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A Slice of Gumbo

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

This past weekend was the 28th annual World Championship Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia.  Every year during the second weekend of October, Main Street is shut down and groups gather to cook their best gumbo for hundreds or thousands of hungry tasters.

Seventeen years ago when our three girls were young, the family decided to have a booth.  Jeff’s siblings and their families came to town, and together we cooked and served the first ever Simon Family Gumbo.  My daughters have been nostalgic about that event and have talked about having another Simon Family Gumbo booth.  So this was the year.

Jeff and our oldest daughter Maggie were in charge.  For months, Jeff has worked weekends on building a facade of our house, the Big White Castle.  Son-in-law Grant designed a logo using our family Christmas frog as a model and adding a chef’s hat and a superman cape. (The theme for this year’s event was super heroes.)

Katherine and Jeff show the back of our family t-shirts after they ran the 5K Roux Run on Saturday.  Each won second place in their division.  The “medal” was a mini wooden gumbo spoon.

The Simon family castle!

When the weekend arrived, Jeff headed to Cosco for roasted chickens, a dozen of them.  Maggie and Grant arrived with sausage to cook in the cast iron pot to fully season it.  The day Saturday was spent chopping loads of onions, celery, and bell pepper.  What joy to have all hands chopping while everyone visited together!  Jeff and Grant worked on the stock outside on the burner.  I wish I could have captured the smell along with the photos.

 

Saturday night was early to bed because the alarms went off at 4:45 AM on Sunday.  The cooking crew had to get downtown to set up and start the roux.  At 6 AM, the gumbo police announced, “Start your burners,” and the town began to smell of flour and oil slowly cooking into 75+ gravies. If you ask anyone who knows anything about cooking a gumbo, they will tell you the secret is in the roux.  For our team it was touch and go and tag-teaming for about an hour and a half before the roux was the just-right color of chocolate to satisfy head chef, Maggie.

Once the roux was done, it was added to the stock along with vegetables, sausage, and chicken. The stew cooked for a few more hours before a sample was sent to the judges.  Then people arrived with tickets in hand to try out as many samples as their stomachs would hold.  Unfortunately, the crowd was lighter than in previous years due to the extreme heat.  No one really craves gumbo when the temperature climbs over 90 degrees.  The heat really wore us all down, but we powered through.

I celebrate my amazing family.  My girls and their significant others get along so well with each other.  At the end of the weekend, Jeff said, “I think they could do anything.”  This was a huge undertaking, and I was proud of our tasty gumbo even though we didn’t place in the competition.  In our hearts, we knew Simon Family Gumbo was the best!

 

 

 

Poetry Friday posts are with Irene at Live Your Poem

Last week, my friend, poet, blogger, writing partner Linda Mitchell posted her found haiku along with the inspirational poem Letter in October by Ted Kooser.  See her post here.  I took it all to create a lesson for my students.  After study of and talk about Ted Kooser’s poem, I shared Linda’s haiku and talked about how these haiku could stand separate from the original poem.  I challenged my students to try finding haiku.

Madison created this lovely poem, but first she gave the form a name “re-ku” as in recycled haiku.

A late light dawning
finding a world of darkness.
Silhouettes of the

lost leaves, soaring
on a draft. They have lost
their way. I watch the

darkness, sipping tea.
The night has wrapped the light, sowing
reflections ‘cross
my window. Watch.

Madison, 4th grade

Free image

I’m fascinated by the rhythm and repetition that Noah used to create his artistic expression of A Letter in December.

The icy water
a letter in December
Sowing reflections

The icy writing
a letter in December
in the window pane

The icy fingers
a letter in December
wrapped around the hearth

The icy shingles
a letter in December
frozen in its place.

–Noah, 6th grade

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Wikimedia commons

As we drove home from an evening of dancing to Stop the Clock Cowboy Jazz and eating at Pop’s Poboys, we watched the fullest moon we’ve ever seen move without movement in and out of clouds, clouds like spider webs.

The moon doesn’t know a storm is coming, or maybe it just doesn’t care, playing peek-a-boo
with a big smile on its face.

Don’t listen to the news.  They will stand in the windiest spot, let rain hammer down, and pretend the world is ending.

Look at the sky and decide for yourself.

 

 

Poetry Friday posts with Violet who is celebrating Canada’s Thanksgiving.

 

There are only a few signs that October is here.  The temperatures are still quite warm, but on my morning walks, the sun does not peek over the horizon until I am close to home.  The bald cypress trees in our backyard are turning brown.  And the grass is growing slower, so my mower (dear husband) can spread out the weeks between mows.

In the classroom, when the calendar changes, attention turns to the end of the month.  You know the day, Halloween!

I have subscribed to the Academy of American Poets newsletter “Teach this Poem.”  The lessons are just right for my gifted students. From this site, I introduced Robert Frost’s poem October this week.   We discussed the poem, the rhyme scheme, imagery, and new vocabulary.  We talked about odes and how an ode is like a praise poem to something ordinary.  Then we wrote our own poems, stealing words and ideas from Robert Frost.

I tried a golden shovel with my favorite line, “Enchant the land with amethyst. Slow! Slow!”

O, autumn, your winds Enchant
birds into song, the
sugarcane drapes the land
in swaying soldiers with
suits of green-gold amethyst
Step, step Slow!
Swish, swish, Slow!
Marching to harvest all.

–Margaret Simon, after Robert Frost “October”

Lani, a 6th grader, took a line from Robert Frost and built her own poem around it.

How do you know when fall is here?
When the leaves from towering branches
that loom over us fall into colorful
browngreen leaf piles to plunge into until
twilight makes its unveiling.

When you don’t have to set your
alarm-instead being woken by
The crows above the forests call.

When football starts and your bedtime
changes to fit the Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday, and Sunday games.

When you can wear a sweater
outside and cold fronts become
more persistent.

When the flu sets in and
the doctor is occupied.

When fuzzy socks come out of
the dark hole called
your sock drawer.

When summer clothes
go to Goodwill.

When you stuff your face
on Thanksgiving.

When the days are shorter and
the sunsets more memorable.

When you grieve when it’s over.

Lani, 6th grade

 

Spiritual Journey Thursday is dedicated this month to the small steps that create a big change.

On Wednesday night, Charlie (my 10 year old schnoodle) and I went to a simple service for blessing the animals.  Our priest, Father Matt, wore a Creation-themed stole and set up a Eucharistic table under the pavilion in the backyard of the church.  He was surrounded by animals of all kinds, dogs of all sizes and colors, cats in carriers, a hedgehog, and a basket of turtles (Each and Other).  He sprinkled the pets with holy water.  The dogs barked in a choral round.

As silly as I thought this was going to be, I have to admit I was moved.  I was moved by the way we are so proud of our pets, of how much animal love makes us happy.  Such a small thing, the lick of a dog, the purr of a cat, the tiny curious heads of turtles, turned to something bigger, something better.

In the well-known prayer, St. Francis echoes “Make me an instrument of peace.”  In keeping things sacred, declaring that all are worthy of God’s love, and finding joy, we become instruments of peace.

Peace can be difficult to hope for when innocent fathers are shot in the line of duty, when thousands leave a country music festival terrorized and forever scarred, when our country’s leaders seem determined to divide, oppress, and insult our small steps toward peace.

After Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s poem Always, I wrote the following poem.

There is always
a sweet scent of satsumas
ripening in the fall.

They ignore the drone of bees,
the flash of lightning,
the rush of wind,
the flood of water.

Nature knows what comes next.

Nature never worries about tomorrow.

She trusts the hand of the planter.

She recalls the love of rain.

She hopes for the dawn
and shows us how.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved.

 

 

A Slice of Kindness

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Over the summer I connected with JoAnne Duncan through Voxer.  JoAnne is an assistant principal in Washington. Connecting with other educators across the globe is exciting to me.  Little did I know how much this new friendship would grow and sprout new growth.

On Friday afternoon after a difficult day, I checked Facebook to find a video message for me (and others) from JoAnne.  She was challenging us to join a kindness project, #welearnkindness.  This project stems from the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  JoAnne’s school is reading the book and raising awareness of bullying in new and innovative ways.  One way is asking others to join the kindness challenge by taking 3 action steps in 24 hours.

The idea is to tag others on Facebook or Twitter to take on the challenge themselves.  This is how phenomenons are started.  Remember the ice bucket challenge?

On Monday, I did my three acts of kindness, but the planning started on Sunday. My husband added Swiss Rolls to his Walmart list so that I could treat one of my students for his birthday.  I grabbed a bouquet of flowers on my grocery run, and I located a gift I had bought during the summer to give to a colleague.

When I arrived at my first school, I caught the assistant principal in the hallway and asked if I could take her breakfast duty.  She was grateful and rushed to do whatever it is assistant principals have to do.  (I’m sure her list was long.) While in the cafeteria, I talked with our French teacher whom I know little about and learned he is from Niger, Africa.  We had a great conversation.

At school number 2, I handed my colleague her belated birthday gift.  I had tagged her in the kindness challenge, and she brought me cookies.  She also challenged other teachers in our school.  I saw one carrying around candy treats to give to kids caught being kind.  This kindness thing is spreading quickly.

At school number 3 where I am new this year, I brought fall flowers to a teacher across the hall who is helping me navigate this new-to-me place.  She was more than thrilled.  I think I made her cry.  She will talk to me about those flowers every day this week, I’m sure.

But I am not writing about these acts of kindness to tell you how wonderful I am at being kind.  I’m writing this post because of the way I felt all day on Monday.

Kindness buoyed me through my day.

Kindness lightened my heart and made me smile.

Kindness spreads like wildflowers on a spring wind.

Try it.  I think you’ll find that being kind makes you a happier person all the way around.

Pledge to Choose Kind!

Poetic Gifts

Poetry Friday posts with Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

 

While summer seems far away as I end my eighth week in school, my poetry swap gifts continue to come.  Jone and Iphigene both contacted me by email to say their poetry gifts were late.  I was late, too, so I didn’t mind.  In fact, I love receiving a surprise in the mail…anytime.  Iphigene’s gift included this beautiful painting of the bayou.  She lives in the Philippines, so she had to use images from my blog to imagine this scene.  She definitely captured the peacefulness.

Bayou Teche by Iphigene Daradar. Acrylic on paper.

This is what Iphigene said in her note to me about composing the poem:

“When I was conceptualizing the poem, I thought I’d write about the Teche, but as I read your recent blog posts, the idea of impossible, possible, and overcoming kept surfacing.  In the end, I wrote a poem with those words in mind. The tone of the poem, too, is not my usual.  It was influenced by the biopic of Emily Dickinson called A Quiet Passion.”

The Extent of Our Souls

By Iphigene (For Margaret)

There is an extent by which our soul stretches
One that is measured by words
Short phrases echoed through
In the silence of our minds

In the loose utterance of
‘stupid’ and ‘can’t’
Mingled in laughter, our skin
Think as nothing

Our souls call as truth
Like a seed planted
In perfect day, bears root
Bears bloom, each day

And so, our soul, fits itself
In the limits of our bodies
Brittle for the measure—
Impossible.

However,
As those who know words
Who play with the scales of phrases
Our measures change with space
And rightly placed punctuation

I’m possible.
Feel the impossible stretch
And the soul re-tells its truth
Stretching to ‘greatness’
And knowing it can.

Bearing roots that bloom
Perennial in the hearts
Of those who try to stretch
Their souls to possibility
and its truth.

This week I was blessed by a gift from Jone MacCulloch.  She takes beautiful photographs.  She sent an amazing close-up of a dahlia and her poem printed on a plaque that stands.  In addition to the photo-plaque, she sent a copy of her book  Solace in Nature which is a collection of her photos and poems.

photo and poem by Jone MacCulloch

 

Here is a photo and poem from her book, Solace in Nature.

winged fighter pilots
dive bomb daily
over sweet nectar
by Jone MacCulloch