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Backpacks and Brown Bags

Freshly-cut lawns, brand-new sneakers, newly-sharpened pencils. I love these smells. Even the diesel exhaust from the school buses. I could eat it. Mmm…maybe not. But I do love it.

When I think of the start of the new school year, my mind’s nose sniffs.

Anticipation.  Feelings of anticipation that make you so jumpy there’s no need for coffee.

I was bouncing around the house Tuesday as Josh got ready for school. “You’re not even going in today,” he said after I leaped from the bathroom to our bedroom where he was pressing his trousers.  No, I wasn’t going in. I don’t teach Tuesday/Thursdays this semester, but I was pumped. Really pumped.

I love school. I always have. I was probably one of the most enthusiastic school-goers of all time. I was the darling child who would scrape gum off of the bottoms of the desks if the teacher asked me to. I went in early to clap erasers and take down chairs. I stayed late to grade papers (shhhh!) and take down old bulletin boards.  I’m sure I was hideously annoying to my peers, but nothing could cool my passion for school.

Maybe that’s why I teach now. Maybe that’s why I made my two-year-old play kindergarten with me to ring in the new year.

It lasted for 15 minutes. And for the last 10 she was the teacher. How did that happen? “Now, I want you to write E,” she would tell me over and over again. Once, I tried to play along but she snatched the paper from me. Unacceptable work. I guess I need to practice my letters.

I had my dress and shoes ready to go. I had my briefcase with my folders and syllabi. I still needed to test my dry erase markers. I never seem to get around to that. Fortunately, my students are always gracious.

To beat the jitters, I made granola. I make granola once a week, so it’s become a rather soothing ritual. And this granola is the best I’ve had and the most versatile (eat it by the handful, sprinkle it onto cooked oatmeal, add it to your cereal, yogurt, ice cream or applesauce).

Maple Nut Granola

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup dried, shredded coconut

1 cup nuts (Chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, and quartered pecans are best.)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (go ahead and use the other sort if that’s what you have.)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses (Optional, but highly recommended.)

1/4 cup pepitas (optional.)

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon cloves

Dash of pure vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 300*. In a large bowl, mix the oats, coconut, nuts, syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla. Pour the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

If you’d like dried fruit in your granola, feel free to add 1/2 cup of it to the mix after the oats are crisp and golden and bake the granola for 10 more minutes.


2 responses »

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