Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club

From cooking to knitting.  I finished the book The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs this morning and while it was somewhat predictable in a "chick flick" kind of way, it did make me want to call my mother and have her teach me to knit (she's tried, and alas, has failed to make me a knitter!)

The book is the story of  a single mother who owns a knitting shop on the upper west side of NYC.  She is all business and somewhat lonely and through twists and turns a group of women end up spending every Friday night at the knitting shop and calling themselves The Friday Night Knitting Club.  As they knit (or not, as is the case many Friday nights) you find out their stories and realize that it is not the knitting that is bringing them together but their need for female friendships.  Each woman in the group has a story that the author explores, but it is Georgia, the main character who we see inside of the most.

The end of the book is like a typical chick flick, which is why it makes sense that the book is being made into a movie starring Julia Roberts, set for release this summer (and I can TOTALLY see Julia in this role!)  Of course, since I love a good chick flick, I will be in line to see this - maybe by then I will have convinced my mother to at least teach me how to knit a scarf!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Break Reading - and a milestone

First the milestone - this is my 100th post (cue the confetti and the popping champagne corks), I hope I have many more to come on this blog!

Now to the book - I have not had as much time as I had hoped to read this break, but I finally finished a book last night - The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone.  This is an adult book that explores the mixture of family, food and a yearning to find out where we came from.  The author is a typical American mix of Irish, German and Italian heritage, but she has a pull toward learning more about her Italian immigrant  great-grandparents, more specifically the ravioli recipe that came with them from Italy.  She writes about her quest to find the recipe, from contacting relatives she has not spoken to in years, to traveling to the birthplace of her great-grandparents, Genoa to try and unearth what "could" have been her great grandmothers recipe.  She intertwined family stories of fond memories and of family feuds within the story of her quest to make the perfect ravioli.

This book made me HUNGRY - especially as she describes in detail what she eats in Italy - another reason why I long to eat my way through Italy!  I am not Italian, but even in my Irish American family, food has been central to our lives and I can relate to her wanting to find authenticity in what she is making.  Her descriptions of food and learning to make the food of her ancestors is so detailed, you almost feel how the ravioli dough should feel in your hands.

She provides recipes in the back of the book, and maybe in a different time (where I actually HAD time to cook) I would copy the recipes and try them out, but for now I think I just might have to settle upon finding some true, homemade ravioli in Atlanta (easier said then done).

The author has a great interview on NPR, where you can hear her making the ravioli.  Make sure you listen to the interview again after you read the book, the sounds of the dough slapping on the ravioli board will make sense.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas!

My Christmas Break (or Winter Break as it is officially called) officially started today - woohoo! It has been a killer 1st semester for me, getting used to a new job, getting used to my husband not having a job, then having a new job and then also getting my son used to middle school (this has been the hardest task by FAR!).

SO I am planning on having a nice relaxing break - picked up some new books at the library today and am hoping to get to read some of them in between parties and hearing my kids complain that they are bored (and this had BETTER not happen after Tuesday, Santa, as usual, plans to be VERY good to my kids this year!)

I hope that all of you educators out there have a FABULOUS break and to everyone else, a MERRY Christmas and a VERY happy and healthy 2008.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"But I Can Read Big Books Mrs. Schmidt..."

This is what I sometimes hear as I tell the 1st, 2nd, even 3rd graders that even though it took all their muscle to heft Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows onto the check out counter, I am not checking it out to them. I don't like to censor what the kids check out, and even if they are "advanced readers" I still try and take into account the subject of the book and who the books' intended audience is.

Liz at Tea Cozy linked to a great post from Alix Finn about parents who want to push "older" books on kids, just because they feel that if their child is in 4th grade and reading a middle school book, well then, they must be destined for greatness.

Another thing that I have run into a lot is when books are made into movies. I have 1st graders asking for different Harry Potter books or Narnia books and they tell me they can read them because "I saw the movie". I know this has been at the center of the debate on The Golden Compass movie, many christian and Catholic organizations are saying, the movie doesn't bring religion into it, but the books do, and if kids see the movie (which is pg-13) then they will want to read the books. Is The Golden Compass appropriate, content wise for a 2nd grader - well, I don't think so, I don't think many of them would "get-it". But then again, should a 2nd grader (who is usually about 7 or 8) be seeing a PG-13 movie?

I think that parents need to take an interest in what their child is reading, but I also think that they should try and steer them to books that would interest them, not necessarily challenge them. I was having a conversation about this very subject the other day with a parent at my school. She was complaining that some book series seem to get darker as they progress (she mentioned HP and Spiderwick Chronicles) and while she lets her 3rd grade daughter read the first 2 HP books, she said she is waiting to let her read the rest until next year or even 5th grade when she thought that she could understand the content better. - WOW, if only all parents thought like this!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Polar Express Night

My new school has a holiday tradition of Polar Express night. The kids come in their pj's (even some of the parents come in pj's too!) and teachers and staff are in classrooms reading a holiday story. There are three sessions and the teachers read the same story three times. There are Christmas stories, Hanukkah stories, winter stories and even a few religious Christmas stories. After, there are cookies and milk in the cafeteria. It was So much fun - I think the kids get a kick out of seeing their teachers wearing their pj's in school! I read The Polar Express, my favorite holiday book, I usually do a big Polar Express even for kindergarten, but this school is SO big (10 kindergarten classes) that I couldn't do ti, so I did a scaled down version last night (although I did stop the fog machine, I was nervous that it might set off the fire alarm!)

Here is a picture of my two sons and I at the event, I even bought new Pj's for the occasion!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Have a Green Christmas!

I think almost every education magazine and journal that I subscibe to has had at least one article (or in some cases, whole issues) devoted to being "Green" this year. I know that conservation of our natural resources is important (as I write this, Georgia is in an extreme drought and talk of our water supply drying up is a reality!) but I often wonder if the education world is talking about this topic because it is the hot "buzz word" of the year or if we believe that going green should be taught to our students so that maybe in 20 years we won't have headlines such as the ones daily in the Atlanta paper about our water crisis. I think it is a little bit of both. I do think the sudden interest is in response to what is going on in the word around us, but I do think that we need to integrate talks with our students about conservation and recycling and not just have those conversations on Earth day!

This year as part of my month long holiday celebration I am doing a week on having a "green" Christmas. I will be reading the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting (which she wrote in 1994, way before being "green" was fashionable). After we read the story we will be making Christmas ornaments for our feathered and furry friends. I had a hard time coming up with an ornament that was not so messy (think, peanut butter and birdseed) so, with the help of my daughter, we came up with making froot loop cereal ornaments. The kids will string froot loops onto pipe cleaners and twist them together. Then they can go home and hang their ornament on an outside tree. Not sure how much birds like froot loops, but I am sure that the squirrels will love it!