Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cooking with Pioneer Woman

Much thanks to my friend Stephanie for introducing me to The Pioneer Woman. I LOVE The Pioneer Woman and always keep up with her blog: (, about her kids, her dogs, her horses, her love story, and her cooking. She is hilarious-someone my friends and I would totally hang out with. :) Yesterday, I bought her cookbook. Since Jeff was going on an overnight Jeep trip, the girls and I had plenty of time to mess up the kitchen and lick spatulas. (Two of our favorite things to do.)

I let Grace pick a recipe first. She chose Pioneer Woman's red velvet cake. What can I say? My girl likes fancy food! First, we went out and bought lots of ingredients and two nine-inch cake pans. (I can't believe I didn't have nine-inch cake pans!)
These ingredients are also for several Thanksgiving case you were wondering. :)

Next, we spread everything out. Grace washed the cake pans. We measured, sifted, stirred, mixed...did I mention sifted?... pinched, sifted...there was a lot of sifting to do with this recipe, and let's just say that our sifter wasn't quite up to par. Luckily, Emma seemed to have a knack for sifting. That is...until she missed the bowl and siffted some powdered sugar right on top of Sophie's back. (When you cook in the Smith house, there are always several pugs underfoot waiting for any morsel, crumb, or tidbit to fall. They are greedy beasts indeed!)
We baked our two nine-inch red velvet cakes, mixed the frosting, stacked and frosted them, and...voila!

Today, we had the taste tester of all taste testers, Grandma Otti, over to eat it. It earned a stamp of approval from Grandma, who loves all things sweet, buttery, rich, and caloric.

Next recipe- Emma has selected Pioneer Woman's Angel Cookies. We are very excited to begin another kitchen adventure!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Every Moment

"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." -Henry Van Dyke (1852-1953)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Bed

From left: Kid leg, art papers, fat pug, laundry, and pillows.

Clockwise from top left- Emma, Poe, Gus, Sophie, and Olivia

My feet- somehow they ended up with laundry on them. I think one of the girls moved a pile in order to fit between the various animals.

Same crew, better view.

As I angle over, you can spot Grace at the far left, along with all her stencils and pencils. Notice how Olivia takes up the most room on the bed.

From left: Grace, Emma, and Olivia

My bed is a place of both comfort and chaos. Last night this was completely evident. I sat down on my bed to fold and pile laundry. I always do this on my bed because it's a California King (Jeff is very tall!) and I have plenty of room to sort and fold.

Soon, I was joined by Olivia, who likes to sprawl out in the most inconvenient places, like on top of piles of clean clothes, or half way on a pile of papers I'm about to grade.
Later, Grace came in with her new art book. It's got stencils and faces, and you decorate each face with different hairstyles and makeup. Grace needed plenty of room for her colored pencils, stencils, and papers.

Then Sophie (Aka Fat Piggy) wanted up. Jeff calls me a pug enabler because truthfully, Sophie could never get up onto the bed if I didn't help lift her fat buns. But I always lift her because otherwise she whines next to my side and drives me crazy. Besides, she's awfully snugly when the weather cools off. There's nothing like a chubby pug for warmth when your feet are cold.

Emma decided to join us, and proceeded to stencil with Grace. I finished my folding and got out my laptop to check Facebook. I looked down at my bed, and noticed the menagerie had grown. The two cats had joined us as well. They were sprawled out near the bottom of the bed amidst the piles of clothes and colored pencils.

There was no more room for Jeff or Ace in the bed. Ace doesn't want to be on the bed- thank God- because he's old and crusty and smells like a trash bin. Jeff- well he was busy on the computer and in the kitchen, so he didn't notice that his domain had been taken over.
I'm glad I got the camera and snapped several photos of the scene. Someday I know I'll miss this- kids will grow and leave home, pets will get older and pass on. Jeff and I will have the giant California King to ourselves. There won't be as much laundry. It will be comfort WITHOUT the chaos, but I will miss the chaos so much.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The big third graders in front of their classroom.
Don't you just love their braids?

Grace HAD to photograph her cool new backpack.

Grace in my classroom before we walked over to their school.

Emma in my room the first day. You can see my new teacher friend, Carol, in the background, looking for Shakespeare stuff to borrow. She likes Shakespeare as much as I do!

Grace took this picture of me on the first day. The air conditioning was out for 3/4 of the day, and I was already getting sweaty....ewww!

The girls on the day before school started with their fun pillows and my laptop set up for movies.

Hello, Long Lost Blog!

I must say that I've truly neglected this blog over the summer. What was I doing instead?
Well...first, I was preparing to teach a new grade level at a new school, so moving, reading, and planning took up a lot of time. Next, I was working on my Arts and Technology class- the Master's class that happened to fall over the summer. I learned a lot, but BOY it was a lot of work. One of the projects required me to interview someone about a technology that changed his or her life, and I chose to interview Grandma Otti (of course.) I put together a very cool multi-media presentation about Grandma that I will treasure for years, but it was a lot of work. To top it off, the class required me to write a lot of papers, most of which included research. Yikes! The final thing that kept me busy this summer was my family, of course. I really felt like I took the summer to enjoy them. We swam. We went to the beach. We hung out with friends. We went whale watching. We enjoyed every minute with each other.
And now, it's early August, and we've already started school. I chose to move to a new middle school in our district for a variety of reasons. The most important reason? I'm able to take my girls with me to school every day. Their school is on the same campus as mine, so I bring them with me and then they walk over. That has been AMAZING. I love our conversations in the morning, and our drive to school is filled with fun sites to behold- mules, goats, cows, and horses. Our new school looks like it is plopped down right next to Ma and Pa Ingalls' Little House on the Praire. In fact, all last week, there was a herd of sheep and a shepherd in the field next to the school. Each morning the girls stuck their heads out of the window and yelled, "Bahhhhh!!!" Grace asked why the shepherd didn't have a cane and a robe. (I thought that was pretty cute.)
I have a cabinet in my new room just for the girls. They have body pillows to lay on, blankets, toys, and games. They are SET. The vibe at my new school is really that kids are welcome. The principal is really nice and doesn't care if the kids are around on their early out days, or if they are in my room during a meeting, etc. In fact, there are teacher's kids all over the school. That's SO nice.
Middle school is new for me. 8th graders have a streek of silliness that most high schoolers have either outgrown or carefully hidden. 8th graders are squiggly...goofy. They make me laugh. I have probably laughed more in the last three days of teaching than I have in a while, which is good. Still, I am a bit homesick for my friends and students at the high school. We're making it a point to get together as much as possible. Grace and Emma have also had moments of missing their old school, teachers, and friends, but we're all adjusting, and I know it will get easier every day.
Another reason I moved to my new school is that it is the "visual/performing arts" focus school in our district. Although it isn't a charter school, it is a school of choice, which means any student from in or out of our district can apply to got there. Since my Master's degree is in Integrated Arts Education, the fit was obvious. I can't wait to start integrating the arts into my lessons. :)
The pictures above should give you a little glimpse of our first day of school. The girls took the pictures of each other (and of me) in my classroom, and then I took the pictures of my wonderful BIG third graders who I was able to walk to school for their first day (for the first time since Kindergarten!)
So far, change is good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Shakespeare's Violets?

I've had a few people ask me why I named my blog "Shakespeare's Violets."

It started when I went to Huntington Gardens years ago and walked through the Shakespeare Garden, where one group of flowers displayed was Shakespeare's Violets. I always loved the way those words rolled off my tongue...Shakespeare's Violets.

My daughters remind me of little violets, with their bright faces staring up at me. :)

Later, I decided to post some things online anonymously and ended up using the name Shakespeare's Violets.

I remember reading Shakespeare in my 9th grade English class and telling my teacher, Ms. Nelson, that I didn't understand a word he was saying. Instead of becoming frustrated with me, Ms. Nelson suggested that I see a live performance, and I ended up on a field trip of high school students on a bus headed for Los Angeles. We went to see a college production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. They had modernized the costumes but kept the original language. That's all I remember about the actual play- that and a very cute boy on the bus that I had a huge crush on who didn't know I existed. However, I do know I came back with an absolute love of Shakespeare's language. Bless Ms. Nelson for not giving up on me!

From Ophelia, chanting "...Rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember; then there's pansies, that's for thoughts..." to the bank of flowers where Titania sleeps, Shakespeare's writing shows that he knew a thing or two about flowers. This knowledge shows he was close to nature, as any artist should be. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." He not only noticed the details in the world outside, but was an expert on human nature as well.

"False face must hide what the false heart must know."

"Poor and content is rich, and rich enough."

"Suit the action to the word, and the word to the action."

"Lord, what fools these mortals be."

...and one of my favorites, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on/and our little life is rounded with a sleep."


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More Mermaids in the Tub (also known as "More Tub Talk with Emma and Grace")

Emma: How bout my mermaid's name is Aquamarine and yours is Lulu? ...and how bout we're driving to school? And I have a pet catfish?

Grace: How bout I'm a teacher right now? (In teacher voice...) "NO CATFISH AT SCHOOL!" ....How bout I slammed the door on your catfish?

Emma: Oh no! Oh no! My catfish! He's bleeding! Catfish!!!!

Grace: How bout I'm a mermaid, and the teacher didn't want a bunch of people following me around, so she made me sit right there....(in singing voice)- I want to be a nor-mal girl. A nor-mal girl.

Emma: How bout we got a new teacher named Miss Seaweed?

Grace: Yeah. And Miss Seaweed is kinda like me but with normal hair.

Emma: How bout she says, "Class!"

Grace: Yes, Miss Seaweed? (How bout she said we have to pair up with a partner at recess? And you said, "You look really familiar but I don't know you...")

Emma: You look really familiar but I don't know you...

Grace: Every mermaid has at least five powers. How many powers do you have?

Emma: I have every power a mermaid could have...

Grace: What's your secret power? You HAVE to have a secret power.

Emma: I don't have a secret power.

Grace: You've never gone to the secret power store?

Emma: No

Grace: Well, I can't be your friend if you won't tell me what your secret powers are.

Emma: I don't have one. I promise.

Grace: Please tell me.

Emma: I don't have one.

Grace: Excuse me? Miss Seaweed? Does that girl have a secret power?

Emma: Miss Seaweed says that you have to be nice to me even if I have no secret power.

Grace: powers will vanish away if I don't know anybody's secret power. They'll VANISH! Can you change into a person? Is that your power?

Emma: I don't change into a person.


Emma: (blows bubbles under water)

Grace: Is it to wake the animals up? That's a secret power.

Emma: No.

Grace: How 'bout they just locked me away and trapped my powers away? (pretending to cry)

Emma: And how 'bout the mean girl Sea Slug was principal?

Grace: Then a bunch of girls tried to get my powers.

Emma: And then they all turned nice and didn't take your powers.

Grace: How 'bout the mean girls stole my power but they're not nice?

Emma: But that's my secret power. I turn people nice.

Grace: Ahhhhhhh!!!!

Emma: Are you OK?

Grace: My powers! Use your secret power to help me get my powers back!

Emma: (splashing)

Grace: Emma! How 'bout there are three kinds of mermaids. A black stone mermaid. A pink clock mermaid...and a sparkle diamond mermaid. Actually there are four. Also there is the light star mermaid.

Emma: And that is the highest level you can be. How 'bout you don't have that level. How 'bout I have the highest level power because I have a special tail.

Grace: How bout I told you about my power. And you were the tenth person I told. And we were only nine years old...and the power was nobody could know what kind of mermaid we were? How 'bout you guess what kind of power I have.

Emma: And then it was finally over.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


This is Beauford
After a day of roaming the ranch, Grace was tired.

Luckily, Beauford was there for her.

They don't call it the "dog days of summer" for nothing!

Sunshine + Dog + Dirt + Girl = Happiness

Yes, sir.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Bag of Books

I bought a lot of books recently. When I was in Bishop, I visited East Side Books, one of my favorite used book stores on earth. I always feel like I've gone treasure hunting when I come out of that bookstore. This time, quite a find: Savage Beauty, a hardcover biography on Edna St. Vincent Millay (one of my favorite authors and poets.) I had admired the book at Barnes and Noble many times, but didn't want to spend $30.00 on it. Finding it for under $10.00 at the used bookstore was exhilarating.

Then, for my birthday, I got two Barnes and Noble gift cards. Oh, the joy! I ended up purchasing a bunch of books online. Out of the Dust, a beautifully written children's book about a difficult subject- a young girl who lives in California during the dust bowl who loses her mother to a fire. I also bought The Girl Who Could Fly, a children's chapter book that's been called a cross between Harry Potty and Little House on the Prairie. Finally, I bought a book called A Great and Terrible Beauty. I don't know what it's about, but one of my students was reading it during class and I had to tell her to put it away numerous times. She would smile and say, "I just can't put it down, Mrs. Smith!" That's the sort of book I like to read. :) I also have The Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult, about a murder in an Amish community, and The Gatekeepers, a book about the selection process at the most prestigious colleges.

Having a bag full of books makes me hesitate to dive in. I like to look at them. I feel their covers, read their back pages, hunt for the author biographies, and glance at the reviews. If it's a new book, I smell its crisp, smooth pages; if it's a used book, I hunt for inscriptions or highlights. I wonder who owned it before I did.

Having this bag of books has made impossible for me to blog recently. I haven't even started reading, really. I just spread them out and look at them and decide what I'm going to read next. I rank them in order. I read the first line of each book. They lay in waiting, like unopened gifts.

Summer is close enough to make finishing them a reality.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sign at the entrance.

Information about yearly pilgrimages to Manzanar.

An orchard

Gravestone- notice the money and paper cranes

More Cranes

This beautiful monument was built in the graveyard. The characters mean something about "a place for the soul to rest."

Money left on a rock in the entrance to the graveyard. Isn't it sad that United States citizens had to die behind barbed wire in their own country?
A book written and illustrated by one the the students in the Manzanar school.

A replica of the barracks they had to live in.

Hostile, ugly signs like these were plastered on businesses and in neighborhoods.

Manzanar was a relocation camp for citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. It's so close to Bishop, but ironically we never talked about it or learned about it in school. (I think we should have read Farewell to Manzanar and gone there on a field trip, but we didn't.) They created a beautiful museum where Manzanar was, and on the way home from Bishop, I took Matt and the girls for a visit.
The Japanese have a beautiful culture- artistic, brave, and resilient. These American citizens were driven out of their homes. They left behind their furniture, their businesses, their pets, their friends- everything. They were shipped across the state to many camps. Manzanar was one of them. The desert winds and cold mountain air were often unforgiving. One man on the video presentation said that there were holes in the roof where he could see the sky, but his thoughts were about how beautiful the stars were. This same gentleman talked about waking up in the morning to his cot and bedding covered in sand from the wind.
And yet--these people made beauty where there was only unfamiliar. They planted gardens and orchards. They painted. They played baseball, held school, and wrote for a newspaper about Manzanar. When they were finally able to leave Manzanar (after years) they also had to leave the Western states. Essentially, they had to start completely over. They did so with grace and dignity.
I'm so glad that I was able to teach the kids about this place. Matt summed it up perfectly when he said, "This is important. Why didn't I ever learn about this?"