Over The Top Mommy

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread!

I love Fall! I love so many things about it, but mostly the fact that it’s the beginning of the October-December holiday season which means time to bake!
This year I decided to start hand writing the recipes as I make them. With so much technology available, I find that I rarely hand write anything. I want Emi to have things that I’ve actually written, which I can only hope will become some of her most cherished keepsakes of me. I want her to have a recipe book full of things I’ve made for her. What this also means is that I need to start expanding my recipe repertoire because she probably thinks I can’t cook anything unless it has batter!
Today I am making chocolate chip banana nut bread. The great thing about this recipe, aside from the fact that it’s easy to make, is that you can alter it. If you don’t want it too sweet, omit the chocolate chips. If you don’t like or can’t eat nuts, leave them out, and if you aren’t a big banana lover, you can still just make this with the chocolate chips and nuts. I am in LOVE with using Nestle mini chocolate chips for this recipe. I’ve made it with regular size chocolate chips too, but the minis are WAY better.
 These are a few of my favorite things (for baking):
Ok so here comes the recipe:

The Ingredients:
*2 1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour
*2 c. sugar
*1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
*1/2 tsp. salt
*3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened
*2 large eggs
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*3 c. (about 7 medium) ripe bananas, mashed (I only use about 3)
*12 oz. mini (or regular) chocolate chips
*4 oz. walnuts, chopped
The Instructions:
*Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
*Grease two 9X5 inch loaf pans.
*In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk; set aside.
*In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer on high speed. Add eggs, bananas, and vanilla, and      beat at a medium speed until thick. Scrape sides of bowl.
*Add the flour mixture, chocolate chips, and nuts, and then blend at low speed just until combined.      DON’T over mix.
*Pour batter into prepared pans.
*Bake on center rack of oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
*Cool in pan for 10 minutes. turn pans on sides; cool to room temperature before removing and slicing.

I hope you get as addicted to this chocolate chip banana nut bread as I am! Happy Fall!

The Sweatshirt

I think my heart broke for a little girl today. Not my little girl, it was a little girl in my 1st grade class. What’s odd about the whole situation is that today I did something good to help her, but just doing it actually made me MORE emotional than before I did anything. I brought her a sweatshirt. It was a gently used, hot pink sweatshirt that Emi had outgrown. The sweatshirt said “GYMNAST” across the front, had some bling on the letters and a tiny heart as a zipper pull. I remember when Emi got the sweatshirt…one of her grandmas had taken her shopping at Justice. We love Justice. I’m sure my little student probably doesn’t even know what Justice is?!! She probably doesn’t know what a “gymnast” is either, nor will she ever have a chance to be one. (Do you see why my heart breaks?)

I’ve been teaching 1st grade for 18 years. My students are very needy, most are poor, and many are neglected. Before I was a mommy, I used to spend TONS of money on my classroom and on my students. Now I just can’t do that. After I became a mommy, I had to learn how to disconnect when I left work, because if I thought about how these children were living and compared it to how my own daughter lives, it was too painful. I know I can’t save the world, so I do my best when I’m there and even though I don’t shower them with gifts and treats, they are really appreciative of what I do for them. I sometimes think they even enjoy getting disciplined because after I’ve spent a day disciplining them they’ll still hug me and tell me they love me as they leave out the door. Maybe it’s just the fact that SOMEONE is paying enough attention to them and disciplining them at all? I don’t know?
So back to the little girl….She’s adorable (I think all of my students are adorable though). She’s adorable, as in a cute little face and a head of light brown wavy hair with bangs. She’s pretty quiet but when she talks to me, I cannot understand her because her speech impediment is so bad. (don’t get me started that no one has done anything to get her referred for speech because it’s BAD). She comes to school in her WAY TOO BIG uniform everyday. When I watch her walk out to recess, I can see the shoes slipping on and off because they are about 4 sizes too big. (I’m not exaggerating about this either). I recently noticed that she’s been wearing this GIANT women’s size jacket over her uniform. It’s something with pink and white and the arms are WAY long. Well, as the days passed this week, I noticed that the jacket would appear to be dirtier and dirtier each day. Like FILTHY. Most likely I noticed this because the sleeves were white but it hurt my tummy to see it, because in my mind, little all girls should be happy and cute and clean. (I worry about Emi’s finger nails and ALWAYS make her wash them before going somewhere) I just kept feeling ill that this little girl was sitting here, dirty at school, just trying to get by. I’ve had students in my classroom before who were labeled as “homeless”, I just don’t know enough about this particular class yet, since it’s still the beginning of the school year. So today, I finally did it, I remembered to bring in the sweatshirt for her! I couldn’t directly give it to her, so I put it in the office and had them call her up. She came back with the sweatshirt in her hands and within 3 minutes, she was wearing it…..AND SHE HAD THIS LITTLE SMILE ON HER FACE AS SHE WAS DOING HER WORK!

No one in the class knew, but I knew, and I almost started crying! I had to sneak a picture of her as she was proudly working on her Math, but I had a giant lump in my throat for the rest of the day and even as I blog this, I feel like I could start bawling my head off! My daughter is sitting in the other room, Face Timing her cousin and playing with toys while they chat…and I think about my little student and know that she’s sharing some tiny space with 5 other siblings and probably isn’t doing what my daughter is doing. I know she doesn’t have a soccer game tomorrow or have any sleepovers to attend. It hurts my heart to think about it, but I have to smile and know that I did something good for someone in need today. I have to remember that sometimes it’s the little things and in this case, the sweatshirt is the little thing.

Home Depot Kids Workshop

In our family, we LOVE going to the Home Depot Kids Workshop every month. These events are held at any Home Depot, are free of charge, and are a great hands-on experience. They’re recommended for children between the ages 5 and 12 and give children an opportunity to build a project by assembling, painting, and often using stickers as the final touch. I already have the 1st Saturday of each month marked on each of my pocket calendar pages, as well as my iPhone calendar. We try to be there right at 9 a.m. sharp because Emi always wants to be the first one! Workshop hours are 9 a.m. until 12 noon.

Emi loves wearing her own personalized, Home Depot apron to the event because, well, she IS my daughter and always needs to dress for the theme or the occasion! (I think I’ve taught her well.) If your child doesn’t have one yet, they can also get one on the day of the event AND put their name on it.

All children receive a special themed pin that matches the project to add to their apron, as well as a certificate of achievement for EACH monthly Kids Workshop that they attend!
Click on the link here to see what the next scheduled workshop is going to be and register!

The Candy Corn Wall in Downtown Disney!

If it’s possible to have a “favorite wall”, I do! I found it last year when Emi and I were walking through Downtown Disney, on our way into The Disneyland Resort for some casual Halloween-time fun. We stopped to admire the Lego Store display outside and BOOM…there it was! The wall spoke to me, like no wall had ever spoken to me before, and demanded that I photograph it immediately! Maybe I was imagining, maybe I just had candy corn on my mind, because seriously this wall looks like a giant piece of candy corn! Although I’m fortunate enough to have a very photogenic model for my pictures, she’s not always as enthusiastic as I am about having to be camera-ready almost all the time.

Regardless of what I got out of her, which looks to be a bunch of smolders, looking back at these pictures just gets me REALLY excited for Halloween time at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure! It’s such a beautiful time of the year in the parks. It’s just something that everyone should get to experience at least once! I love the beautiful decorations, the pumpkin goodies and the happy Fall feeling in the air!

Have YOU had the chance to visit the parks at Halloween time? If so, what are some of YOUR favs?

It’s Time for Apple Picking in Julian!

I absolutely LOVE this time of year! It’s the beginning of fall and, although we have such warm weather in Southern California, the apple orchards are open by the end of September and the apples are ready for picking!

(How adorable is this sign I found at Home Goods?)

This year we decided to visit the adorable town of Julian, since it’s just a hop, skip & a jump away! (Ok maybe it’s actually a couple hours away) The downtown area of Julian is adorable and has many little shops, restaurants and pie shops. You can also ride in a horse-drawn carriage down the main street. The farms and apple orchards are all pretty close to the downtown area, so you can either stop at them on your way into town or as you’re leaving. On this particular trip, we ate lunch at Julian Cafe & Bakery,  before going apple picking. Not only was the food yummy, we also enjoyed drinking out of glass boot mugs! After lunch was when we wandered into the town pie shops and country stores.

Our favorite pie shop was Mom’s! We sat down inside to eat some warm pie a la mode and then we stopped at Mom’s again on the way out of town to take some pie home!
 (They have more than one location!)
This year we visited The Julian Mining Company for apple picking.
We bought a bag to put our freshly picked apples in.
 It was a bit tough to be there with a little perfectionist because Emi ONLY wanted to pick the perfect apples! Her selection process required a lot of patience on our part.
Luckily she was content after filling up one bag.
Little one-day adventures like this are something I hope will stick in Emi’s memories of her childhood.
So you tell me…do YOU think she had a good time?
Happy Fall!

Everyone Loves a Carousel!

My favorite kind of day is one where I can stop and enjoy the moment without being in a hurry.

Emi and I had one last “Mommy & Me day” before she went back to school. She usually has a vision in her head of how most occasions will play out so first off, she needed to get appropriately dressed up.

Our first stop, was the nail salon. With the start of 3rd grade being SUCH a big deal, she wanted to make sure to have just the right design on her nails (and toes).

I LOVE little nails and toes and wish I could get away with having something this adorable on mine!
Our next stop was lunch. Nordstrom Cafe is one of our favs, especially the tomato soup and kids grilled cheese! I can’t say that a cookie wasn’t also snuck onto our tray.
After lunch, we walked around the mall for a long while, getting back to school necessities. Although my little girl is growing up too quickly, I love that she still asks to ride the carousel!
Everyone loves a carousel!

You’re Never Too Old For Rainbow Loom!

I think I’m reliving my childhood…again! Emi has been asking for some friendship bracelet maker, you know, to go with the other 3 that she already has? We just happened to be at Michael’s looking for Halloween stuff (yes in August) and there it was…RAINBOW LOOM! Of course Emi was the one who pointed it out to me and ran right over to grab one. It’s one of those as seen on TV items. Click
here to see it on the Michael’s page. (The suggested age for this kit is 8 & up) So I caved in and bought it, along with 2 extra packs of pink & aqua blue bands/fasteners because 1) we were going home to do crafts together already and 2) it was on sale! It was actually on sale, for about $1 off the regular price, so that counts, right?  The lady working at Michael’s actually gave us a short demo, showing us how it works. Then she suggested that we start with the basic bracelet pattern, which is pictured in the enclosed instructions and then pursue more advanced patterns on You Tube. As soon as we got home, the fun began. I attempted the first one and I swear I was hooked! Emi was waiting patiently for me to finish so she could start one, but I honestly just wanted to hog the darned thing all to myself! If it weren’t 4:00 p.m., I would’ve sent her to bed so I could be alone with it! SO MUCH FUN! I think Emi spent all night until about 9, making bracelets for all of her school friends, her new teacher, and of course both Daddy and I got one as well.

This is what the kit looks like.
From the teacher point of view, I see it would be great for developing fine motor skills.
This is the tool that comes with the kit, that is used to weave the bands.
I think she made about 18 of these in one night.
So how old is TOO old for being “The Queen of the Rainbow Loom”?

1st Grade is Where It’s At!

Today was the 1st day of school for me as a teacher, the start of my 18th year! When I was first hired, I had JUST graduated with my BA in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in English-Spanish bilingual teacher. It was the year that California passed the 20:1 law and needed a MASS quantity of new teachers hired. For the first 8 years of my career, I taught bilingual first grade. This meant that all of the reading and writing and ‘rithmetic were all in Spanish. I actually really liked it and I LOVED all of my students so much. (I still do). Eventually, politics got kind of ugly about the whole “teaching in Spanish thing” and we became an all English school.
I still have the same type of students, I just have to push them even harder now. I sometimes think the general public only see my students as statistics….most of them are English Learners, all of them are impoverish, and perhaps many of them are in The U.S. illegally? I don’t know, it’s not my job to worry about that, because they are just kids and none of that is their fault or their doing. What I DO know is that my students are often doing TWICE the work of typical students who live in “regular areas”. Not only do they have to learn to read, write and do Math like all first graders are expected to do, but they also have to learn English too! Many of them succeed, some continue to struggle and, of course, some fail, most are doing it with very little or no parent support. I have hope for them though. This is why I keep going back to work there. I don’t live anywhere near where I teach. I pay $12.50 a day to take a toll road to get to work on time each morning and back in time to pick up my own daughter from school. Some days are harder than others, some years are too, but it can also be very rewarding. These students are so sweet and appreciative and make the job worth it!

Today I got a whole new group of kids. I can already tell it’s going to be great year.
Here’s some of what I see in my new students:
At first, they’re hesitant and unsure. It’s a whole new world in first grade!
I love that they are curious! They explore and question. They want to know it all!
Sometimes they’re observant. They sit back and take it all in!
 Teachers love when students are motivated, especially when they’re motivated to learn!
Today I met 29 tiny but determined new first graders! I can’t wait to watch them grow & learn!
Room 7 is ready for the 2013-2014 school year!

What Happens in the Teachers Lounge, Stays in the Teachers Lounge

Today was my first official day back to my school site for an inservice! After being off and home with my daughter for 10 1/2 weeks, I was kind of sad to be away from her. I do know that I’m more fortunate than most people though to even have that much time off at once. (even though teachers don’t get paid when they don’t work)

Of course, it was all temporarily better the moment I got a hold of this…..
Seriously though…everything is better with a donut….and some coffee!
My most favorite donut in the whole world is a sprinkled donut!
So tell me, what’s yours? *cue for YOU to leave a comment