Tuesday, September 27, 2011

C is for Conferences

Do tell -- teachers and other parents -- do you have a secret on handling school conferences?  What is the best way to get across what you want the teacher to know about your student and be a concerned and interested parent in the 5-10 minutes allowed?

Notice anything different about her hair?

It's nearly school conference time . . . already!  Actually, Maddy has received a first quarter progress report and live conferences are scheduled in a few weeks.  An article I recently read in a parenting magazine sounded very helpful on making the most of your student's school conference, so I thought I would be nice and share the highlights. Here's the lowdown!

1.  Bring questions to discuss your the teacher; write down your concerns ahead of time. I know I think of something I wanted to ask about the time I reach the car to go home!
2.  Be open-minded to what the teacher says about your child -- kids often act differently at school than at home.
3.  Leave with take-home tips.  Ask the teacher for tips on preparing for tests, homework-help ideas, ways to help your child socialize with other students.
4.  Follow-up -- with your student.  Tell your student what was said -- including praise -- who doesn't love a pat on the back!

From my own experiences, remember if there is not enough time in the conference to discuss all your concerns, make another appointment or contact the teacher by telephone or e-mail.  I know our conferences are only about 10 minutes long and teachers have to keep on schedule as there are other parents waiting their turns. Most teachers are more than willing to set up an appointment, make a phone call or e-mail to discuss your questions and concerns.

Feathers are allowed at her school -- Maddy was delighted to get one recently - it's ice-blue!!
This made my little student very happy
Being a teacher is hard.  Being a student is work too and the key (I think) is hard work, communication and cooperation.  I have found my girl's teachers to be very helpful.  Maddy is a very hard worker and wants to please. But, she's also a little afraid to ask questions and she's a worrier.  I do all I can to help her feel comfortable and at ease with her teacher and also to find ways to help her learn and excel in the classroom and with her homework.  Yep, we are again doing "Jeopardy" social studies and science this year to make learning definitions more fun!  What works for you and your student?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Falling Temps = Soup Time!

I wanted to save this recipe for a Sunday Special post, but I seriously could not wait because it is so very, very yummy!

Can you smell how delish this is?

Have you tried the Low-fat Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup at Panera* yet?  Oh my gosh, the first time I tried it, I was hooked.  Delicous bits of chicken, al dente orzo, spinach, light broth and low-fat and low calories to boot?!!  Whoa -- this soup had my name all over it!  So, I searched the trusty internet and found a recipe that sounded right.

Made it last night and and I know it is going to be one of our favorite cool-weather soups. 
Heck, I even like it in warm weather!  Here it is. 
You can thank me later for finding this easy and tasty soup for you!  :)


• 8 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
• 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken tenders  - use more if you like a lotta chicken.
• 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces
• 1 medium celery stalk, sliced
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (optional -- i do not like onion)
• 1/3 - 2/3 cups chopped spinach
• 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 tsp oregano
• 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
• 1 cup orzo
• Juice of FRESH lemon (about 1/4 cup)

1. Place all of the ingredients except the lemon juice in a 4-quart pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the orzo is cooked al dente.

2. Remove the chicken breast from the soup, slice into strips or small pieces, and return to the pot. Add the lemon juice, stirring well to mix.
3. Ladle the hot soup into individual bowls and serve immediately.  Bread sticks or baguettes go perfectly with this soup.  Add a small salad and you've got a meal!

Panera*'s soup -- photo from . . . Panera*

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

So Long Summer -- It's Almost Officially Fall!

Now that school has started and for all intents and purposes, summer is over, and the squirrels are trolling the neighborhood knocking down copious amounts of acorns, it is time to do my annual farewell to summer! 

 First of all, let me say, I love summer!  I love the hot weather, pool time, bicycle rides, walks with the dog and all those fun hours spent outside.  However, I do not love my frizzy hair in the summer!  Anyhoo, I did snap a few photos now and then and so, we now sadly say - ta-ta for now to warm weather!

Goodbye to:

Train rides at our friendly children's zoo!
SO LONG to pool time!!

Swimming lessons and noodle rides!

4th of July!

Firecrackers and the 4th of July!

Vacations and Sweet Cousin Time!

Bye bye sweet beach and beach flowers!

Hello Fall Spideys and Squirrels!! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Special -- Fast and Light Chicken Potpie

Photo also from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb. 2010 edition

I admit it, I'm one of those people who keep old magazines because I just know there is probably something there that I might want to refer to later.   Recently, I was looking through some Cooking Light magazines from Jan/Feb. 2010 [actually, I was trying to put myself to sleep without any Advil PM]! 
 So happy I saved that one and you will be too!

Look what I made the other night!  It was speedy and delicious -- two requirements for me to cook! Plus -- there are loads of good recipes in this old issue, so stay tuned for more of my delightful Sunday Specials!! :) The strips of piecrust on top are so delish!

Here's how you make it!  Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light, Jan/Feb. 2010 edition.

SPEEDY CHICKEN POTPIE [printable recipe]
• Cooking spray
• 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 cups refrigerated diced potatoes with onion (such as Simply Potatoes)
• 2/3 cup frozen green peas and diced carrot blend
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
• 1/4 (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrust dough

• 1. Preheat oven to 425°.
• 2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; sprinkle with salt. Sauté 5 minutes or until browned and done.
• 3. While chicken cooks, bring 2 1/2 cups broth and bay leaf to a boil in a large saucepan. Add potatoes; cover and cook over medium-high heat 8 minutes. Stir in peas and carrots; cover and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken. Combine remaining 1/2 cup broth and flour; stir into potato mixture. Reduce heat to medium; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and thick. Remove bay leaf. Stir in thyme, pepper, and sage.
• 4. While potato mixture cooks, cut piecrust dough crosswise into 12 strips. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 7 minutes or until browned and puffy. Top chicken mixture with piecrust strips.

Enjoy!  Plus, since you've saved all those calories,
feel free to have something chocolate and yummy for dessert! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fun With the Littles!

Maddy loved pushing Jane around the zoo!  The goats ran off when we didn't shell out some $ to feed them!

Last weekend, we had some fun with the little ones in the family!  Philip and Catherine brought Janie and Walt to spend the night with us while they went to a football game and had a night out.   If you remember the last time we did that, you might guess that I was a little nervous this time around!  But, I figured there was no way we could possibly have a dreadful storm knocking out power and downing a tree in the yard again when the babies stayed over.  And luckily there were no storms!!

Looking at zoo animals is serious stuff!

We had so much fun with Janie and Walt!  Maddy and I took Jane to the zoo and she loved it. Maddy had a blast pushing her stroller around and pointing out the red panda, the ponies, the new penguins, the smelly goats, the birds and  the screaming lemurs.  Wow -- those things are loud and were a little scary!  From the looks of them when they were screaming, they have very large, sharp teeth!  We also saw this incredibly cute crocodile who gave us that really big smile when he saw us!! :)

Nice to see you too, Mr. Crocodile!

Then we had even more fun and introduced Janie to some delightful cuisine -- McD's!!  She loved it!!  Walt is a bit too young still for fries and nuggets, so he opted for another bottle of formula. 

As sweet as Janie was a baby, I thought there was no way that their second baby would be so sweet and easygoing too.  Wrong!  He is the most mellow little fellow (poetic, aren't I!).  I got him to smile and giggle for me.   Later, we stuck the poor guy in an umbrella stroller to take him for a walk with Janie in another stroller and Muffy tagged along too.   I'm afraid little Walter didn't look too comfy, but he never complained.  He reminds me so much of Philip as a baby, but Philip didn't sleep through the night until he was at least one year old and Walt is already sleeping through the night at 3 months!  Maddy is the best auntie and it was a really fun visit!

Look at that sweet, adorable face!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ready, Set, Slide!

Ready . . .

Muffy, our most adorable little Scottie,  has a BDFF (best doggie friend forever) who lives right across the street from us.  She's a little Corgi named Dixie.  Those two dogs rule the street . . . or think they do! 

Set . . .

On some of these nice evenings lately, we (the Moms, the kids and dogs) have been visiting a small nearby park.  The kids swing, go on the slides, teeter-totter and so do the pups!  Really!!!  Dixie knows how to go down the small slide and the twisty tornado slide!  She's taught Muffy (with Maddy's help) how to go down the small slide!  Luckily, when we've been there, not too many other kids were there, so Dixie and Muffy had plenty of turns on the slide!

Done!  That was fuN!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Tart and Brownie Sundaes!

Beef, Mushroom Onion Tart from Better Homes & Gardens (mine also looked this good!)

Took a little break from my usual holiday weekend of no-cooking and having fast/frozen food meals to actually prepare a meal!  Guess what -- it turned out yummy!!

I found the recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Prizewinning Recipes book they recently sent me.  They said someone had requested the book be sent to me?  Hmmm-- wondering who that was??? 

Anyway, it was easy-peasy to  make and very delish! Even Maddy kind of liked it.  And what's really great about it, is that you could easily add all kinds of things, like green peppers, more mushrooms, sauce, etc. to it to make it even better.

Those who know me, know that I must have chocolate -- preferably at every meal! 
 So I also made brownie cupcakes!!  Add some vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce -- voila -- a delish brownie sundae!! 

My friend, Ina Garten, loaned me this photo.  My brownies were cupcakes and actually looked even better! There were none left or I would have taken a photo!

 I really outdid myself today, so am definitely taking Labor Day off tomorrow. 

Hoping for more cooking adventures soon.  Maddy and I may try to make chocolate dipped rice krispie treats on a stick!  Stay tuned!!!

Photo from Rice Krispies -- who else?!!