Differentiation Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Do Jigsaw Puzzles

“Aunt Josephine? When we go to the store for puzzles, can we not get jigsaw puzzles?” I pleaded.

Wisely, she left my question unanswered and said, “We’ll see what they have when we get there.”

My seven-year-old self fretted the whole rest of the day and all the way to the dime store in town. My 10-year-old sister and I were staying for a week at Aunt Josephine’s farm.

Why we would continue to keep going back year after year when we got so homesick, I don’t know, but we persisted in the coming years. A lot of it was fun- -spending time with the baby animals, riding on the tractor and in the back of the hay wagon- -but the dark and noisy nights scared us. Farm animal noises.

Anyway, one of the things Aunt Josephine loved was jigsaw puzzles. She and my sister were enjoying putting together a difficult puzzle. I don’t know how many pieces- -maybe 500, 200, or possibly even less. I don’t remember, but the number of pieces was daunting to me! I did not enjoy helping, and it probably made me more homesick and lonely watching them do the puzzle together.

When my aunt told me she would buy a puzzle for me that I would like, I got excited, but remained skeptical. I couldn’t imagine there was such a thing, so I worried.

That evening, as she promised, she took us into town and right to the toy section.

And there, when I saw it, I jumped for joy: a cardboard puzzle in a tray, with guides to line up the 15 pieces. A puzzle that rocked a picture of a sweet kitten in a basket. My heart soared! Now that’s a puzzle. That’s the kind of puzzle I love.

“Oh good,” I said. “They have good puzzles here–not jigsaw puzzles.”

My aunt showed me the label: 15-piece jigsaw puzzle. “I guess you will be able to get a jigsaw puzzle, after all,” she said, with a smile. Then she bought me two different kitten puzzles.

I was reminded of that story this morning as I made a verb game for my students–some of whom are advanced grade five readers, as good as many native English speaking grade 5 students I’ve known. On the other hand, some of them are still learning basic English vocabulary. All of them study half of their day in Arabic subjects.

Differentiation. We can all play the games, all do the work, all learn the strategies. We sometimes need to do it at a different level, and that’s OK.

Purpose: practicing with verb forms. #differentiation #cy365 #t365project

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Saturday School

Saturday, and I’m at school. Entrance exams, lesson plans, grading and recording, filing. So much to do to get ready for our outside inspectors. That’s all I’ve got today!

Blessings to everyone! Remember me as I’m buried under my piles today.

Our Guided Reading Library – Also working on that today!

Ghee Ghee and Leah

Thursday is my kid sitting evening. Ghee Ghee and Leah come while their parents lead the youth group at church. It’s convenient that we live right next door.

Ghee Ghee and Leah are not their real names. Those were their “baby” names tonight. They built their fort tonight as babies, complete with baby talk. I made a short attempt at this blog post, but that didn’t last. While they built the fort, I said I would record the progress through photographs. I did for awhile.


The babies stayed busy with the fort for some time. Next Ghee Ghee and Leah became Silverback Gorilla and Baby Gorilla #1. The Silverback saved us all by fighting off lions.

Then we ate raisins.

Next we ate cheese while reading Oxcart Man.

We discussed punctuation marks.

Then we baked brownies.
Then we made necklaces with beads.

Those are just the things I remember! They were only here for a little over an hour, but now I’m exhausted and ready to put my feet up.

My Hands are Full and My Brain is Empty

Today is another busy day at my school. We will soon be inspected by a government agency, so I am busy in my room preparing evidence and organizing piles that have gotten out of hand.

Last night I was tired and had a lot of work I could do. Instead, though, I chose to bake chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes baking is the best stress-relieving therapy, so I baked and ate. I brought most of the cookies to school today. I told my department colleagues if they could find the golden box in my room, they would find a treat to help get them through the busy day.

Can you find the golden box? Help yourself!

My hands are full of work today, but I brought a golden box of cookies. Who wants some? #cy365 #t365project

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Five Foods

I seem to have slices of delicious food on my mind this March, so here comes another food post.

I (and you) have been invited to a favorites party by @Teachr4. The party happens at your blog, and all you have to bring are your five favorite things.

If I could, I would give you my favorites not only here on the blog, but I’d have you come over to my house. That way we could have our favorites party in person. I’d share with you my favorite foods since coming to Bahrain.

  1. Hummus and Turkish bread from Al Abraaj – I’ve always loved hummus and bread, and I could eat this every day! The Turkish bread is hot out of the oven, thick, chewy, and absolutely delicious. (Want to try it?)
    My favorite table at Al Abraaj. #cy365 #t365project
  2. Hammour is the premiere fish here. It’s a kind of Grouper; it’s attributes include: “Extra lean, firm texture, white meat with large flake and a mild flavor.” Exactly. Need I say more. (Are you ready?)

    Hammour from Al Abraaj
  3. Halloumi Cheese, yes, that is really cheese, browning in a pan. Melty, but firm. Have you ever had halloumi cheese? You are in for a treat! (Book that plane now.)12_halloumi

    Halloumi picture by Lamerie (CC BY-NC 2.0)

  4. Pani Puri is an Indian street food, but we have to go to a restaurant for it here. These little crispy cups filled with veggies and legumes come ready for you to top them off with watery chili and/or sweet tamarind sauces, according to taste. I go for heavy on the sweet flavor. Here is my sweet daughter, (who goes heavy on the chili sauce) and my future son-in-law enjoying pani puri in Bahrain. (We have an extra room for you!)
  5. Dates have always been a favorite food of mine, and I had never seen so many varieties before coming to the Middle East. I’ve really never met a date I didn’t like. (So, check your calendar and set a date!)


Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Bread. The staff of life. Our daily bread. My favorite food.

On Friday, Keith and I went out for lunch after church. (The weekend here is Friday and Saturday.) Whenever we go out, I check out the bread page of the menu. This time, I ordered something I hadn’t heard of before: Kashmiri naan. I was not disappointed. Though the menu (see image below) said it had “dried fruit”, I guess they were out because this was loaded with finely diced fresh mango, grapes and cashews. There was also an orange glaze lightly added to the top.

Kashmiri Naan and Butter Chicken
Just one restaurant’s bread menu

At least once a week we also walk down to our neighborhood bread baker and buy 5-10 large pieces of freshly baked bread (roti) for 100 fils (that is 27 cents U.S).

One of the wonderful things that Bahrain does for the people here is that they subsidize bread to keep it very inexpensive. It is a gracious and generous act. It’s a beautiful way that people are given their daily bread. Everyone can afford fresh bread in Bahrain, and every neighborhood has a bread oven similar to this one:

Bread Baking Oven

On Saturday, when we came up to the window to buy bread, Keith asked for “ten breads.” A friendly man waiting for his order at the window asked, “Do you want bread? The cold store across the street has bread,”as he formed his hands into a loaf. “Here they sell roti.” Then we had an interesting conversation about all the different names and subtle differences for what we often just refer to as bread.

After three years of conversations like the one above, and experiences with many different delicious breads from a variety of countries, we are starting to understand the differences and similarities between the names. Here are some pictures in a Google image search to see these various kinds of breadkuboos, the swirly, flaky and buttery Kerala parotha, naan, roti, chappati, appampapadum, and so much more!

Bread hot out of the oven
These large pieces of roti are also used as the plate for your food in this traditional restaurant–Haji’s Cafe.
Turkish bread, hummus and tabbouleh

More to Read

Bon Appétit “The Etymology of the Word: ‘Bread'”

Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris. It’s just a simple children’s book of photographs of people all over the world with their own versions of bread.

I’m Too Old For Football #sol17 Day 11

Today I went to a workshop on teaching English language learners. We practiced some useful activities to help students plan and pre-write during writers’ workshop.

My Brainstorm Sheet

We first considered different experiences we have had that fit into each of the emotions listed on our chart–happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, hurt and embarrassed.

We had to choose one we wanted to write about. Note to self: Make sure you tell the students this will be a “public” writing experience when they are choosing their topic. First, I had chosen my sadness story, when as a child I eavesdropped with my sister on a conversation about my dad’s death.  I changed my idea when I realized we would be playing Musical Share your Stories.

First, we walked around during the music, and when the music stopped, we found a partner and told them quickly the beginning, middle and end of our story. The music started again and we walked. Stop. New partner. Repeat. Up to five times.

There was potential each time to help the storyteller improve their story. The teacher could give directions to the storyteller (“Now, add a new adjective to this retelling,” “Add a simile” or any other thing the class is learning) or to the listener (“Ask a clarifying question after you hear the story.”)

Anyway, after doing the above activity, acting out the story and drawing and labeling the beginning, middle, and end, we were ready to write.

I must admit I had much more to add to the writing when I finally got around to putting pen to paper.

Here is my story of why I’m too old to play football.

One of the highlights of the elementary sports day is the student-teacher football game. The 5A boys and the 5B girls were the champions in the elementary tournament that had taken place earlier in the day, and they got to be on the student team. Any teachers were invited to join the teacher team and, of course, I did.

In the whole of this short game, I had exactly two opportunities to get at the ball. The first time the ball came at me, I didn’t even see it. It found me, though. It made a direct hit on the pouch I had over my shoulder (with my phone and money inside). The ball broke the strap and sent my bag flying like a jet at takeoff. It also sent the football in a nice pass to my teammate. After the other teachers praised my great play, I scrambled off to reclaim my bag.

A little while later, I got a chance to get the ball again. It was coming at me, slowly. I ran to it and gave it a kick. As I did, I fell. I felt a little like Charlie Brown when he falls every time Lucy pulls the ball away from him. In my situation, though, I did manage to kick it, but down I went. I hit my behind, and continued backwards, the back of my head bouncing twice on the hard ground behind me.

I stood up shaken and wondering if I was hurt. I figured my pride was hurt more than my head, but they took the “When in doubt, sit them out” approach. I was happy to leave the game actually, and spent the rest of the time taking pictures of my teammates and students finishing the game.

I was thankful for no permanent damage to either my phone or my head.

Will I play next year? Of course, I will. I’ll forget by then that I’m too old to play football.

Grade 5 first place beat the teachers.

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Here is my table group from today’s workshop.

My Carrot Cake Memories

Inspired by yesterday’s Slice by Erika Victor, I will write about carrot cake memories today.

It seems like I grew up eating this recipe of carrot cake, but I’m not sure when my mom’s cousin Lorraine first found the recipe. It might have been when I was a teen, possibly somewhere in the 1970’s.

Here is my recipe card that I copied from the family cookbook sometime in the 80’s.

This is the only picture I have of the recipe card. I took a blurry image when I digitized my recipe collection before moving overseas. Oops, should have focused better.

This recipe holds so many memories. Too many to name, but a few include enjoying it with my family as a young person, introducing it to my future husband, and then helping my mom bake it for our wedding cake in 1983. We baked it for our daughters’ first birthday cakes, their baptism celebrations, my husband’s 40th birthday, graduations, and so many more that we have lost track.

When I told my husband about this post, he reminded me of the time we were at a fifth grade track meet with my youngest daughter on his birthday. My oldest daughter stayed home and baked him a surprise carrot cake. It was her first attempt, and although a bit crooked, it was delicious and full of love.

We’ll be making more memories when it comes time for my daughter’s wedding in May. The tentative plan is they will have a variety of cupcakes, and surely this will be one of them.

Over the last 40 years, we’ve made some 21st century adaptations, and we like it just as well. The adapted recipe below with reduced fat and sugar is by no means a healthy cake now, but it’s a little better than it used to be.

I hope you will take either the recipe above or below and adapt it for your purposes, making it even better.

Carrot Cake

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Sift together:

  •         2 cups flour
  •         1 t. baking soda
  •         ½ t. salt
  •         1 ½ t. baking powder
  •         2 t. cinnamon
  •         1 ½ cups sugar

Add and beat well:

  •         1 cup oil
  •         4 eggs

Add and beat again:

  •         3 cups grated raw carrots

Optional, fold in 1 cup walnut pieces

Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 25-30 minutes (convection oven) or maybe 30-40 minutes in a regular oven. Check it at 25 minutes to see if a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream together 250 grams of cream cheese and 50 grams of butter.

Add 1 t. vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Gradually add about 500 grams of powdered sugar and beat until creamy.

Thank you, Erika, for your memories, which sparked my memories.

What recipe holds special memories for you?