Holiday Desserts: Variations of Old Favorites

I don't know about you, but I LOVE holiday desserts. Cakes, cookies, pies, and basically anything with cream cheese or brown sugar. This is the time of year that my kitchen sees the most action. I love to share what I bake with friends, colleagues, and students, but this year I have a few students with (extremely) severe allergies, so I won't be taking any desserts into the classroom. So, it looks like I'll have to find other people to share with. :)

In this post, I've included several of my personal favorites. Most of them are classic holiday desserts... but with a slight twist. For example, these vanilla sugardoodles are inspired by the classic sugardoodles, minus the cinnamon and with more of a vanilla flavor. Mmmmm... vanilla.

That said, I have to admit that I've included one classic recipe without any twist... Unless you consider a homemade chocolate cake a twist. This cake is so easy to make that I will never go back to boxed cake again! And, I can pronounce all of the ingredients! Bonus!

Click on any of the pictures below to take you to the recipe. I hope you try some of these and love them as much as I do! :)

Soft and Chewy Vanilla Sugardoodles
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Mini Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cakes
Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake
Browned Butter Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Five for Friday {November 20, 2014}

Happy Friday, everyone! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share five things about my week.

This vanilla cashew smoothie that has changed my life. Okay, I'm (slightly) exaggerating, but this thing is so damn delicious. And easy. (It only takes a few minutes to make before I bolt out the door in the morning.) And it gives me the energy I need after my coffee wears off. What do you do for breakfast?
Vanilla Cashew Shake

This week we've started using a special bookmark with sticky notes to guide our thinking while reading independently. After students finish reading, they have about 10 minutes to discuss their book (and sticky notes) with a partner. It's a little messy right now, but the bookmarks are a HUGE help, and I've given students a few phrases to help them extend their book talk. I set the timer for 4 minutes, and each partner has to lead the conversation for that much time. I'm really impressed by how they're pushing themselves to achieve this goal.

Here is the latest book treasure I found this week.

Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker
An adorable read-aloud. I've been reading this to model how readers react to the text, and this is a great book for all different kinds of reactions--LOL, making connections, envisioning, etc. Even my boys who occasionally pretend to be too cool for read-alouds were hanging on every word. I only read about ten pages, and the students were begging my to continue. I will definitely have to finish it next week!

My school is near lots of interesting shops, caf├ęs, and outdoor/community spaces for artists, hipsters, and techies. The other day I passed by an outdoor exhibit called "Before I Die". People can add their thoughts in chalk. Some people had written silly things, and others wrote more sentimental things. It made me wonder how I would finish the sentence. How would you?

One of the few benefits of the time change and darker days... I get to see sunrises that look like this.

Happy weekend!

Great Books for Teachers and Students...Especially Boys!

I don't know about your students, but I feel like the boys in my class need their own special section in our classroom library. After all, they wouldn't even THINK about reading a book with a girl on the cover. Would I love for them to be more open minded about their books choices? Sure! Have I talked to them about trying different authors, genres, and encouraged them to meet new characters? Absolutely. So, this year, desperately in search of boy-approved books (that didn't completely gross me out), I put together leveled books lists that I will be using for years to come! Not to mention, this doc is quite handy to provide during parent-teacher conferences. I even presented it to a few of my students as a special list from me to them... since I knew how important reading and finding great books is to them. ;)
Click on the picture for a book list freebie!
What about you? How do you make sure boys have access to (and read) a variety of books? Do you keep track of class favorites? What types of books do you stock your classroom library with? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Five for Friday! {November 7, 2014}

 I finally uploaded my photos from Yosemite, a little getaway I took a few weeks ago. It was my first visit, and it was a great weekend with perfect weather and one especially challenging hike. But it was worth it for views like these. (Not to mention, it made a great small moment story to write with my students!)

We started several new word sorts this week during Word Study. I'm happy with how engaged the students are, and so far, they seem to like changing it up each time with a different sort. Although I do want to settle into a routine with how long we spend sorting/studying our words, so far I'm having a hard time balancing the time they need (a lot!) with the amount of time we can actually spend (not that much). I'm hoping they start to move a bit more quickly in the (very) near future. But I'm trying to be patient. We'll see how much longer that lasts. ;)

On a related note, this week we went back to some recent pieces of writing to look for strong words or phrases that help the reader "picture" the story. Some students focused on verbs, while others focused on adjectives. Then they highlighted the words they felt were the strongest. This was a great visual to help them (and me!) see if their writing was descriptive and specific. If they couldn't find anything to highlight, they knew exactly what their writing was lacking. I was thrilled to see pieces of writing like this one:

On a personal note, I've finally started taking French classes. There are seven of us in class, and it feels good to be a student again. I'm enjoying the feeling of not needing to know much of anything. No one expects anything from me (yet), and I'm thrilled when I can string together a sentence or say something in an accent that sounds even slightly decent. Learning another language after Spanish is definitely easier, and I'm trying to take the risks in class that I want my students to take in their learning. :) It is humbling though.

Finally, I couldn't resist ending this post without a tribute to my pastry of the week. Seriously, I have an addiction to this bakery. What's your favorite food for breakfast? I try to alternate between heathy smoothies and goodies like this one.

Happy weekend!

Currently... November!

October was an extremely busy month. Four days of parent-teacher conferences, one week of vacation, travel, Halloween, and LOTS of things going on at school. So, I'm happy that November is finally here. It's time for another Currently from Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade!
Listening: These days I MUST have some noise in the background. Does this happen as a result of teaching? I didn't used to be this way, but now I always have podcasts, radio, or tv on in the background, even if I'm not really listening. But I do love this podcast from NPR. It's one I actually listen to. ;)

Loving: I've been waiting for weeks to feel the chilly, crisp feel of Fall. It has been unseasonably warm in San Francisco. I'm ready to start wearing my jackets, boots, and sweaters. Thanks to Stitch Fix, I have some really great pieces that I'm eager to wear. 

Thinking: This is the first weekend since the school year started that I haven't worked for at least part of my weekend. I feel like I'm FINALLY in a routine with my students, and am able to plan and prep at school rather than needing extra time at home. It's so much work to change schools!

Wanting: I am seriously craving these blueberry pancakes. Simple but delicious.

Needing: So far, I have no plans for Thanksgiving. But since I'm back in the US, I think we'll start a new tradition... Maybe spending the weekend in Napa Valley?

Reading: I first "met" Lena Dunham in her unusual, witty, and sometimes awkward series "Girls". I watched the most recent season in less than one week, so I was thrilled to learn about her new book Not That Kind of Girl! As I read it, I keep thinking about how rare it is for someone to bare their flaws and share who they are without trying to impress or fit into a mold. Dunham shares her mistakes, challenges, and triumphs in such a personal way... and one that's full of humor.

Be sure to check out Farley's page for more Currently!