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Entries by Becca Ruiz (202)



Coachella opens this weekend down in California, and to me that only means one thing:

It's music festival season!

Yay! We weren't going to do it this year. "No Bonnaroo," we said. But then they announced River's Edge wouldn't happen, and then the line-up came out, and then we caved. "Responsibility, shmonsibility!" we declared! So we're going to one. Just one.

And the Yeah Yeah Yeah's concert in June. Thinking of 10,000 Sounds in July too... We'll see.

Today I also am starting my new series (yes, I'm actually going to post regularly about a specific topic. I am tickled pink as well.) - Festival Fridays! Memories of festivals I've attended, who I'm looking forward to this year, maybe a playlist or two, ultimate snack mix, etc.

For now though, click here to check out last year's post on how to survive the wilds of the outdoor music scene.

And for those at Coachella, remember - Ear plugs, Sunscreen, Hydrate, Enjoy!


Little Things: Whipped Cream

Yesterday my husband and I had a wonderful Easter - sunrise service and breakfast with my parents, then we lazily drove back to the cities to have dinner with the in-laws and hang out. And there was no wintry mix, it was sunny! (except the dark foggy drive to church in the morning was a little creepy) Later this week I'll have a couple of photos up for the different things I made. 

But one of the best things I did yesterday was reintroduce real whipped cream to my husband's family. Decadent, delicious and addicting - real whipped cream is soooo much better than anything you can buy at the store. Plus it is super duper easy. Just remember: 1 to 1 to 1. 

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream + 1 cup powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until thick.


If it's not a special occasion, you might want to cut the sugar by 1/2 but a couple times of year I recommend going all out. Like Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and anytime you make a Tres Leches cake.

Just remember: 1 cup to 1 cup to 1 teaspoon - you're done. 

Any more or any less and you can prove to children why they need to learn math.


Happy Spring!

1 prize from the pink basket, or 3 from the purple

I hope my students will be excited this week when they see the baskets. My favorite lessons were always the ones before a holiday where my teacher would have a small treat for me like a Lisa Frank pencil, an eraser, or maybe a nice chocolate!

In the baskets are spring puzzles, Make-Your-Own felt bunny, sidewalk chalk in the shape of butterflies, themed pencils and erasers, and a few other random things I've stored up. For the bigger treats, my students only get to pick one, but for the smaller treats, they can select up to 3 - that way my total is less than $2 per student.

In case you're wondering how I do this: a closet of bins organized by season where I store all my prizes, games and stickers that I've acquired during the year. My resources include a few awesome friends, dollar stores, and watching the clearance sales like a hawk. I get to the sales right away in the morning, scoop up items that are going to sell out quickly due to awesomeness or small quantities - then I wait, watch and buy as needed like a stock broker as the sale dwindles. I didn't do well at the Christmas sales, but Halloween is going to be amazing...



Little Things: Score Keeper

One of the first things to be put on the wall at our new house was the dart board. Maybe even the first thing, actually. We kept score on note pads for awhile, but I knew there could be an easier way. So I dug into my pile of "Things That Don't Work Now But Will Have Purpose Someday" pile and came up with:


Dry Erase Key Holder Board (missing certain elements but still had its marker!)

Canada Shoelace (I don't know where it came from - my siblings? thin air?)

Seed Bead Capsule (I have had it for 10 years, but always knew it would be excellent someday)

It turned out that the little areas in the Dry Erase Board work well for storing things.

Now we can keep track of games and store all the dart accoutrements right next to where we throw. Yay!



88 Key Challenge

Last fall, I wanted to create something that would help students get back in the swing of regular practice. I decided to set a goal for each student to practice 880 minutes by the end of November. For every 10 minutes practiced and signed off by a parent (ala Reading Challenge style), they colored in a key on the "88 Key Challenge" sheet where we kept track of how far they'd made it. If a student colored in 88 keys by the contest deadline, they were able to choose a king size candy bar, personal snack size bag of chips or pick from my stash of "Too Good for the Prize Box" prizes.

The breakdown:

880 Minutes\91 Days = 9.5 Minutes/Day or 3 20-Minute sessions a week. (Including time spent on theory and Tonic Tutor)

By the beginning of November, I had over half of my students struggling (sadly), so I extended the deadline to the end of the year. After all, I was trying encourage them in the end, not break them. Even at the end of December I had a few students who didn't quite make it. Instead of giving them nothing, we talked about what they could've done better, why this challenge was important and I gave them a smaller, but appreciated, reward for their work.

Some of the things I learned from this round:

- Make sure students know what to tally: each minute or each set of 10 minutes - this was a sticky spot.

- Some parents were awesome about signing off, some weren't, I think some parents never knew this happened... Next time, I'll make the students feel more invested so that they will take initiative.

- The right questions to ask and things to say in order to figure out if that student actually did what they said. I started to find the balance between being interested in what they want to learn, but trying to show they why we need to work on this first.

- Make the keyboard only 88 keys or the children will be confused and I will have to be counting their keys every week to know where they're at.

Overall, it was really fun. Especially at the store, where I taped each sheet to the wall and students could see each other's progress. (Or stare in wonder, "You mean, you have other students?") I will definitely bring this one back, maybe with a different goal, or maybe with a different set of parameters.

Here's a practice guide I used for my students with binders.

Here is the 88 Key Challange sheet we colored in (amended to only include 88 keys for your benefit).