Friday, May 30, 2014

Ellie's Trip to South Africa - Leaving on a (Few) Jet Planes

The night before Ellie, Kohlton and Mark left for South Africa, we met up at the Bass Pro Shop for a nice, relaxed meal.
After dinner they headed off to the Hampton Inn Suites near the Denver International Airport. Mark likes to start off the trip in a relaxed, excited fashion. I was a little weepy thinking about how much I would miss our girl. And, it was a bit scary sending her off on her first international trip with someone else, though we knew she would be safe because Mark treats her like she was his daughter.
One of the advantages of staying at the hotels by the airport is that they allow you to park your vehicle in their covered parking garage for $3 a night, much cheaper than the long term parking by the airport. At the hotel the kids had a good time swimming.

The next morning they were off early and on their was to Washington, D.C. where they would meet up with the other people on their tour. They were able to board the South African Airlines airbus early, but then had a two hour rain delay. Once in the air, they were comfortable and the food was good. Plus, they could watch as many movies as they wanted to.
The flight is a long one, with a layover in Dakar for refueling. It was about 11 p.m. or midnight our time, so the kids slept through it. Ellie and Kohlton seemed to naturally work out a sleeping schedule where one would try to watch a movie while the other one cuddled up and slept. This way they both got rest. I doubt that they others can say the same since planes are crowded when you are tall.
When they were in Dakar, Senegal, Ellie woke up enough to see the 160 foot tall "Monument of the African Renaissance" which was pretty impressive.
They stayed that first night in South Africa at the Afton Guest House in Johannesberg, just a short distance from the Tambo International Airport.
The people were nice, but they did not speak much English. They had a small gift shop where they used handwritten receipts. Ellie loved the mask, but they were too large to take with them or to shop. She settle for smaller gift like jewelry. She also wanted to send a few post cards, but they were locked in a glass cabinet, so she only had time to send one post card to little Issac from school. She thought that would be a thrill for him. The pool looked inviting, but it is the fall in South Africa and so it was too cold to take a dip.
The next morning they took another plane for East London.

Next, they drove to the Wild Schutzberg Game Reserve and then on to Hunter's Hill.

Ellie made dinner again tonight and it was wonderful. She made Chicken Broccoli Shells and grilled corn on the cob.

Chicken Broccoli Shells
via: Taste of Home

1 jar (16 ounces) Alfredo sauce
2 cups frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
21 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained

In a large bowl, combine the Alfredo sauce, broccoli, chicken and cheeses.
Spoon into pasta shells. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.
Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

This cheesy entree can be assembled ahead of time and popped in the oven when company arrives.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Ear of Corn with Husks attached 2 per person

Preheat the grill on high at least 10 minutes before placing the corn on the grill.
In the meantime, gently pull back the husk, run cold water over the ear of corn and the corn silks. Then pull the corn silks off. Throw those aside.(Some people opt to put flavored butter on the corn before pulling the husks back up. Gently pull the husks back up to cover the corn. Then soak them in water for at least 15 minutes. This will keep the corn husks from catching on fire and it will make it so that the corn steams while cooking, instead of drying out.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Glad to Have My Girl Back and Then She Hosts a Dinner Party and Slide Show for the Grandparents

Grandpa Don was very excited to hear about Ellie's trip. I think he would have liked to hear the stories and see the photos on the very day that she came home (I know that I wanted that, too), but Ellie and Kohlton were pretty exhausted. After all, their bodies were still on South African time which means that when we picked them up at noon, it felt like 8 p.m. We kept them up until about 7 p.m. to help them quickly readjust to Colorado time. She had them over for dinner and a show the very next night. (I will share so of the photos soon.) Her stories were great.
Kohlton says that he could imagine living there. Redheads are seen as special in South Africa. They are already talking about when they go back again.
I'll share more about the trip soon as I am feeling better. I one more day of school and then I will be able to get better more quickly.

For dinner Ellie made Garlic Lime Chicken, a pasta dish and Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (they were very tasty!).

Garlic-Lime Chicken
Adapted from All Recipes via: Random Anderson

3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons lime juice

1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and parsley. Sprinkle spice mixture generously on both sides of chicken breasts.
2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons garlic powder and lime juice. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently to coat evenly with sauce.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
via: Damn Delicious

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Panko*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 zucchinis, thinly sliced to 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
In a large bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan; set aside.
Working in batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat.
Add zucchini rounds to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve immediately.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Crazy Colorado Weather

I think the dog is bored with me; I know that I certainly am. It is about day 11 of having bronchitis and pneumonia, thought I feel SO MUUUUCCCHHH better than I did a week ago. Last weekend I think I was awake for about 3 hours, total. I took some time off from school, but since it was finals week, I wanted to be in class. My principal wanted me to go home, but I wanted to say good-bye to the kids. The last day of testing it tomorrow. During this time Ellie has been in South Africa,so the dog was stuck with me. He was my black shadow, sleeping as much with me or by me as possible. And it has rained a ton, really.
The hail storms torn my lovely hostas to shreds, but I think they will recover. It rained and hailed for 3 more days. This time my dear husband protected some of the plants. Here's how they looked before the storm:

On Sunday night a funnel cloud touched down less than two miles from our house. The tornado sirens wailed for a long while and we took refuge in the basement. The cats were none too pleased about that.

Today Ellie returns home from Africa and we are so excited to see her, hear about the adventures and give her lots of hugs.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Special Graduate

Two years ago a shy girl showed up in my English class, short on credit and self-esteem. I asked her to sign a pledge to graduate and now, after a lot of work and soul search for the right answers, I am happy to see her graduate.

When I left Arvda HS to go to Alameda, I think she was the saddest of all. I promised that I would still care about and support her through her journey. She calls me her Mom Away From Home, and I love supporting her.

On the other side I added quotes:
They read:
"To love a person is to see all of their magic,"
"and to remind them when they have forgotten."
"Seek Joy!"
"'What if I fail?' Oh, but dear, what if you fly!"
"All happiness is courage and hard work."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Alameda International High School Graduation 2014

Today was graduation for the students at my school.

Even though I've been to 20+ graduations for students that I have taught, I still enjoy it.

I look for my kids (the ones I had in class) in the mass of students in graduation gowns.

I cheer for them as they receive their diplomas.

I wait back stage to congratulate them one more time. Sometimes we even take photos. I love how they are as happy to have their picture taken with me on their phones as I am to have photos of them that I will post in my classroom.

Here you can see some of the diverse beauty at my school.

During the afternoon I worked on gathering the data for my Educator Effectiveness Goal and I am happy to tell you that I exceeded it by a large margin. That is a relief.

That was followed by a rain, hail and thunderstorm. Remmie and I enjoyed it from outside. I tried to take a nap after it ended but was not successful. I am thankful that the year is nearly over as I am exhausted. I also happen to have bronchitis and a touch of pneumonia.I just have to hang on for a few more days with the students. I see each class two more times. And then there are those 80+ essays that need grading...

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Baby Shower for Roya

On Friday our ESL team hosted a baby shower for Roya, whose due date was June 7th. It is a good thing that we had that party then since she gave birth on Saturday to baby Ari Franklin.

Roya has had a few showers before ours, so we asked the guests to gift her with their favorite children's books. Roya loves her personal library and we are happy to help Ari start his.
The others on our team provided the food. My charge was to decorate, so I made a pajaki for them. I have helped make a few others, but this one was all my own doing. Roya and Gaelan did not want the traditional boy colors, so I picked more vibrant ones. It turns out that orange/coral, a turquoise blue and grey were their wedding colors and the blue that I used on the hoop is Gaelan's favorite color. Roya and Gaelan's style is minimalistic, so I made sure that she did not feel obligated to take it. I was very happy when she said that she really wanted it. It turns out that they do not have anything to hang above Ari's crib. And now they do.

If you'd like to make one, too, here are the basic directions for the pajaki and the tassles. I think this is fun, too.
The kids in my advisement class and study hall helped me make these fun, colorful paper fan swags. It started out as a way to make decorations with stuff I already had, and then it turned into something else. It turns out that making something so fun, so beautiful with something as simple a paper make the kids who helped feel a little magical and artistic. That was the best part of this activity. You can make them, too!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ellie, Kohlton and Mark Have Arrived Safely in South Africa

Mark (Kohlton's dad) has a lovely tradition. Mark like to start off his vacations the night before flying out by going out for a nice dinner and then staying at a hotel near the airport. This allows them to relax and start off rested. It also allows him to store his truck in the hotel parking garage for just $3 a night, instead of the much higher price he would pay at a parking facility near the airport.
Thus, on Wednesday evening we met Mark at the Bass Pro Shop where we had dinner at Islamorada Fish Company.
Ellie sent me a few messages and photos during their long journey. The three of them flew to Washington, D.C. to meet up with the rest of the group that are on the same tour. They had a 2 hour layover that was extended by the rain.
The group transferred to South African Airlines and were on that plane for about 23 hours. Ellie said the food was good.

Kohlton got sick on the plane and I doubt that he rested very well. Ellie, being small, was able to curl up next to him and sleep. They had a fuel stop in Dakar. I was a bit worried about that one. The last time Mark and Kohlton went to South Africa and stopped in Dakar, some large men with gun boarded the plane and roamed the isles, looking for people who they thought should pay a "traveling fee." Thus, Kohlton and Ellie were instructed to look like they were sleeping. It was about midnight our time, so they might have actually been asleep. The plane continued on to Johannesberg where they stayed for the night. I hope that they were able to go into town a bit and take in the culture.
Next up was a commuter jet and then a rented vehicle to make their way to their destination. We know that they arrived safely, but Larr told Ellie to concentrate on having a good time and not to worry about calling home every day. The eight hour difference between Colorado and South Africa makes that a bit difficult.