Thursday, March 31, 2016

Year Five in the Virtual Books

Building habits! Reaching goals! Practicing when you don't feel it! Pushing through the tough days. Any of these phrases could describe what it takes to grow as a reader, a runner, or anything else for which you strive in life. For me, this month, it's my growth as a writer. I have always embraced the idea that you need to be a reader to be a teacher of reading.  I have share in the past that I don't embrace the writing, but I know to be a teacher of writers you must write even if is routinely writing with your students. 

Looking back at this past month and the finish line,  I've moved beyond how I felt in Year 1 where I didn't know if I could finish and actually made it through 31 days.  It was tough. I didn't believe I could do it. Year 1 transformed,however, me for the better as a teacher of writing.  I learned the power of a responsive audience, the power of community and the toil of writing practice since I had mastered "school writing." It changed me professionally.   Upon completion I planned a slice unit for my students and we did our own. They too taught me about the power of writing outside the classroom.  I embedded blogging in my course for college students.  

Year 2  was different, I moved with the confidence and knowledge that I could meet the challenge, because I did it in year one. It was similar to the feeling I had at CG Games this summer. I knew I could complete the events because I had done them all at least once.  That confidence frees you since you know you won't fail.  I also blogged with other colleagues trying it out. I felt the same in Year 3 and  Year 4.   Between Year 3 and 4 I actually met fellow Slicers at NCTE in DC, a cool experience since I had only known these writers through our digital encounters.   I also actually provided tech support and was able to share my experience with other future Slicers.  I had the confidence that I could help others through the process too.  I am always have enough knowledge to be a little dangerous, which empowers me to take risks.   I read a little more about digital writing, Troy Hicks, being my favorite. I kept learning about the process.  

This year, Year 5, was a little different. I had a routine.  Just like I have a workout routine, I had a writing routine.  I posted topics that were routine and helped me build content. This was the first year that I was really able to have drafts so I didn't always have to write the day of.  I looked for content in my world.  Part of my growth this year was attending Florida Blog Con where I learned about the noneducational end of blogging.  This year I was also part of the welcome wagon where I had a small group of new Slices that I routinely commented upon.  They provided inspiration each day.   I did miss, however, reading the posts by Slicers such as Anita, and Stacey Shubitz as well as others.   I just found that although I could write every day, it still took time.  Just because it got easier, it still took time.  The toughness was the work itself not the doing of the work.  Little is really required of me to read each day I love it. It's not hard.  Writing each day is hard just like working out each day is hard. On days where I had open posts, I struggled with the open-ended-ness.  Still this experience continues to be one where I am able to push my practice and engage in self-centered professional learning.  I love it!

Next year I want to participate in one of the commenting challenges. I want to be a better member of the community throughout the entire year for the weekly post. Last year was my least prolific.  

That aside! I am eternally grateful to the Slice team, my fellow slicers, Lee Ann, and my other readers whose feedback both written and face-to-face help me grow!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Eye-Spy: TBR Pile

If you have been in my house, you know that there is an obscene amount of space dedicated to books. Each inhabitant (3) has a bookshelf that was built and reflects the wingspan both vertically and horizontally.  Rather than post pictures from the wild tonight, since I posted many, many nature posts this past week, I decided to share my quick pics from To Be Read (TBR) pile.

My largest TBR pile is full of titles from different ya series, the genres such as sci fi, historical fiction, magical realism, and realistic fiction.  I have this issue about finishing what I start. Therefore I have to finish a series once I start it.  Some of these are book two and some are book three.  This pile doesn't account for the books that are in series that the next titles haven't been released yet. I love to immerse myself in a series. I then like to pass it on to the just right student.

My pile of adult reads are the nonfiction and fiction books that I have waiting for me that I might recommend to a friend.  This pile does not include the book that I have to read by Sunday for book club, Almost Anywhere:  Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks and Nonsense by Krista Schyler. That book is part of my digital TBR pile.  Besides the paper TBR pile, I have my plastic TBR space. Besides digital books, I have a backlog of magazines and audio books as well.

My last group of TBR includes TBRRs aka To Be ReRead is my professional reads pile.  Some of them are new to me such as Chris Lehman's and Kate Roberts' Falling in Love with Close Reading. Some of them are titles I want to revisit such as Kelly Gallagher's In the Best Interest of Students.  I also have a couple of titles in the purchasing queue such as Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 by Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts.

Really I don't have a problem.  I don't hoard my books ya or adult books.  I like to put them out into the universe.  If you see a book you like, let me know!  I tag it just for you and send it to you when I am done!  I do, however, cling to my professional books.  I like to come back to them.  Still I am wondering what's on your TBR or TBRR list?  What do you recommend I add to my pile?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Day 29

I've made it this far so I think I can write for 3 more days.  The open post days have actually been the hardest for me.  I don't know if it is the timing of my open post days, Monday and Tuesday, or what. Monday and Tuesday afternoons are my work times for my Wednesday job.  I also make sure I work out on these days as well.  I have used my daughter's homework to inspire my writing as well as google searches for writing prompt. I read more blogs on these days too garnering inspiration for my fellow-slicees.  I know that the key is to just sit and write.  So that's my uninspired post for the day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Countdown

We are a culture of counting and data.  Here are my counts for the week.

1 fantastical day of professional learning at UCF, the annual literacy symposium.

2 hours of working in the Starbucks on Friday night while waiting for my daughter during ballet. I actually get a lot of work done.

3 days of proctoring, 2 spent with the 101 seniors who still need to make the score for the reading graduation requirement, and 1 spent with the juniors, about 347, who have not made the score yet either.

4 CG workouts scheduled on my calendar this week.  It is interval week.  My favorite!  I feel the burn long after the workout is over.

4.5 cups of water each day as a minimum to keep my blood glucose in balance. Yes, I know I should drink more.

5 days of after school pick-up for my middle school girlie.  I like the middle school hours. I get to stay after school and work for a while in silence and then get to make it to the car line.

6 pairs of clean Balega's for the week. I buy the brightest color so I can spot them on my girlie's feet. It is just not right for her to wear my expensive socks!

7 cups of coffee for my week-flavored either Georgia Pecan or Cinnamon Hazelnet.  Coffee with cream is my daily indulgence.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Seven

A dip in Juniper Springs
7.  Weather over spring break.
6.  Curious students.
5. Time spent reading, bird-watching, and lingering.
4.  Watching my girlie laugh with her cousins.
3. My husband, a good sport.
2.  Napping, totally underrated.
1.  Camping with my family at Juniper Springs.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Food for Thought: Eggs

The Rapid Egg Cooker-
Worth the Counter-Space!
Happy Friday! How fortuitous that my planned writing for today is all about the incredible egg.  This isn't the first time that I have written about the breakfast.  In fact, I still stand by my breakfast recommendations.   Today, I am all about the egg.  It truly is one of the most versatile ingredients on the planet!  Eaten by itself or as an ingredient in a recipe, it is incredible.

I like to start my day with an egg. In the past, I relied on what I jokingly referred to as a fresh scramble made dutifully by my husband each day at 5:45 am.  Now I prefer poached eggs in the morning, medium please, but if someone is waking up to make you breakfast, you just say thank you.  My husband, however, made his morning much simpler for both us us by finding a superior Xmas gift for me this past December..  If I don't need my pants ironed, he can just stay in bed because he gifted me the one and only Rapid Egg Cooker for me. See if I am not paying attention, I burn things, the simple things such as the toast etc. Otherwise, when I am fully engaged in cooking, you would be surprised what I can pull off the stove and out of the oven.

The Eggstractor-
Not Worth the Counter-Space!
What is beautiful about this machine is that it is regulated by water on a hot plate.  You can make 6 "boiled" eggs (they are really steamed, but come out like boiled).  You can poach two eggs, make an omelet, and even scramble the eggs. It comes with a handy dandy water measure cup that really does turn out medium eggs when you fill to the medium line.  What I love most is you push the button, and then you wait for the obnoxious buzzer.  Eggs Done! It can't be ignored.   Not every egg gadget is worth the counter-space. If you have read my past food for thought post on ice cream, you know that I only keep gadgets that get used at least 12x a year. The Rapid Egg Cooker has passed that test while the EggStractor just couldn't. My husband picked it up at the thrift store.  I'll put this in the category of the white elephant gift.

 Many of you may be dying eggs this weekend. I will be devising a nighttime Easter egg hunt.  I might event try out this recipe,  Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs.  Whatever your egg preference is, I hope you have an incredible weekend!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Throwback Thursday: NWP 1997

I spent the 96-97 school year as a teaching piloting the Orange County Literacy Project, a reading research project from Vanderbilt University.  It eventually evolved into Read 180. It was my first induction into using centers. My ninth grade ESOL classroom had a technology center, an independent reading center, a guided reading centers, and a writing center.  In the spring of '97 we were doing a nine week evaluation of the centers.  Frandy, a tiny ninth grade boy with a big smile from Haiti, piped up and said, Ms. Scanlon, your writing center isn't really a writing is more of a grammar center. I responded, "You know Frandy, You are right!"  Of course, we can learn some much about our teaching when we learn to watch and listen to students.

That day I decided to do something different about my teaching of writing and applied for the now defunct Central Florida National Writing Project summer program. I spent a 4 weeks unpaid studying the writing craft, and the art of teaching writing.  We read, we wrote, we taught each other and we wrote more. My time that summer changed the way I thought about the teaching of writing. It  also literally changed my life. It inspired me to pursue my doctorate.  I wanted to close the gap between research and instructional practice that is distinctive to many college of ed programs.  The NWP is all about the idea that the best teachers of teachers are teachers.

I made new teacher friends. To this day, I am still close friends with them, not just teacher-friends, some of whom blog now, Lee Ann, Christine, and have in the past, Lee.   In a way I was brought to the Slice of Life Story Challenge based on the learning from my NWP summer experience, being that if you want to teach writing, we need to write. Thank you Frandy for bring me here!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eye Spy: Found

Found in the morning!
Found on nature hike!
Found on the beach!

What will you find this week?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Writer's Block

I've had a pretty full day.  I binge-watched The Shadow Hunters show, had a massage, did a CG double and reach my 200th check-in.  I also now binge watching Boy Meets World as I didn't watch it the first time around and my daughter likes Girl Meets World. I really don't have anything to write about it and can't really find a prompt that I like. The key to writing is to write even when you can't think of anything else.  The key to finishing this challenge is just getting something down even when you aren't in the headspace for it.  Mostly my arms are tool tired to lift to type on the keyboard for that I blame my trainer.  The highlight of my day was that my girlie actually cleaned two layers of her room. Round 3 begins tomorrow.  I promise more words tomorrow!  Be sure to go outside and enjoy the view of the gorgeous full moon.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Note:  The format of this post was inspired by Anne Donnelly, the blogger at

Perusing the many magazines that I have downloaded on my tablet. (The Orange County Public Library system has over 200 downloadable magazines using Zinio.)  I got 2 months behind.
Responding to blogs that my students wrote.  Check them out.
Searching  plants I can' t kill. I think succulents and cacti are the way to go.
Listening to Futurama.  It is one of those shows that my kid watches with her dad.
Checking dates on my calendar.
Jotting notes about my to-dos and thinking about using Google Keep.
Reflecting on my digital training.
Plotting my next lessons.
Reading Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman.
Sending  Love and Healing Energy to my two colleagues who are fighting the battle of their lives right now.
Considering actually moving it when the google extension MOVE IT pops up every 2o minutes that I am on the computer.
Anticipating...the next installment of the Divergent series, the conclusion:  Ascendant.
Sipping Meyer Lemon Water.  Yum! I love citrus. I, especially, love lemon.
Playing the Indigo Girl's song Galileo over and over in my head.
Pushing myself to become CG Stronger!  My 20 pound weights are a struggle some days.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Seven

My accountability partner, Jen !
7. A Sunday morning run\walk accountability partner, Jen, who doesn't mind splashing in the rain.  We spent plenty of time doing that today! Morning miles recorded already today!

6. Preparing and enjoying a family meal with my co-workers and friends.  Full of both fun and learning about different food, sanchocho. It was Lisa's mother's recipe.  Think of it a version of beef stew.  Many hands made the work light. My daughter also learned how to make monfongo.

5. Surviving facilitating digital training for teachers...aka what they did on their teacher new reminders---details matter as do flexibility and tenacity for all involved!  I believe this will be a recurrent gratitude as our high school of approximately 3200 students go 1:1 next fall.

4. Finalizing summer plans---art camp for my daughter, Elkmont for our family, and spring day Fridays.

3. Being ahead in my reading for the AEW committee, a first.

2. My daughter made the track team.

1. It's actually spring break!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Into Saturday: Suwanee River's Springs

Twilight at a Suwanee River spring
"Way down upon the Swanee River...:" begin the lyrics of the Florida state song written by Stephen Foster titled "Old Folks at Home."  In 2008 there was a state legislative push to change the state song, however, a state anthem was chosen and the Florida state song was expurgated and Foster's song still remains.   The song was written about the Suwanee River and you can go check out the Stephen Foster State Park, but I am more interest in the over 25 springs that dot the Suwanee River and it's surrounding counties.

In my head it looks like a trip hopping into 24 springs in 48 hours.  If it is to be done, I think it is to be done in this area.  I predominantly spring in the Central Florida area with springs that connect to the St. Johns River.  Not all of the springs in Florida are in state parks, some are in National Forest Recreation areas, some county parks, and some on private property.  Each is so unique in its natural beauty.  My 48 hour plan includes jumping in Lafayette Blue Springs, Fanning Springs, Peacock Springs, Troy Springs, and Manatee Blue Springs. For a decent list to begin to plan your spring trip, start here:  Major Springs in Florida.  I like the table format.   You can also learn more about this special places at Florida Springs.  They are Florida's true blue natural gems.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Food for Thought: Craving a Burger?

There's been so much food-fan-fare in the press about all these new burger places in O-town, all chains, and I just don't get the hype. I get it, sometimes chains are owned by locals, but I prefer my burgers from a local chef rather than from a chain owned by a local.   I've had my burger smushed and tried to find the taste in the hype, but when I go out for a burger, there are only a few places that I want one from.  You can be sure that a visit to one of these places will be happening over spring break.  Frankly, I don't care about the bun. I know, I am a burger-heathen.  The truth be told, it's what is between the buns that count.   Sloppy buns are also detractors me, hence my unlove for another chain that serves peanuts with their flat-burger.  There's no appetizing ring to that name is there?  One thing that all my top three burger favs have in common is that that aren't flattened on the grill.  With most cooking shows that I watch smushing the burger on the grill is a No-No!  In my head, I flashback to the eighties Wendy's commercial wondering myself, "Where's the?????"   I don't often go out for a burger because these aren't cheap.  I have also been know to make my own version. Hint a little Harry and David's pineapple relish will do in a pinch for making the burger found at location number 2.  Here are my top three:

3.  Vanberrys:  A relative newcomer to the Orlando scene, almost two years old.  There are many thing to enjoy on the menu here, but I always enjoy the Van Barry's Bacon Jam burger.  You have a chose of buns including the pretzel bun, but here I just enjoy the burger.  Another stand out item are the pickles that get served. Much better than bread!  If the company you keep doesn't like burgers, they can choose from taco's to salads or one of their bowls.  It's the only other place in O-town that you will find the ubiquitous swan boat.  

2.  The Crooked Spoon:  The 420 Burger! Although Clermont is technically not Orlando, it's worth the drive west on 50. My friends like the cocoa crusted burger found .  The 420 burger boasts a little pineapple relish, fried onion ring, candied bacon as well as a brioche bun. (I still don't eat this bun!) It's a perfect melding of salty, sweet, and umami.  This restaurant started as a food truck, but its stand-alone restaurant in Clermont is an oasis.  For your non-burger, even veggie companions, there are many foodie-temptations.  The menu does change too.  

1.  Johnny's Filling Station:   I have been literally grabbing a burger here since the nineties.  Once smoking was outlawed in food establishments, eating here became tolerable.  My daughter cut her teeth on the fried broccoli here. (Yes, bad mom alert here!)  The broccoli is not on the menu here anymore.  You can go to the much brighter Johnny's Other Side to grab the burger too, but the Filling Station side is where it's at.  You can get toppings, but I love my burger plain here. It stands alone. Again, with or without the bun.  One reason to skip the bun here, might be to save yourself the carbs so you can share an order of the tater tots.  

Are you a fan of the flat or juicy burger?  What are your local favorites?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break Resolutions!

Rainbow Springs
Technically spring break will start at 3:30 tomorrow.  Since the students are already gone and it's a teacher work day, I can pretend that I am almost there.  I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do make spring break ones. I am never ready to make them in January. It seems like I am destined to not reach them.  With the gorgeous weather and spring break, it's an ideal time to start them.

Here are my top ten:

10. Finish our income tax.  Get it at least extension-proof.
9.   Spend at least 48 hours away from technology. I will be able to reach this goal aside for doing my slice posts when I camp at Juniper Springs.
8.  Swim each day!
7.  Enjoy time with my family.
6.  Work out each day.  Really work on my burpees since I have 46 birthday burpees coming up in the next month and last year I was able to do 45 in 2 minutes and 17 seconds. Get out with my kid and have her run for track each day.
5. Read one professional book. I have several in my TBR pile and of course another one, Power Up, that I really want to buy.
4.  Get ahead in my slice posts and perhaps some other writing.
3.  Clean my house including.
2. Binge watch some movies and shows.  Suggestions welcome!
1.  Slow down!

What are your spring break plans? For my readers who aren't teachers, what will you do one fabulous spring day?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Eye-Spy: Signs of Spring

Sunrise, the morning of daylight savings time.
Be on the lookout for signs of spring!  It goes quickly here!  The weatherman promises a 90 degree high today.  He was wrong!  It was only 88!  I am excited by the promise of a cold front rolling in on Monday with an expected high of 72.  
A lone azalea, my favorite spring flower, which hides
under the shade of live oaks.   I love the fuchsia ones. Southern Living describes it as the number one must have plant in the South.  

New leaves that will look like feathers as they grow.  I am not sure of the tree.  See what it houses below. Photo Credit: Jen K

A bird's nest. In fact, several dot the barren trees along this nature walkway.
No sign of the birds, just the nesting.

What signs do you see?  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Parenting: A Delicate Balance

This morning my daughter went to track tryouts and I am proud of her.  She told me this fall that she was going to do track in the spring and so we got the requisite physical.  When it came to me telling her this past weekend about track tryouts coming up, she said she didn't want to.  I really struggled with this.  She made a verbal commitment and I want her to follow-thru with what she said.  I wanted the decision to be hers, but I also felt that I needed to push her too.  I talked about it with my husband and he agreed with me.  Our kid has a life history of not wanting to try new things such as art camp now in year 4 and loves it.  She always surveyed the situation even as a toddler before jumping in.  I also want her to make decisions. There is a delicate balance.  I told her there was one way that I would be okay with her not trying out.  If track interfered with her ballet classes, I would be okay with not trying out . Of course, she could sabotage the tryouts in a myriad of ways, not try her hardest or "forget" to turn in her physical paperwork, but ultimately that was up to her.

Part of her reluctance was the fact that many of her friends who said they were going to try out weren't.  She discovered that just one friend was and she told me she was going because of her.  I actually don't care what motivated her to get there.  She got there.  She turned in the paperwork on Monday and seemed excited after school because her friend was trying out.  Paperwork turned in. New outfit secured and she survived her first tryout runs, the mile and the 100.  
I am happy for a number of reasons.  I know how important it is for kids to be connected to school.  I want my kid to experience perhaps trying out and not making the team or making them team and experiencing what it is like to be on a team.  I also know how important it is for girls to be active and track is the ideal sport.  It is about personal records as well as individual and team wins.  The other plus is that track and field events rely on a variety of strengths.  As a former track coach, we  could always find a place for all the kids who came out to track.  I don't know if that is the middle school track coach's philosophy.

She told this afternoon that she didn't like it while she was doing it, but she felt good afterwards.  Her friend isn't going back tomorrow, but she is.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Moments

Part of participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge is commenting on others' post, a minimum of three each day.  I love this aspect of the challenge.  It provides inspiration for my writing and my instruction.  This year I am part of the welcome wagon which means I have set bloggers' sites that I visit and comment upon each day.  This format for this post was inspired by one of them and I forget whom.  My apologies in advance to whomever I've borrowed this format from!

Listening:  This morning I had the privilege of listening to one of my former college students defend her dissertation.  I loved listening to her passion and her ideas.  I loved how the listening made me think and ask questions.  As one of her committee members, I have loved watching her thinking evolve as she did her research.  It was a cerebral morning listening, growing, and evolving.

Loving:  I am loving this Florida spring weather.  Last year it became too hot too soon.  One year, we didn't have to turn the air on until June.  Last year, we almost never turned it off.  We have a had a blissful spring with sunny days and cool nights and low humidity.  I am loving that the air is still off.
Thinking: I am thinking about our destination digital for next year.  Wondering about "personalized learning" and personalizing learning.  Wondering about Genius Projects, integrating the tech most purposefully for learning and what attitude shifts it will require both teachers, students and parents to take.

Wanting:  There isn't much I am wanting for.  Perhaps a little spring cleaning, but I know that will happen next week.  I suppose I am really wanting my kid to pick up her messy messy room. I guess this is the turnabout my mom was always wishing upon me.

Needing:  I am needing this Achilles tendinitis to go away.  Not in a way that it morphs into something worse, but just a reduction in the pain.  Glad to  have a foam rolling session and a new stretch and new shoes and socks under the belt, but
 I am needing patience in this healing process.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Seven: An Hour Lost

7. Spring Forward!  I love daylight savings time!  At fall back, many relish the extra hour of sleep, but I mourn the loss of evening light.  I love the extra time in the evening to play and be outside. I remember going to bed when I was little and it was still light outside.  I hated that!  With extended daylight, I get to enjoy the world after work.  The dark-thirty doesn't matter to me in the am.  I always get up them regardless of the evening light.

6.  My colleagues, who despite the crazy, we are able to rise above and still laugh together.

5. My daughter had fun at her first middle school dance.  She danced and danced.  She looked so grownup and composed walking in, but came home red-faced and sweaty.  I always swear to people I married my husband because he dances.  We are glad to have spawned a child who does too!

4.  UCF Spring break!  Of course, I worked my day job, but it was nice to not have to go to work on Wednesday night.  I also ended up physically not being able to go to work that night. It was nice to nap through my 24 hour bug.  I woke up feeling amazing on Thursday.

3.  Orange Gatorade.  You can have your blues, reds, purples and ices, but there is nothing better than Orange Gatorade when I am sick.  I haven't had it in about 7 years.

2.  Four pairs of new workout socks.  I love them and I will be wearing my running shoes to work in the next few weeks due to testing.  I needed the socks.  I wear Balegas.  They are worth the cost, but my favorite locally owned running store, the Track Shack had a huge sale.  #Score

1.  My A1C was down.  After a slight rise for my last test, I was able to refocus and trend downward again. May this downward spiral continue!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Into Saturday: Florida Spring-Fed River Floats

Many people enjoy "the lazy river."  The concrete lazy river found in many surrounding hotels and water parks in my community is a little tame and doesn't show off the Florida wild. Trust me I enjoy those water parks too, but in keeping with my thinking about summer plans this week, here are some of the best places to tube or in some cases "snorkel" the river. You can make it as lazy as you want. An investment in a snorkel and a mask will enhance your day even if you don't choose to swim the river.Most of the places are BYOT, but they have water toys for rent. If you have small children, an investment in a blow-up boat works as well even a life jacket. The waters aren't rough, moving at a rate of 1 mile per hour but sometimes kids can panic their first time in the water out in the open. I prefer floating on the week days in the summer.  The weekends can get crowded really fast.   My top three lazy rivers are the Rainbow River in Dunnelllon, the Weeki Wachi River in Weeki Wachee, and the Itchkneetucknee River.

1. The Rainbow River is accessible river in two places, KP Hole or the state park.  KP Hole is a Marion county park and is small and gets closed fast on a summer day since the size of the parking lot is what limits the visitors.  The benefit is that you can rent a paddle board, kayak or canoe.    You can bring your own tube, but what you are paying for is the tram fee to bring you back to the parking lot.  I prefer to tube from the other side of the river at the state park.  The parking lot is less crowded.  You will walk back to tube headquarters as the tram takes you north, but this park is more pristine.

2.  Weeki Wachee River  This trip could take two days depending on what you want to do.  Visit Weeki Wachee State Park or float the river. These water launch is crowded here.  You need large water toys such as kayaks, canoes or paddleboards to make this float happen. There are available for rent and if you have don't own any, it's best to let the professionals launch your boat and pick you up. It's complicated, but worth it. There is plenty of parking at the state park.You will question whether you will be able to get lost in the wonder.  If you are DIYing it, you have to park your car at the pull out at Rogers Park which means you need two vehicles.  The contrast between the end of your paddle and the start of your paddle is stunning.  Rogers Park is a man-made beach on the water. It is a hopping swimming party.  You will, however, have spent the day floating and snorkeling the river.  You watch the water transform from crystal to green. You can't swim in the waters that are in the boundaries of the state park, but once you are out of the boundaries, you can.  The water is between 1-4 throughout the paddle. You will be swathed in the tranquility and beauty of the environment.  I want to live on this river.  Another plus is that the ocean is not so far away.

3. Ichetucknee River-  The only tubing that is entirely in the state park. The water is pristine and you will be lost in nature for several hours. Although you can tube year-round, you don't have access to the entire park.  The north section is closed after Labor Day so that it can rejuvenate.  There is tram service, but unlike the Rainbow River, tubes are not for rent on-site. It is bring your own or rent on from one of the many sites that dot the roadside.  This river is the narrowest of the three. It is the most wild.  It is deep like the Rainbow river as well.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Food for Thought: Family Recipes

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day
Corned beef and cabbage will be what's on the menu for many people next Thursday as they celebrate their Irish heritage.  It is one of the few days of the year that I make it too. Some of my family favorites hearken from our Irish American heritage.  Others from our Rhode Island roots such as clam cakes, not to be confused with crab cakes, more like a clam fritter.  Spiedies from our New York Binghamton roots might be on the menu too. A family favorite, however, that I don't make often is my Slovenian grandmother's halukis, known in some cultures as golabki, golumpkies, holubtsi,or golubtsy depending on which eastern European culture you hail from. In English, we call them cabbage rolls.  

I often see them on a menu at restaurants, especially Jewish delis, but I would never order them out. They aren't the same.  My family's twist is that it's a version of cabbage rolls made with sauerkraut and no tomatoes or tomato sauce at all. It's the kind of meal like lasagna which tastes even better the next day. It is also a labor intensive recipe much like the Puerto Rican dish, sanchoco, that I will be learning how to make with my friend Lisa next Friday.  My family would make halukis once a year for my dad's birthday.  After his death, we rarely made it.  In fact, when I do make it now, I invite my friends' over.  These are the friend whom I have diligently research would like it, as they must be cabbage lovers.  I can count them on my hands and it isn't either of the two people I live with.  That night they get peanut butter and jelly.  I do foresee that the time is right soon to have friends' over for halukis to share.  
What are your family favorites that you like to eat or make when you are all together?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Summer Plans

Spring break is almost here which makes me turn mind toward summer and finalizing my plans.  This summer will be a little shorter. We will lose a week because we are starting a week earlier which will benefit us next year.  I will be working for a few more weeks because we are going 1:1 devices in all the high schools in our district.  I am making plans for camp for my daughter. She goes to art camp each year for two weeks.  She has ballet camp and ballet class as well.  We will have my favorite 3 day weekends which will allow us time to retreat to the local beaches and springs.  I am also working crafting a travel plan.

In summers' past, we have cruised, snorkeled, spelunked, scalloped, followed The Walking Dead movie set trail, hiked the AT, whitewater rafted, and tubed.  Summer is about being outdoors for us and creating memories.  This year we will take our customary camping trip in the woods of the Appalachian Mountains, which means I still need to make my camping reservations for Elkmont.  We traditionally met up with my mom and friends have joined us too.  Hiking Abrams Falls as well as afternoon soaks are on the menu.  The beauty is that there is no technology.  No matter the destination, it isn't a vacation if I don't cut off completely from technology.

What are your summer plans or traditions?