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, 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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Announcing a Google Drive Interactive Notebook Edition of Simple Steps to Sentence

I have an exciting announcement for teachers who use my grammar curriculum.

So much has changed since my book Simple Steps to Sentence Sense was published in 1996, but the method I use to teach grammar still works. It’s easy and fun. Students and teachers still love it!

I started teaching grammar to my students using my own method many years before my book was published, and I thought other language arts teachers would appreciate knowing how easy it is to teach grammar by following 8 simple steps. I was right. Teachers and students responded with overwhelmingly positive reviews, so I decided to create a digital download and make it available on several teacher/store web sites. 

Now, twenty years later, I have updated Simple Steps to Sentence Sense to a Google Drive digital format. That’s right!  Simple Steps to Sentence Sense is now an interactive notebook, and you and your students can access the pages of my book in Google Drive. Students can read the lessons, and complete the assignments and tests while in Google Drive. No paper is needed. No more standing in line at the copy machine to run off copies of the pages of my book. Students can submit their work to you electronically however you wish. 

You can purchase the lessons one step at a time or purchase the entire book (all 8 steps) in a Bundle and Save 20 percent. And, of course, the original version of Simple Steps to Sentence Sense in pdf format will still be available. Now you have a choice. Often teachers like to use both formats for different reasons and at different times.

You will find the individual steps and the bundle in my store. Take a look at the previews and see what you think. I hope you will be as excited about this new format as I am.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Devil Makes the Rules Is My Latest Novel

I am excited to announce that my sister, Judi Thompson, and I have just published our fifth novel. We combined our two last names into the pen name, Tess Thompson, and we have been having an amazing adventure writing mystery and suspense novels together. Click here to learn more about Judi and me.

Our latest novel, The Devil Makes the Rules, is the third book in the Chance O'Brien Mystery Series that began in When an Angel Whispers

In this new book, Brett Adams has a secret. A secret that destroyed his marriage and carved the path he would take in life. Now Brett is missing, and his ex-wife Macy and her detective husband Chance O’Brien must find him.

They travel to Key West, Florida, and El Paso, Texas, and discover a trail of blood and lies that shock Macy to the core. Now she realizes she was married to a stranger. But it isn’t just Brett’s life in peril; an innocent young woman and her mother are also missing. Chance and Macy must unravel Brett’s deception to save his life and the life of the woman he loves. 

We had fun writing this one. Judi and I were born in El Paso, Texas, and I still live there. The places in the book are real, even though the events are entirely fiction. Jerry and I spent some fun, lazy days in the Bahamas and in Key West, Florida. It was enjoyable to revive those memories in this book.

Although this book works as a stand-alone story, it is even more enjoyable if you have read the other two books in the series: When an Angel Whispers and Student Body. They are only $2.99, so you can read the whole series without blowing your summer reading budget.

I hope you will give one of my books a try. You will find all of them here.


Thanks for reading,