The Starbucks Telephone Game

Remember telephone? The game where one person whispers something to someone and then that person whispers what they heard to the person next to them? In the end, the phrase becomes so distorted because each person is repeating only what they heard, not the original phrase.

That game gave me an idea the first time a barista at Starbucks wrote my name wrong on a cup. Now, my name “Erin” could have a variety of spellings and I actually like to see what kinds of creative variations will appear. However, one day someone wrote this:


I’ve never heard that name before. I was so fascinated I didn’t know whether to write a novel about someone with the name of Aris or change my name to Aris. Instead, I decided to create a little variation of the game of telephone so that whatever name the barista wrote on the cup last I will say next time and see how long it takes to get back to my actual correct name. Here’s a few highlights of the journey:




I’m a little bit stuck with Kara, since it’s easy to say and to write, but I’m sure eventually it will get changed up. Game on.


I am going to ignore the fact that many months have past and it is now 2014. Moving on. I would like to talk instead about my Ukelele.


Over the summer I made a “2013-2014 bucket list”–essentially a to-do list to maintain my sanity during the school. One such item was learn the ukelele. Technically I had already started the process over the summer when I bought my uke, but teaching myself during the fall became my afterwork pick-me-up. Practicing the ukelele marked a clean transition from teaching mode to the rest of my life. 

As my skill improved and I grew more and more comfortable, the idea of one day bringing it to school started to flicker in my mind. Teaching at a private Christian school, I start each class reading a scripture and praying. I brought up the idea to my 11th grade class one day that if they ever wanted to sing a hymn at our start of class I could do bring the ukelele in. The response seemed reluctant, but the next day when I came in sans uke, there were several inquiries: “Wait–I thought we were going to sing today?”

So the next day I came to class prepared with instrument and music and taught them a favorite hymn of mine, “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” I invited several students to the front who I knew were vocalists and we began singing. A verse in, and another student grabbed the bell off my desk and added a makeshift percussion section, accenting the beats with the bell. And slowly the whole class found their collective voice and made a sweet chorus together. Other classes got wind of the singing and began to ask when I would sing with their class. With the exception of an 8th grade class I teach all upperclassmen, and I was pleasantly surprised by this interest in singing together during English class. 

Finals week approached and we had scheduled five days of finals review before exams and then Christmas break. I determined that every day of finals review we would sing a different Christmas carol. Some classes were more enthusiastic than others but they all came around and by the last verse I would hear less of my own voice and the sweet sound of my student’s collective voices. I took a poll the last day what carol they wanted to sing and Jingle Bells overwhelmingly was the dominant choice. 

That evening at the I saw some actual jingle bells on clearance at the store and picked it up. The next day the bells went over well, but none so well as my biggest class, on of my AP sections. They sang so well I made the comment, “I’m pretty tempted to take this show on the road….” To which they responded overwhelmingly begging me to let them go caroling. And how could I say no? As we were gathering ourselves together, several of them broke out the box in the closet from my middle school teaching days. Can we wear these hats? Absolutely. Can we take foam swords? Why not? And so we burst forth into the school, me on uke several students on jingle bells, some in a variety of costume hats, some wielding swords and all singing heartily. Teachers peeped out from classrooms, some joining in. We paraded down the middle school hallway, down to the school office and back to the classroom. 

Finals review inevitably had to be finished. Finals had to be taken. (And also graded…about that….) However, I will treasure our final festive hurrah. And I look forward to seeing what role the ukelele will play in the spring semester. 




This past Saturday I took advantage of the three-day weekend to check one off the “Schoolyear-2013-2104-Bucketlist.” (Working title. It needs a new name.)

I have always wanted to learn how to preserve fruits into jam. No doubt Laura Ingalls Wilder did this to me when I was growing up. Raspberries are just about the only preservable fruit left in season around here, and the next few weekends are pretty packed so it was going to be Saturday or wait until next year.

After much online research as well as a peptalk and words of wisdom from an experienced friend earlier in the day I set off for the local orchard. Pics of the process are the process below.  I’m not going to list detailed instructions, because I am not going to claim to be any kind of expert, but I can point you to Martha Stewart and this helpful site as well as a merry British fellow on youtube that I can’t seem to find anymore to link. But find him; he’s lovely.



Stocked and ready to go!



Post-sterilization…probably the most difficult part of the whole process. Everything had to be boiled.


Some action shots…


For the last boil I had to make my own “canner” using yarn and a strainer. Classy.


Final product!


A Tuesday Night Jaunt to the Islands

Confession: my meal planning strategy can be summed up as follows: Harris Teeter Weekly Specials. One day I aspire to be one of those people that pours over cookbooks and then meanders through farmers markets for choice ingredients. But let’s be honest. I work full time. As a teacher. In the suburbs of DC. So no.

I have loved Harris Teeter, though, ever since I started couponing. I quickly discovered, though, that coupon or no, their weekly specials were a veritable treasure trove of quality and bargains. This week when I discovered that the cheapest fish of the week was Mahi Mahi, I added it to the meal plan and scooped up a small filet for a few bucks.  Looking for recipes, the first thing on google was Mahi Mahi lettuce wraps, which intrigued me, but not enough to actually look at the recipe. So I made up my own using mostly what I had around.

I first cut the Mahi Mahi into fishstick-sized strips and marinated it in a mix of lime, honey,  dried chili peppers, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Then I baked it for around 15 minutes with pineapple slices covering the fish and the pan covered in foil.

I had guacamole from a Labor Day picnic the day before, and I picked up a mango salsa at the store. The end result (plus corn on the cob):


A few things to note. First, the fish looks gross. Sorry. It actually is helpful if it’s shredded just a bit, but garnish with a parsley or something if you really can’t handle it. Also butter lettuce makes a fantastic wrapping lettuce, and is a bit more flavorful than iceberg or romaine. They are teeny tiny, but they make adorable little green tacos when assembled.


(Plus some light reading)

Since the weather was beautiful, I took the whole show on the road and camped out on the deck. With a view this leafy, it’s not hard to forget about the traffic and the task list.


Mr. Hughes

One of my favorite people I studied over the summer was Langston Hughes. The man was a wordsmith. 

Since I returned to my classroom, I have many poetic gems I wanted to share with my students. Hence a little DIY poster project. 



A little close up



The text of the poems is:

Bring me all your dreams

You Dreamers

Bring me all your 

Heart melodies

That I may wrap them 

In a blue cloth-cloud

Away from the too-rough fingers

Of the World

Sprucing up Spinach

For many years fresh spinach has been a staple that is always in the fridge, usually to use for salads because it’s more nutritious than lettuce. Or at least it appears that way. I could be completely off. Either way, the other night I discovered a delicious alternative, and the best part is that because it wilts down, you get more of those nutrients. Or perceived nutrients. 

Here’s the final product! (Along with some mashed sweet potatoes and corn) 


Before I proceed, be warned there’s butter in there. So if you are TOO healthy for butter, don’t judge. I like to think it’s still pretty healthy overall. 

Everybody warned? Are we good? Okay. 


1 tsp (ish) butter

1 tsp (ish) olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp fresh garlic

1/8-1/4 cup minced onion

1/3 chopped mushrooms 

SO MUCH FRESH SPINACH! (1-2 cups? I lost count)

Heat some butter and olive oil in a pan on medium heat. I think may have  seen this initial technique from Ina Garten who is one of my culinary muses and teachers. Credit where credit is due. 

In this mixture, sauté onions and mushrooms and garlic. Add spinach one handful at a time until wilted. Once it’s wilted you can add more usually because it really shrinks. Add lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!



A Vermont State of Mind

“Reality’s a lovely place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” -Owl City

Initially the premise of this blog may raise a few questions. Why Vermont? Why Moose? What are you doing? Why should I read this blog when everyone is blogging these days? Good questions.


Does this help you out at all? This is Vermont. A magical land in the mountains where I spent the summer studying  English, writing, exploring, talking and living life with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever encountered. In addition to these things, I also spent that summer detoxing from the stress of being a busy teacher in a the suburbs of DC.

But the summer ended, and a new school year has returned, and I’m back in the land of brake lights, demerits, and grading, about to start a new school year. I can’t complain. Life here is good, but before let the task list items pile up, I want to make sure that I don’t lose touch with a sense of wonder, creativity, and discovery that came so naturally during the summer. Hence this blog.

Not everything that comes up here will be explicitly connected to Vermont the state. Maybe none of it will appear connected, but just go with it. Towards the end of the summer I made a “School Year 2013-2014” bucket list, of various projects, outings, and accomplishments that would keep work in its place and keep life an adventure. Some of these are small and some are big, but I’ll be alluding to this as I go. Other than that look for recipes, projects, musings, quotes, literature, and every now and then a throwback picture or two. So thanks for stopping by, and remember to stay alert. Moose may be crossing.