Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Traditions Bring Joy

Mema's Cornbread Dressing

Alice Bourland
Alice Bourland (1917-2008)
This was my beautiful mother’s famous recipe for cornbread dressing. We had it for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinner. The turkey was not the focus of our meal; Mema’s Dressing was everybody’s favorite. We would pour gravy over it and eat it for days. 

CORNBREAD (Make at least one day early so it can dry out a little. If possible, make in on Sunday before Thanksgiving or three days before Christmas and then leave it out on the counter. Also, dry out a loaf of bread and use for breadcrumbs or buy a bag of breadcrumbs or croutons. Just be sure they are not seasoned because that will alter the taste.

After my youngest grandson was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I began making it with gluten free flour and gluten free corn meal. It is as good as ever! Note the modifications you can make if you wish to make this dish gluten free.

Triple this cornbread recipe for a large amount of dressing to feed several people. (It’s better to mix it up and bake it in three batches.)

1 cup yellow cornmeal  (Use gluten free cornmeal.)
4 tablespoons flour (Use gluten free flour.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted shortening (or vegetable oil)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (Very important. Don't use sweet milk.)

Mix cornmeal, flour, soda, and salt. Beat egg and add to buttermilk. Then pour this mixture into the sifted dry ingredients, add 1 tablespoon melted shortening (or vegetable oil) and stir only until well mixed. Grease an 8X8 pan. (If you have one, bake the cornbread in an iron skillet.) Pour batter into hot, greased pan. Bake at 425 degrees about 30 to 35 minutes, or until brown.


large bunch of celery
1 large yellow onion
poultry seasoning (Very important. Don't use anything else.) (Use gluten free poultry seasoning.)
3 cans chicken broth (Use gluten free chicken broth.)
dry cornbread (crumbled)
dry bread (Add enough to make the mixture stick together well) (Use gluten free bread or gluten free croutons.)

Chop celery and onion and sauté in butter until soft and clear in color. Crumble cornbread and bread in a large bowl. Add celery and onion mixture. Add chicken broth a little at a time until you get the thick consistency of muffin dough. Add poultry seasoning a teaspoon at a time. This will make it salty and give it its unique flavor. Taste until it tastes like Mema's dressing. (For those who did not know and love Mema, just suit your own taste.) Grease one rectangular baking dish with oil. Bake at 350º until dressing is brown and crusty on top. (35-45 minutes.) If you want stuffing inside the turkey, stuff it with raw dressing before you put it in the oven.

I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe. For our family, it simply would not be Christmas without Mema's dressing.

Here's a link to two FREE activities that the whole family could do for fun after dinner. 

I hope you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. 
This blog post has been updated and reposted. Thanks for reading,

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It is not only on the fourth Thursday of November that I am thankful. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, I think, in his prayer in the photo above. 

I take a long morning walk as often as I can. The first thing I do after leaving the house is look to the east where the beautiful sunrise greets me and say a few words of thanks for the privilege of living another day.

I have lost many people that I love with all my heart, so I do not take the gift of life for granted.

May your season of Thanksgiving last all year long.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Are You Eager or Anxious?

Before choosing between the words "eager" and "anxious," decide exactly what you mean to say. 

“Eager” means excited, interested, or impatient .
“Anxious” means afraid or nervous about what may happen.

Note the correct words in the sentences below:
Jane felt (eager, anxious) about the math test because she had not studied for it.
The bride and groom were (eager, anxious) to say their vows.

Now you try it:
The puppy was (eager, anxious) to please his master.
The patient was (eager, anxious) to hear the doctor’s report.

These words are often used interchangeably, but they should not be. They are not the same. Take the time to say what you really mean.

Visit my store at for more helpful tips and lessons.

This post is an update from a previous post.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 26, 2016

Tips to Avoid 6 Common Usage Errors

We all make mistakes, and I am certainly not the Internet Police, but after seeing these bloopers online on social media, I thought these 6 common usage mistakes would make a good topic for a post. Here are just a few of some common errors I recently saw on Facebook and Twitter and a little information on how to avoid them.
“Who remember's this?”

Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.

Correction: Who remembers this?
 "The dog has a microchip in case she would loose her collar."

Loose means not tight.  Lose means to misplace.

Correction: The dog has a microchip in case she would lose her collar.
" I laid down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later."

Laid means to put or to place something.

Correction: I lay down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later.
 “I think that Mom's who watch soap operas are way two dramatic.”

There are two errors in this sentence.

1.  Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.

2.  The word two means the number 2. The word too means to an excessive        degree.

Corrections: I think that moms who watch soap operas are way too dramatic.
 “I was just laying around feeling sick all week.”

The past progressive form of the verb “lie” is was lying. “Laying” means to put or to place.

Correction: I was just lying around feeling sick all week.
“George is a very healthful person.”

Healthy and healthful are adjectives that can be used as synonyms for each other unless one is talking about a person. 

Spinach can be a healthy or a healthful vegetable, but when talking about a person, always use “healthy.”

Correction: George is a very healthy person.

For more practice with apostrophes and verbs, visit my store for some helpful exercises. Some of them are FREE.

This blog post is an updated version of an earlier blog post I wrote.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

5 Lifetime Skills Children Need

By the time I was sixteen, I was expected to cook dinner for the family each night, help my sister with the dishes, and bathe my little brother and put him to bed. Both of our parents worked, so we were taught to cook and clean at at early age. I did not think twice about it. We helped out. That was what we did 

To say that the focus on cooking, cleaning, and general household chores has changed, is an understatement. Life today is so fast paced and so involved with the latest technology to do things efficiently and with less effort, there is precious little time to devote to learning some of the basic life skills that all young people need in order to become well-rounded adults.

These days, there is a real lack of practical training in schools and even in some homes. With so much focus on and resources for "pure" academics, and downloading the latest app, sometimes basic life skills fall behind. Here are 5 areas outside of academic focus that build the foundation for a happy, confident child:
  • Cleaning; Organization
  • Cooking
  • Money Management
  • Physical Health; Safety Preparedness
  • Social Skills (aka Manners!)
I've rounded up some great tools in these area to help foster these important life skills.

Cleaning & Organizing

Zone CleaningZone Cleaning for Kids

Zone Cleaning for Kids is really not just for kids. It has a reusable chart, how-tos, and a framework of understanding how to go about cleaning a whole house without getting overwhelmed. Kids from X to 100 feel empowered when they focus on one area at a time, check items off their lists, and see real results. It's been said that a clean home makes for a clear mind - a crucial building block for a happy, successful life. Price:  $19.99 (Down from $24.95) 

How to Cook

cookingYour Kids: Cooking

 Microwaves and McDonald's may be convenient but they are not the healthiest or most cost-effective options for meal time. Give your kids the tools to be confident and independent in the kitchen. When a child learns how to cook, they are developing math and fine-motor skills, learning about applied chemistry. Plus, it gives them the tools to carry on family and community traditions. Your Kids: Cooking is a multimedia kit that teaches kids ages 8 and up the gamut of basic cooking skills using step-by-step video demonstrations and kid -friendly written recipes. Kids do all the cooking themselves - parents just sit back and relax. Now that's a treat! Price: $27.95 (down from $39.95) 

Money Management

money management board gameKey to the Front Door

Whether your child is earning allowance, saving birthday money, or planning to make a million dollars after starting their own company, money management is an important topic for children to learn at an early age. You may be modeling strong practices, but how can you actively teach strong money - related habits? Key to the Front Door is a board game that helps you do just that. In the game, players race to be the first to "master" their money. Use real-world scenarios to develop financial literacy. In the context of a game, you can avoid lectures while starting larger conversations. Once you've played the game, you can apply what is learned in real life: Say your child wants to have a toy now, but they have a longer-term goal of building a tree-house. You can recall the game to usher them toward stronger financial choices on their own. Price: $29.95

Physical Health & Safety Preparedness

Permachart Reference Guides nutrition and first aid reference guides

Learning and establishing good eating and nutritional habits ideally starts at a young age, and the same applies to emergency preparedness. Provide your child with an understanding of the building blocks of nutrition, such as the carbohydrates, lipids / fats, and proteins. Each are described in this guide, along with essential vitamins and minerals, and the principles of digestion. The comprehensive guide also walks readers through treating common injuries and how to respond when someone is choking, making it an essential series for older siblings, babysitters, and family members who care for children! Price: $22.99 (down from $26.85)

Social Skills (aka Manners!)

EQQ's Race to the Top Emotional Intelligence, also known at EQ, is something that many parents teach their children unknowingly, sometimes with a little help from our prim pal Emily Post.  Some argue that it's equally, if not more important than IQ.  I argue it's all important! Go a step beyond telling children to "mind their manners" with a game that helps them not only develop social-emotional intelligence, but and understanding of how important it is to a fulfilled life. Q's Race to the Top does just that. Structured similarly to Candyland, with card drawing and game piece progressions. Cards questions like "What does it mean to be brave?" or "Name something that's boring. How can you make it fun?" You may be surprised by the discussions prompted by this game as well as the wisdom and clarity coming from young minds. Price: $29.99

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Five Tips to Make Going Back to School a Breeze

Teachers know the beginning of every school year is a huge challenge and a whole lot of work. Secondary teachers are sometimes reassigned to different grade levels which can mean an entirely new set of literature materials. Going from teaching American literature to teaching British literature requires a completely new mind-set, and the lessons and materials will not transfer. Another challenge could be teaching one class of freshmen ESL students, two classes of senior AP English, and three classes of sophomore English. You don’t think this happens? Well it does. I know. I taught English and creative writing for 35 years.

Tip 1: Using Technology Can Really Simplify Your Life

Recently, some really exciting advances in technology have made teaching more interesting and more convenient. Now, because of Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, DropBox, and other innovative web sites, students can view their assignments online, do their work online, and turn in their work online. Many times, paper is not required. Going paperless is a truly revolutionary improvement for teachers. Often they are given an allotment of paper to last the entire year and must spend their own money when they run out. And even if they do have an adequate supply of paper, they must use a copy machine before they can distribute the lesson pages to their students.

Teachers no longer have to stand in line at a copy machine to use the pages in my book. I recently converted my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense book into a Google Drive Interactive Notebook. It is now available in my store and teachers can purchase one step at a time or a bundle that has all eight steps.

If your school has Chromebooks, iPads, or other devices students can use to use to access the Internet, be sure to search for Digital Products on and other educational websites.

Tip 2: Use Software That Individualizes Instruction

I recently learned about a company whose philosophy is to be as helpful to teachers as possible. They offer 24/7 technical assistance. I find that especially important because their product is innovative and unique.

EdTech Software’s Shelfit Reader is an ebook reader that allows students an amazing level of interaction. It is possible to embed videos, audio files, and worksheets within the ebooks, and to create quizzes with answers. The quiz scores may be exported to a grade book. Teachers can provide personalized and individualized lessons and adapt to different learning styles.

The company carries all major publishers and many smaller ones, so the selection of ebooks is vast and eclectic.  Now, teachers can select ebooks for their students to use and then customize those books to suit their own teaching styles.

The software can be assessed from any device as long as there is an Internet connection. The books may be downloaded at school for reading at home if students do not have Wi-Fi in their homes.

Click here to take a look  at this new innovative reader and see what it could do for you and your students. *EdTech Software provided me with compensation in exchange for this sponsored blog post. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

3) Use Rubrics to Grade Writing Assignments

ELA teachers often struggle with exactly how to assign a fair grade to compositions that their students write. The grading process should always include a way to give students frequent chances to succeed and feel good about themselves. One way to do that is to be sure that students know exactly what you expect from them when you give them an assignment.

A teacher simply cannot expect students to do everything perfectly, nor does s/he have the time or the inclination to grade every aspect of every paper every time. I always let students know exactly what I was looking for by showing them the rubric I would use to grade their papers, and we would go over it together before they began their first draft. A rubric is the best method of expressing your expectations and of providing meaningful feedback.

Look for writing lessons sold on that include a rubric. If you want to make a rubric of your own, visit This website is free and helpful.

Several of my writing assignments contain rubrics. Here's one:

4)  Use a Grading Scale Chart to Save Time

When you create your lessons, be sure that there are sufficient items on each worksheet or test to allow students to succeed. If there are only five questions or five sentences on a worksheet, students can get only one of them wrong without jeopardizing their GPA.

For example, if students are asked to locate the verb in a sentence, and there are only ten sentences, it would be easy to get a low score since each answer would be worth ten points. Be sure to use a grading scale chart to speed up the process, so you won’t have to do the math. You will find my Grading Scale Chart in my store for only $3.00, or you can access this one online for free:

5) Be Prepared

The first few days of school are crazy busy. In secondary schools, much of the time is spent dealing with students being added or dropped from your class as students’ schedules are adjusted and class loads are balanced.

The paperwork piles up, and yet you meet another class of new students every hour or so. What to do?

The answer is to be prepared with meaningful activities to engage your students while you take care of the tedious, yet necessary details. Be sure that your students are busy and actively involved from the moment they enter your classroom until the bell rings. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to start the new year off successfully.

I have a product that includes a series of activities that introduces your students to each other and to you and provides a sample of their writing and their oral presentation skills. You can use these activities to make the first few days of your school year informative and productive. Getting to Know You Activities for the First Few Days of School is available in my TpT store. You will find several Back to School first day activities on Pinterest and on

 Thanks for reading and I hope the beginning of your 2016-17 school year is a breeze.