Sunday, December 25, 2022

Handmade Holidays

Now that it's Christmas I can safely share the ornaments my students made this year. Each of them hand sewed 20 yoyos, which they then stitched together to create a wreath. I try to have the kids hand sew something every year to then give to an adult they care about. I hope the parents appreciate them - my students worked hard!

I actually have seven fifth and sixth graders this year, but two of them were absent the day we took this picture.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and yours  a peaceful (and warm)
Christmas from Mackinac Island.

Friday, December 23, 2022

The Great Storm

The "Great Storm" of 2022 hit Mackinac just like it hit the rest of the Midwest - with a vengeance. The bridge closed to high profile traffic, the ferry cancelled trips,  the Island lost a few trees and, of course, we got quite a bit of snow. But somehow, on Mackinac, even a blizzard is beautiful...

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Camilla's Antics

The kids have really enjoyed coming in to
school each morning to see what Camilla has been up to.
She brought them a kindness challenge
to work on for the month,

a joke book and a few great "dad" jokes,

she even asked me to read Rosie's Walk
out loud to them. 

After overhearing the kids wonder if she could bring each of them a million bucks, she brought them one million "clucks" instead.

And on our last day of school before vacation,
the day they knew would be her last day with us,
they asked if they could take a picture with her.
How could I say no?

Sunday, December 18, 2022


Due to a few scheduling constraints, my family and I weren't able to get together for our annual Christmas Cookie Baking Extravaganza. Which, to be honest, was a huge letdown. So much of the fun of that weekend is spending time with a few lovely people I rarely see, and, of course, there are cookies...

Since I couldn't get together with them, I was determined to make cookies myself - so I started early. Of course, I made the family favorites: zimtstern (cinnamon stars), zitronenherzen (lemon hearts), Nurnberger (roll out sugar cookies) spritzgeback (cookies made with a press, Mandlebarge (almond mountains) Scottish shortbread, and springerle (this year with orange essence and dipped in chocolate.)

I also made a few others including Linzer (jam sandwiches), ginger cookies (because we love them), glazed chocolate shortbread cookies (to try out some new cookie stamps), Earl Grey Cookies (because they sounded amazing),  and pretzel turtles (made with Rolo candies.)

Some changes I plan on making for next year:

  1. I reduced the amount of cocoa in the chocolate cookies (as per the recipe's instructions) but I will decrease it even more next year. Instead of adding in flour to offset the decrease in cocoa, I will try using powdered sugar instead - at least for half of the flour. I will probably also add in a small amount of baker's ammonia to see how that changes the texture. They also need to bake for a bit more time than given in the recipe..
  2.  I will add even more tea to the Earl Grey cookies. (I also glazed them with a glaze made from strong tea and powdered sugar.) Next year we are also going to try making a batch with Constant Comment tea.

In case you are wondering why the names of some of the cookies are capitalized: 

I wasn't sure about capitalizing the names of the German cookies with names derived from cities so I Googled what to do, here is the reason  I chose to capitalize them.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Deck the Halls

I have a thing for ceramic Christmas trees, especially vintage ones. Usually I get them out around Thanksgiving, but to keep my husband happy I don't switch them on until after we celebrate Thanksgiving. He thinks they're tacky, but keeps quiet since they make me smile. I'd actually never seen one until we got married. His mom puts two of them out every Christmas and I just loved them. In fact, she got me my very first one - she spotted it at a garage sale and snaped it up for me.

One of my favorite things to do is to find old ones without lights and bases at second hand stores and bring them back to life. The best thing about the base-less trees is they are generally quite cheap. I designed the white base above in Tinkercad, an online kid-friendly CAD program for creating 3D printable objects. I just print the base in the size and color I need, pop in new plastic bulbs, install a light kit and the tree can shine again.

The big green one below looked awful when I bought it. It was covered in grime, half of the bulbs were broken off with ends still glued in the holes, but a 1974 tree with a base for $10.00 was a bargain. My Dremel make short work of the broken bulb ends and the filth washed right off. Now it's my favorite tree. 

This one I actually bought separately. I found the base in with the lamps (for $4.99) at Goodwill and just held onto it. I figured I'd find a tree to go with it someday, and I was right. I think the tree, without any bulbs or the star was $5.00. Now that these trees are becoming much more popular, I rarely see them.

I think I actually like these better than my full size Christmas tree. They are a lot less work to put up and take down and they brighten up some of the darker corners of the house. What decorations are you putting up this year?


Thursday, December 8, 2022


We've got chocolate shortbread (not iced yet),

chocolate coated orange Springerle,

Linzer cookies made with homemade
cranberry-cherry-orange jam,

and traditional Scottish shortbread.
So far...

Monday, December 5, 2022

Camilla Returns

Camilla the Christmas Chicken has returned to my classroom. I'm not really an Elf on the Shelf kind of girl; instead we have a Christmas Chicken. (Currently, all my students celebrate Christmas, but she'll become a Holiday Chicken when needed, and she is going to bring the kids books about Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.

She's brought treats and a tree so far, and shared an interesting video on chicken communication. Who knew chickens could make over 30 distinct vocalizations!

It makes me smile to see the kids rush over when they get to school to read her newest note. A Christmas Chicken may be weird, but I guarantee none of there other teachers will have done it!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

So Many Cookies!

So many cookies to make. So little time. 

Working full time has been getting in the way of my baking -  which is probably a good thing. I mean, how many different kinds of cookies does one family really need? Really. I'm asking for a friend...

Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Tomorrow is December so cookie season will officially begin. Hooray!

Monday, November 28, 2022


Just after finishing Thanksgiving dinner my husband's pager went off; the Mackinac Island Fire Department was being sent to the Mackinac Island Public School due to smoke in the building. Thankfully, it wasn't a fire but steam from a malfunctioning boiler. The fire department went back to the school on Sunday afternoon, again for steam. Everything has been fixed now, but the kids and I sure were thankful for our extra day of vacation.

I used my extra time to shop Lands' End's 60% off sale, make a giant batch of Scottish shortbread, make a batch of Spritzgeb├Ąck (German spritz cookies), felt a pile of wool sweaters, and to start putting up the Christmas tree. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Halloween 2022

Halloween this year was different as there were no mama-made costumes; both kids kind of did their own thing with what we had on hand.

My son 3D printed and painted a version of this mask, while my daughter created her own Dr. Horrible costume. Everyone thought she was a Ghostbuster, but she was using my Proton Pack as his Freeze Ray, so it wasn't surprising.

(Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible)

This year's candy haul was 17.6 pounds (about 8 kg) for my son and and 8.4 pounds (about 4 kg) for my daughter. It may seem like a big difference, but my sone and his friends covered quite  bit more ground than my daughter did. K and I just hit the houses close to home.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


It felt so good to come home! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with my family and I'm thrilled to be able to help, but I missed my family. And my bed...

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Small World

After my sister-in-law got home from work today I popped out to do a little thrifting. 500 miles (about 800 km) away from home and what do I see at Goodwill? Not only did I find this Mackinac Island sweatshirt but I found Round Island Lighthouse as well.

Sadly, no ceramic Christmas trees, but I'll keep looking...

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Since J has gotten out of the hospital, she has been sending me out each day to do the shopping. Today's list called for: yogurt, relish, an onion, batteries, skim milk, 2% milk, cups, hotdogs and a bag of Caesar salad. It felt so strange grabbing the little cart when I enter the grocery store. I'm use to my carts looking like this:

But that's what happens when you only make it to Wal-Mart or Meijer once a month. To be honest it has been kind of nice to "run out to the store." For me shopping usually takes all day, so popping out to the shop and being back home within an hour has been a nice treat.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

On the Mend

My mother-in-law came through her surgery like a champ; now has a Gor-Tex repair to her aorta as well as a new aortic valve. Well, new to her; its former owner was a pig. 

The first couple of nights were loud and filled with pinging machines all night long. (She was hooked up to about eight different gizmos that all "pinged" at slightly different pitches.) But today her condition was downgraded (or is it upgraded?) and we moved to a lower care floor. Three of the five IVs were removed and she has been off all narcotics for 24 hours now. At this point, she only has the heart monitor.

Now that the heavy drugs have stopped she is much more herself, which is wonderful to see. I'll tell you, if you live near Indianapolis, this guy is the doctor to see if you need a valve replaced or an aortic aneurysm repaired. The care my mother-in-law has received at St. Vincent's Ascension Hospital was top-notch! 

The best news is, there is a good chance she will be discharged tomorrow. She'll still need help for several weeks, but things are moving in a good direction!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Heading Out

It was a beautiful morning to catch the first boat (even if it was a slow boat.) Today I am heading south to help my mother-in-law. She's having open heart surgery tomorrow and needs to have a family member in the hospital with her. Everyone else was either unavailable of out of leave time, so I get the honor of caring for her. (I mean that seriously - she's been wonderful to me.)

Hopefully I didn't forget anything. Leaving eight days worth of teaching plans for a substitute is a daunting task. Luckily, my mom is subbing for me. As a retired teacher, this isn't her first rodeo so that made things much easier. And, I suppose, I'll only be a text away if I did forgot something.

So please keep me in your thoughts today (as I make the eight hour drive to Indianapolis), and keep JB in your thoughts for the next few days as she has surgery and recuperates.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Halloween Fun

I like celebrating holidays in my classroom, but I try to do it in the most academic way possible. (You know, there are only so many days of school and there numerous standards to teach - even more for me since I teach multiple grades.) So, my holiday parties generally involve a Breakout activity. They may involve a lot of prep, but the kids love them. 

Each group of students begins with a puzzle. Working together to solve that puzzle gets them the combination to the next box, which contains their next puzzle. One by one they solve the puzzles, and hopefully "breakout" and solve the problem.

I can't think of a better way to teach / practice cooperation and problem solving skills! (And, of course, eating snacks and having fun.) Most of the puzzles I use come from Breakout EDU, though theirs are designed for one big group to work on together. I've found working through a series of locked boxes in small groups works better for me that having the entire class working together on one puzzle at a time. In my experience that allows the kids who struggle a bit with problem solving to sit back and let the other kids do all the work. When they work in pairs or small groups, it allows all of the students to actively participate. This year they were able to unlock the boxes and save Trunk or Treat. Yippee!

Monday, October 31, 2022

Happy Halloween

We had a glorious Halloween on Mackinac this year. It was so warm I only needed a fleece, which isn't the norm for northern Michigan. I hope your Halloween was every bit as wonderful.

Sunday, October 23, 2022


Time for another episode of Liz's Pet Peeves. Fair warning - I'm going to nerd out.

These Halloween decorations drive me crazy and I mean CRAZY

Spiders, members of the arachnid class, are invertebrates; they have exoskeletons. They do not have endoskeletons. Octopuses* are mollusks - another invertebrate. Neither arachnids nor mollusks have backbones - or any bones for that matter.  And yet someone thought these decorations were a great idea. Sigh.

I realize that people shouldn't base their scientific knowledge on Halloween decorations, but little children see these before they are taught animal classification. A four or five year old isn't going to know any better when they see this and make an unconscious mental note. Which will then have to be untaught in the future. How about, instead, choosing animals that actually have skeletons.

And while we're at it, let's only include animal parts that are actually part of the skeleton! A chicken's comb, wattles and tail are not made up of bones. These actually kind of make me cringe. And I'd buy them. I'd have a whole bunch of them around my classroom if they were even remotely accurate. 

Ok, rant over...

*Yeah, I googled it just to makes sure I was correct.