and now instead of the 3 or 4 students that a small group normally consists of, my group was made up of 12 students…plus me (everyone shout now—13!!). I sang that song over and over this week as I gave questions to my “small” group, and each time a hand would raise with an answer, I would count them as I sang this song. The kids loved it…and I finally asked whether any of them knew this song. Nope. Guess I’m officially old. I explained that this was a song from one of my favorite shows growing up. “Teletubbies” they guessed. “Barney!” they shouted out… ok, maybe I’m getting younger?  I explained it was a show that is around now, but would have also been around when I was a little girl… This stumped them until one of them guessed “Ben and Jerry”…well, I guess black and white cartoons are getting closer…or at least older… Finally one of them guessed Sesame Street, although none of them had heard this song when they watched. It’s too bad, since I loved watching the pinball machine knock around as the ball hit each peg and a number was sung… I remember looking forward to it each day as I watched, hoping that this would be the day that it would be shown again.

Heidi’s been begging for another blog (I truly think she’s the only one who reads this thing…and we talk often enough that she knows everything before I would write something down and post it) so here it is…

As I thought about what I wanted to write today, there are several things that popped into my head. There’s been a lot going on in my life, and while some of it I would like to share, I really can’t. I am bound my confidentiality responsibilities in my jobs, and I must honor them, even when those things are the things in my life that cause me the most sadness, that give me the most happiness, or those things that I just need to process through writing about it. I’ll just leave it to say that I’ve shed a lot of tears lately. The tears come at times that are understandable…they come at times when I can’t make them stop, no matter how hard I try…there are times that the tears come and there appears to be no good reason for them… a few will drop as I laugh… I don’t feel depressed (please don’t worry about that), there’s just a lot going on in all aspects of my life right now and it seems that tears are the way my body is dealing with it all.

One of the titles I considered today was “Small Successes”, but in reality I’ve got a lot of LARGE successes in my life right now.
1) I just got the letter that I was deemed eligible to take my National Massage Exam. This is a very difficult exam, and most do not pass it on the first try. Kansas law does not regulate massage therapists, but most states require the national test as one of the hurdles you need to jump to be able to practice massage. Not knowing what the future holds for me, I’d rather take (and hopefully pass!) the exam so that I can easily be able to practice in another state if/when I ever decide to move. That and the fact that it provides another aspect of credibility to me and my massage practice. Who knows when Kansas will finally become wise and start patrolling the field of Massage Therapy. Hopefully it will be soon (there are too many people out there practicing who don’t know what they are doing, and give us all a bad reputation!), and then I will be ready. I need to finalize my test date, but I’m hoping to take it sometime during Spring Break in March.
2) I also got my acceptance letter from Fort Hays State University. This fall I will be “heading back to” college to pursue a Master’s Degree in Special Education. This is completely online, so I won’t have to give up my teaching position or move. I’ll be busy between teaching, working at the clinic, and taking classes, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to juggle it all. The last weeks have been full of writing personal letters, asking friends and colleagues to write recommendations on my behalf and researching how to make it all happen. I’ve gotten my taxes completed (at least my portion!) and taken them to my tax guy. I am hoping they get done quickly so that I can then complete the FAFSA and start applying for scholarships.
3) Wine making experiment one is almost complete. After watching my science experiment for the last few weeks, I needed some man-power. I convinced Heidi, Tim and Gustav to come over for dinner and afterwards Tim and Gustav helped me bottle my Riesling. It’ll be another 3 months before there will be any to drink. Tim was a great help to me in the process, and Gustav was so cute trying to hold the bottles still for me as we filled them. Now that we’ve got one bottled, I better start on another…either mead or a red wine this time.
4) After several weekend attempts at baking sweet rolls, I’ve finally got a good result. A couple weeks ago I was browsing in Heidi’s bookstore and stumbled across another gluten free cookbook. Normally I’m pretty leery of gluten free recipes…there are too many people out there that are satisfied with mediocrity…either they are gluten intolerant people who never really had a taste of what GOOD baking is supposed to taste like, or they are “normal” people who think that those of us that are gluten intolerant should just be satisfied with whatever they come up with. There are so many products on the market (they are SOOOO expensive) that just taste like CRAP. I’m sick of buying products and throwing them away. I’ve narrowed it down to a few brands that I trust, and I’d really rather go hungry than try to eat some of what is on the market. Sorry, I’ve probably offended someone now, but sometimes I just need to rant.  But, I digress… Anyway, I decided to buy the book at Heidi’s store because I feel like I need to help support the people I love and the places they work, and I’m always hoping that somehow this product/book/gadget will actually come through and help me make the foods I’ve loved to prepare and eat for so much of my life. In this case…I might have actually stumbled across something that lived up to my high expectations! Yippee!!!

Of course, this book also called for flours that aren’t readily available in my pantry, or at the health food store or grocery stores that I frequent. So, I turned to the internet (although Terri, if you’re reading this, I think that your health food store has this brand!) and ordered some of the flour that I needed. After last week’s flopped cinnamon rolls, I was reluctant to try again. After all, that batch went directly into the trash. I’m so glad that I tried again!

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” by Annalise G. Roberts)

7 TBSP milk, heated to 110 degrees F (I ended up using more than this…the dough wouldn’t hold together and resembled pie crust. I just added milk until it looked like I thought it should. Sorry, I’ll try to measure better next time!)
1 TBSP yeast
¼ tsp. sweet rice flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 TBSP canola oil
1 ¾ cup Brown Rice Flour blend (see recipe after this one)
1 ¼ tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. salt
Rice flour (about 2 TBSP to use to flour the board)
1 TBSP melted butter

Combine warm milk, yeast, 1 TBSP of the sweet rice flour, and 1 TBSP of the sugar in a measuring cup; stir until well blended. Cover with a towel and set aside for 5-10 minutes until mixture becomes foamy. Mix eggs and canola oil together in a small bowl and set aside. Lightly grease a round cake pan with cooking spray. Mix brown rice flour mix, xanthan gum, salt, and remaining 3 TBSP sweet rice flour and 3 TBSP sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Add warm milk/yeast mixture, egg and oil to the bowl; mix until blended. Scrape bowl and beaters and then beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Liberally spread rice flour over surface of a wooden board and lightly flour hands. (I spread saran wrap over a cutting board, and then sprinkled with the rice flour). Dough will be sticky. Roll dough around in the rice flour until it is lightly covered. Gently press into a 12x8 inch rectangle with your hands. (I was actually able to roll it with a rolling pin after covering it with the rice flour). Lightly brush the melted butter over the rolled dough. The recipe also has a mixture to put in the inside, but I just covered the butter with cinnamon and sugar the way I’ve always baked. Carefully roll dough, do not roll dough tightly; the individual rolls will rise better if they are more loosely rolled. Using a small, sharp knife cut roll of dough into eight 1-inch slices. Carefully arrange slices I prepared cake pan so that they do not touch. Cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place until rolls have doubled or more in size and have filled the pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake about 20 minutes.

Brown Rice Flour blend
2 parts brown rice flour (extra finely ground—available under the Authentic Foods label—the others aren’t ground finely enough to use without leaving a gritty feeling in the mouth)
2/3 part potato starch (NOT potato flour!)
1/3 part tapioca flour

**Today’s baking experiment was so successful that I’m going to fiddle with the dough some more and see if I can bake some bierocks with it tomorrow night. I’ve got the filling done, so I just will need to make the dough after church.

****UPDATE 2/28/10 I made the dough again today. I used about 14 TBSP of milk instead of the listed 7. I used the sugar to raise the yeast, but omitted the rest of it so that I could make savory Bierocks with the dough. Once the dough was mixed, I made small round balls with it, and rolled them in brown rice flour and then rolled them out. I filled them with a mixture of ground beef,onion, cabbage, salt, pepper and mustard. After baking them, I brushed them with melted butter. YUMMY. I've eaten way too many today! I'll have to put them in the freezer after I give a few more away! There are some things that I have missed so happy to be able to eat them again!

5) Another gluten free baking success! This last week I saw a recipe like this online, and decided to see whether I would like it. I do! Very yummy. I left them without icing to cut out some fat and calories, but they would taste good with cream cheese frosting, chocolate frosting, or peanut butter frosting I think! Maybe next time….

Gluten Free Banana Muffins/cupcakes
1 box gluten free yellow cake mix (betty crocker brand)
3 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup water
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla

I melted the butter in a saucepan on the stove, adding the water and vanilla. I also freeze my bananas, so I took the peels off of them and put them in the mixture to warm up and then mash. After taking it off the stove, I put the yellow cake mix in and beat in the eggs. When everything was moist I put it in the muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 18 min. or so. It would also be great in loaf form, or as banana cake.

I’ve also got an appointment tomorrow afternoon. One of the students at school just recently got diagnosed with Celiac and her mother needs ideas of what to do and how to alter recipes. I’m hopeful that I can be a resource to these people. If nothing else, I can at least introduce them to some good books, products to try…and be a listening ear!

And now for a few pictures...these are a mixture of the last two Huber visits. Newsworthy items: Popcorn is a big hit with Gustav and Heidi. Tim, Gustav and I spent time making wine. Gustav went poop for the first time at my house, bribed with M&Ms and Curious George.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


I just completed my first (although it won't be the last!) batch of Gluten Free New Year's Cookies! They taste great, although not exactly like the MCC version. Thanks to my friend Julie from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I altered her recipe just a bit simply because I didn't have any arrowroot. Instead I substituted cornstarch. It worked out just fine.

In a previous post I lamented the fact that I hate the taste of white bean flour. I was convinced to give it another shot by Julie who grinds her own flour. She sent me a little package of flour though the mail...wonder what people would have thought if they intercepted that and saw that it was full of some powdery white substance! :) As promised, Julie's flour had just a bit of the beany taste to it, but none when baked into things. Encouraged by this I bought a flour mill and decided to start grinding my own flour. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as well as I thought it would, and I only could get the flour to a "stone ground" consistency, which won't work with most of my baking. Discouraged, I tried to figure out what to do next. I finally decided that a coffee grinder would work, and so I bought a new one to only use with grinding flours. When I grind the beans at the espresso setting, and run them through 3 times, I finally get the consistency I want. Then I sifted that to get the bigger chunks out. The end product worked great in my recipe today!

Julie's Recipe for New Year's Cookies (Portzelke)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 TBSP yeast
Mix first 3 ingredients and let proof in a warm spot.
Liquid Ingredients
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp melted butter
1 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup white bean flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 TBSP arrowroot flour (I used 3 TBSP corn starch)
1 rounded tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. bakingpowder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 slightly rounded TBSP sugar
1 cup raisins

In mixing bow put in liquid ingredients and beat. Add proofed yeast. Mix dry ingredients and add all at once to liquid. Beat on low until blended, then on high until dough is smooth. Add raisins and beat until mixed evenly. Scrape sides of bowl dw with spatula to form a ball of dough in bottom of bowl. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 30-40 minutes. Heat aout 3/4 inch of oil in a pot or small frying pan. When hot, drop by tsp. a dollop of dough into the ol and fry until golden. I glazed them when I was done, but I know that some people sprinkle sugar on theirs.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Joyous New Year!

School as started again, after a very quick break for Christmas and New Years. I spent most of my "at home" time (the time actually spent in Marion) going through closets and doing general house cleaning.

Christmas Eve I drove home to Hesston. The drive that normally takes 35 minutes or so was well over an hour of hard work driving in zero visibility conditions. It also involved getting stuck in a snow drift not even 2 blocks from my house. I am thankful for good friends and neighbors who help when I come knocking on the door! It took us about 5 minutes, but I was able to get the car out, and I was on my way again! :) I was so glad to finally reach Hesston, and that I made it there with no other mishaps. My nice warm bed at Mom and Dad's was also a blessing!

Christmas day was spent at Mom and Dad's and the rest of the crew showed up mid-morning. We had fun spending time together, giving and receiving presents, and eating the wonderful meal of Raclette that Mom prepared. Highlights of the day: watching Heidi open up her Kitchenaide Mixer; discovering that Gustav has a fear of B-U-Gs; watching Tim's eyes light up as he talked about his plans for his Christmas money and gift certificates; joking with Dad about his new GPS system; enjoying Mom's new tea pot as we played Scrabble and tried to gang up on Tim... I love to spend time with my family, and I realize how blessed I am to have them in my life.

The day after Christmas I spent my time preparing for a catering gig. I traipsed over the hill and through the woods (it felt like it!) carrying large, unwieldy items through the snow and into the Elgin for most of the day. One of my friends, Kym, had referred me to her son as a possible caterer for his wedding. Everything turned out wonderfully in the end (and there have been many nice things said in reference to the cooking), but it was a hectic day for me. Breakers blew, I had to serve out of a closet, warming food up all over the hotel without a proper kitchen, organizing serving help, and general mayhem governed my day. I was glad it went well, but I was also glad to crawl into bed that night. **I was happy to be able to provide a completely gluten free meal (except for the rolls) since his wife has celiac as well!

More time in the next few days was spent cleaning up my house from catering odds and ends, and taking down my tree and Christmas decorations. It seems that I have a lot more room in my house, and it was with a lot of sadness that I put everything in boxes. For some reason the Christmas season passed by more quickly than in other years. I realize that it was the same amount of days, but I'm saddened to realize that maybe I didn't spend enough time in ANTICIPATION during those days. Normally I am sick of the Christmas songs that are playing on the radio, in stores, etc...and in some ways have wished Christmas to come sooner in the past. That is also regrettable...maybe this "wanting more" feeling is better? Maybe I just won't put away all my Christmas music yet, and in that way prolong the Christmas season...after all, there IS snow on the long as I don't look at the calendar I should be ok!

New Year's Eve Mom, Dad and I drove up to NE to spend time with my mom's family. We didn't get off as early as anticipated that morning, due to a mechanical problem with their vehicle. Instead, we spent time trying to fix the problem--all solutions for the problem led to the term "Redneck"... I had fun teasing Dad about what all of his neighbors would think of this! We finally decided just to take my vehicle, so I've now broken in my new Mitsubishi on a longish road trip. Driving through NE was beautiful! The drifts were HUGE, and the sculpting of snow by wind amazes me. The farm is always a special place for me. I love to spend time with my family there. We spend a lot of time laughing and teasing, playing games with each other, reading and relaxing, curled up next to the wood stove or fire place, eating good food, and just being with each other. I know that we were all glad that Heidi, Tim and Gustav were able to join us this year after 3 years of not being together.

As always, the break seemed to slip by and I still have a list of things that I need to get accomplished. I'll just have to break it down and do one thing each night and get it done. Somehow I don't see that happening! :)

I am beginning the process of admittance to Grad School for FALL 2010. Last fall I had researched different options, and had narrowed it down to either Fort Hays State, or Wichita State. Both offer online masters programs, which would work best for me. I can continue teaching and still take my classes. This morning I sent in my application for FHSU, and have been busy asking my director and coworkers to submit letters of recommendation for me. I need to spend some time over the next few days writing a letter of personal statement. If any of you have done this yourself, I'd welcome a copy to look over. Once that it all in place I need to start the scholarship process. My list of things "to do" won't be getting any smaller anytime soon!

Happy New Year to all of you!
With love,