Cooking: Spicy Sausage Crockpot Soup

Published 9/28/13 by:

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I don’t really enjoy cooking. I’m more of a consumer. I am making attempts at cooking more this year in order to save money, and be able to take it to school for lunch throughout my week. My main resource for recipes is Pinterest because people are pretty honest about the amount of time each recipe takes as well as the difficulty level. As I become a future chef of America, I’m looking for tasty, low-maintenance options. The low-maintenance isn’t because I’m incapable (according to my brother I’m a “decent cook”), but because I haven’t invested a lot of money in cooking utensils or paraphernalia. For instance, last week, I was making BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese and it called for freshly grated cheese, but I didn’t have a grater. This sort of issue comes up more often than you think and I have to compromise. I’m also big on compromising measurements and ingredients in recipes. If I have something that’s “close” to what the recipe calls for, I’m not picky, and will just throw in what I have. Sometimes this results in disgusting meals, but as time marches on I’m getting better at guesstimating and substituting ingredients. The recipe I’ve included below is a combination of four different soup recipes I found on Pinterest. As a result of not having a huge pot to cook soups in, I also changed the apparatus to a crockpot/slow cooker. I don’t know what the parameters are for calling a recipe your own, so I’m going to put the disclaimer out there that I combined a lot of other people’s ideas for this one. Chefs/Diners beware: it’s a little on the spicy side! Cheers!




1 container (48 oz) of chicken broth

2 cans of Rotel diced tomatoes (flavor of your choice – I used lime cilantro)

1 package of chicken sausage diced  (flavor of your choice – I used Chorizo)

2 Tablespoons of minced garlic

2 peppers diced (color of your choice – I used yellow and orange)

1 box of pasta (shape and style of your choice – I used shells)

1 can of black beans drained (the beans didn’t add much to the mix, so use your best judgement)

1 red onion diced (optional – I didn’t use one and it was fine, but might add it in the future)

A dash of your favorite seasoning – I used taco seasoning.



Combine all of the ingredients into your crockpot except the pasta. Cook on low for two hours.

Approximately 15 minutes before your two hours are up, boil water for your pasta, and when it’s cooked, add to each bowl you serve as you see fit.

*Serves 8*



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Teach Your Children Well: Tackling “Coming of Age”

Published 8/4/13 by:

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.” 

-David Bowie

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“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Stand By Me

There are many times per week, day, hour that I feel inadequate as a teacher. Sometimes it’s my own unpreparedness, often times it’s the limitations of how I can approach a topic. Frequently this inadequacy stems from how much time I can allot to something that requires a lengthier discussion or exploration. Since I began teaching middle school, the unit of study that leads me to this type of frustrating standstill which I encounter in my line of work, is a unit aptly titled “Coming of Age” or, “Growing Up Is Hard To Do”. Prior to teaching sixth grade, when I was previewing the six thematic units of study I would be teaching, this unit was the most appealing to me. What could be more appropriate than to discuss change, time marching on, responsibility, crushes, consequences and anything else that begins when you approach teenage-hood? What I quickly realized was that the coming of age unit I would be instructing would be a lot more “Full House” than “Modern Family”.  Thus my sense of inadequacy began.


In order to understand how I want to cultivate this unit, you need to know what I’ve covered, please see below:

WRITING: Narrative writing techniques, autobiographical writing, plot maps & their parts: rising action, falling action, climax, exposition, resolution, how to write an opening, how to use dialogue in writing.

TEXTS: “The Giver”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Al Capone Does My Shirts”, “Maniac Magee”, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, “The Wednesday Wars”, “Tangerine”

TOPICS OF DISCUSSION (developed from novels used): Homelessness, learning disabilities (specifically Autism), going against society and/or your family, war, absent parents, segregated communities, abandonment, reluctance, accepting differences – especially your own.


Looking at the list of things I teach during this unit makes me feel pretty groovy. We talk about some hard-hitting themes which can be both historic, and modern. The protagonists in all of the novels listed get entangled in a certain struggle, and in the midst of that struggle slowly cease to be children and rapidly become adults. It all fits together in a nice, lovely puzzle, that drives at important big picture issues, but does not address anything that could be deemed controversial. I want the controversy. I yearn for the controversy. The controversy is essentially what makes people define middle school as the most awkward part of their entire lives (that they can remember). The writing and reading techniques that are taught during this unit are completely appropriate, and I’m satisfied with what my students walk away with, however, the themes and discussions that we untangle could be so much more engaging and relevant to where they are in their young adulthoods. Most school districts, including my own, have to protect teachers (like me) from ourselves. This may sound strange, but it can get very dicey when topics are broached in the classroom that families think are inappropriate, or don’t align with their values. While I would argue that school is the type of safe environment for such topics to be introduced, and that as the world evolves, our kids need to know about society, it has become clear to me that a lot of folks aren’t ready to change with the times. This leads school administration to the protective part of their job in which they advise teachers like myself to toe the line very carefully. I’m getting better at toe-ing the line, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.


In a perfect world, here’s what I would add to this coming of age unit:

Discussion Topics- Heartbreak, first love, homosexuality, dealing with cliques and/or exclusivity, what to do when you outgrow your friends, what to do when your friends outgrow you, how to negotiate trends (specifically expensive ones), how to conduct yourself in public (especially in large groups, and what you’re wearing), helping others that are in tough situations, negotiating (in general), and how to be trustworthy.


Would these topics be easy to create unbiased, respectful conversations around? Absolutely not. Would I be able to keep my opinions to myself? Most likely, no. This is why I’m unable to tackle these ideas in my classroom. It’s my hope that maybe some parents in the universe read this and realize that they could take the lead on this and do the latter (and more fascinating) half of this unit. If my students (and I’m sure most middle schoolers would fit the mold as well) are already using Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter, as well as watching shows like “The Kardashians” or “Pretty Little Liars” then they’re already being exposed to the stuff that I’m not allowed to touch. We (teachers) need parents to help us. The learning should extend beyond the walls of my classroom, and the conversations should be flowing in carpool, on the field, at dance rehearsal, at the dinner table etc. Seize the small moments, parental units! Middle school may be an awkward time, but it’s a crucial time. Help me do our work: teaching the children well – teaching them how to be great humans.

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You Don’t Own Me: Original Content & Plagiarism

Published 7/23/13 by:

The video above is from John & Hank Green, better known as The Vlog Brothers, who have created probably the most docile and literary of all the militias: The Nerdfighters. I love what John and Hank are able to do, and that is provide current, valid, accessible content on subjects that people should know a lot about. Are you confused about how the electoral college works? There’s a Vlog Brothers video for that. Interested in how publishing and royalties are negotiated? Vlog Brothers got you covered. They are witty, approachable, earnest guys, who want people (especially young people) to be informed. They started their YouTube channel in 2007, partially because they knew that Gen Y’ers were no longer reading newspapers or watching the news, and attempted to fill the void in my generation’s knowledge that was (is?) essentially becoming a gaping hole.

I chose this video because I find the discussion fascinating, and pertinent to what I teach in my sixth grade language arts class. Who owns what content? When can you borrow/emphasize/embellish/endorse it? While Hank delves into the monetary aspects of why corporations benefit from people borrowing songs or quotes from films, books, characters, bands et. al., I want to discuss this on an academic level. When someone creates an idea, thought, image, song, film etc. and it’s published, people (more specifically students) have an obligation to credit the source. Hank freely admits in the video that he didn’t create DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome), but he was able to promote/grow it through his vlog because he thought it was such a fine idea. He gave credit where it was due, and was on his merry way. Here’s the rub: when people/students don’t have a platform in which to credit their original source, they don’t. When they don’t, it can often be identified as plagiarism. Plagiarism results in failing grades. It is a vicious and universal cycle.

Now, you may be wondering why students wouldn’t have a platform in which to voice/credit the original source of the content they’re using. This is where ownership and its trickery comes into play. The internet is at fault. Oh, internet, I love you, but you make things magically difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I have had students find incredible information on something they’re researching, but they are unable to identify a source, or the validity of the content. Wikipedia has become my arch-nemesis throughout my teaching career, and it’s because kids can’t fathom to look farther than the first google hit, which is inevitably Wikipedia. They can’t comprehend (or choose not to believe) that the data can be edited by anyone, even someone twelve-years-old! This brings me back to Hank and his willingness to credit DFTBA to Kate. Why are (my) students unwilling to put it in the universe that they’re borrowing someone else’s ideas? Why do they think it’s better to pretend it’s their own, and then hope that I don’t google what they’re saying? How can I convey to my students that it’s perfectly fine to quote someone else, or borrow their image, so long as you maintain that they own the content? I’ve approached this in as many ways as possible, and mention it at least once a week in my own classroom, but it’s not sticking. So, here’s my new idea: Why not show them this blog post with the link to Hank’s video to demonstrate that I used someone else’s voice of reason to catapult my own discussion? Wouldn’t that prove to them that it’s do-able and doesn’t take away from their own argument? Original thoughts can still be created when interpreting/promoting/discussing others’ work. My blog has purpose! Nailed it.

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What My Hair Has Taught Me

Published 7/22/13 by:

Locks of Love


This is a picture of me in October 2006 right after chopping ten inches of my hair off for Locks Of Love. It was a great day because donating hair to this cause was something I hadn’t had the patience to do for many years, but I finally did it! Here’s the deal: I have very thick hair, and it weights a lot. It’s also very silky, which sounds like a blessing, but in reality my hair is greasier than a 13-year-old’s at a campout after one night of sleep. I honestly do love my hair. I think it’s one of my better attributes, but I’m constantly in a flux of cutting it and growing it out. I know most women who are reading this probably are nodding along in agreement, but here’s the rub: I cut my hair twice a year. I haven’t cut my hair more than twice a year probably since high school.  I realize this is fairly abnormal for a girl in her twenties. At 28, I’m finally realizing that my hair tendencies can teach me a few things about myself.



1. I cut my hair when a) it’s really hot out, b) my hair is damaged from being blow dried, c) when the pool has destroyed it, d) when I see a celeb with an adorable haircut that someone takes hours to coif before they shoot for their show/movie/music video (see Lena Dunham from the first season of “Girls” below). Bottom line: I need to take better care of my hair, and keep up with it more frequently so that I don’t have to take drastic measures.

2. I inevitably grow my hair out when a) I can’t get it into a ponytail without a million clips/bobby-pins or b) I see some fabulous post on a social media website of someone doing something absurdly fabulous with their LONG hair (see below). Bottom line: my hair is half way down my back right now and I haven’t tried any new styles since Thanksgiving.



What I’ve learned from my hair is that it’s not the length, thickness, or color that’s holding me back. I’m holding me back. I don’t afford myself enough time, product or equipment to do anything really elaborate with my hair. The times that I’ve given it a shot I’ve thought it looked “forced” and thrown it up in a ponytail or straightened it to un-do whatever monstrosity I created. I don’t trust myself with my hair, and I’m not sure I ever will. Since I was a little girl I haven’t liked anything to be “loose.” This can be applied to pants, socks, hair styles, shoelaces etc. It’s taken a long time for me to accept the fact that I’m never going to have beautiful flowing inside-out braids like Spencer on “Pretty Little Liars” and I’m finally okay with that. It looks so amazing, but I’d rather spend my time elsewhere. In the coming year I will make an effort to cut my hair more frequently, take some risks, and not be so concerned with being able to pull off styles that I’m unable to create and endure. I have nice hair, and I don’t need to fuss with it. It’s like my brother always tells me about mani/pedis: “boys don’t even notice stuff like that.” Sigh.

Has your hair ever taught you something about yourself?

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