Archive for October, 2010


October 19, 2010

Today one of my 9th grade students came up to me in the middle of class and said, “I just wanted to say thank you, Ms. Richardson. I know a lot of times students complain about how much work we have and forget how lucky we are. Thank you for creating exciting lessons, reading my work, and giving me great feedback! I really, really appreciate it….And, um, yeah!”

I’m still smiling.

brownies with white chocolate chips

October 11, 2010

In this recipe, the brownies aren’t too cake-like, but they aren’t totally fudge-like either. I adapted it from this recipe. This makes an 8″ square pan. If you want to make a 9×13″ pan, double the recipe.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 bag white chocolate chips


>>Preheat oven to 350

>>Grease an 8″ square pan

1) Melt the butter.

2) In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

3) Add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips.

5) Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Plum tart

October 11, 2010

This is my dad’s famous recipe! It is so easy and quick to make, but delicious–sweet and tart at the same time.



  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Water (~1-2 teaspoons, if needed)


  • ~20 Prune plums (these are available in the fall)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar


>>Preheat oven to 375

1) In a food processor, mix the ingredients for the crust (butter, flour and sugar). If the crust isn’t holding together well, you can add water. Add at most one teaspoon at a time–it will quickly become too sticky!

2) Take the dough for the crust and press it into a greased tart pan.

3) Cut the prune plums in half. There is a line on the prune plum; if you cut along the line, it will be easy to split them and take out the pits.

4) Arrange the prune plums on the crust. I start along the outer edge, slightly overlapping each plum with the one before it.

5) Sprinkle a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar on top of the tart. My dad uses a 1/2 cup I used a 1/4 cup. It depends on how sweet you want it! It will seem like a lot of sugar, but the plums will absorb it as it cooks.

6) Cook the plum tart for the better part of an hour, around 50 minutes, or until the crust is lightly brown and the plums are hot and juicy.

7) Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

science fiction & dissent — Harrison Bergeron & Brave New World

October 5, 2010

This fall I’m teaching an elective English course to juniors and seniors called Science Fiction & Dissent. While there are so many things I could write about related to the course, there have been two activities so far where students have produced work that is too witty, fun, clever, and insightful not to share.

The first short story we read in the course was Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. In an effort to make everyone equally, the government issues handicaps to people who are gifted at something. Beautiful people wear clown noses; dancers have weights attached to their arms and legs; intelligent people have an earpiece that blasts loud music every so often so they can’t think clearly. After reading the story, students got into small groups to discuss the story and answer a set of response questions. I assigned each student a “handicap.” This ranged from having to loudly state “I love English!” every 60 seconds to having to read out loud with lots of passion and inflection. Two of my favorite “handicaps” were having to rhyme every answer and having to use alliteration. It was very difficult for students to work together in groups! The purpose of the activity was to get students to think about whether equality and sameness are the same thing, and to think more critically about the consequences of the handicaps in the story. It was so much fun!

A and M (A wrote rhyming answers and M used alliteration) gave me permission to post some of their responses online.

1) In “Harrison Bergeron” certain people are “handicapped,” and they have to carry around heavy weights and have loud noises blasted into their ears. Why do you think the government does this?

A: The government does this so everyone will have equal bliss. No one’s better than anyone else, nobody will ever get jealous. (Slur the last word.)

M: The great government gave these grave and grueling handicaps so everyone, everywhere would be equally endowed with “ehhh” talents.

3) Why was the killing of Harrison Bergeron so significant? Did Harrison have to die for the sake of society?

A: He had to die for people like me, so people like me can be set free, so I can be unique in society.

M: Harrison’s death distracted his dumb dad (and mom) from the dire disaster Diana [Moon Gompers] dealt to society. His woeful wound wound up working for the woman (Diana)  as the masses moved past their momentary monarchy led by Harrison.

4) At the end of the story, George says to Hazel, “Forget sad things.” To which she replies, “I always do.” Why is this dialogue, or conversation, so important to the story?

A: It shows how everyone there is a drone and nobody can act or think on their own. They’re all clones just as smart as stones, all full of bologn…a. (Balone…E).

M: Dad’s dumb, mom’s a moron. The dialogue’s significance is sullied by the spouses’ stupidity.

5) Do you feel that Harrison Bergeron acted heroically by going against the rules of the society? Why or why not?

A: He made the path for future generations, so great art and culture can come from each nation.

M: Harrison’s a hero for healing his hurt homeland hindered by the harmful, heinous government. He was heroic for acting against the angry abomination, aka the government.

(Don’t worry, we also had a more serious discussion about the story and these questions. Especially since at least one student had the handicap, “You think and write like a third grader.” Her answers were soooo funny too!)


The second activity I wanted to post on here is an assignment I had students do right after we finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I had each student create a Top 10 list about the book, in the style of David Letterman. They could pick any topic for their list. The examples I gave were the Top 10 Most Unconvincing Plot Twists and… (I can’t think of the second example I gave.)

Students’ lists included: Top 10 Stupidest Lines, Top 10 Realistic Brave New World Concepts, Top 10 Reasons Why Bernard had Alcohol in his Surrogate, Top 10 Sexiest Moments, etc. I think that my favorite, however, was Top 10 Worst Similes in Brave New World.

These top 10 lists were hilarious–we laughed so much–and are great because you could apply them to any novel your class reads!

apple peanut butter chip coffee cake

October 3, 2010

We have a lot of apples from apple picking, but I was looking to make something other than apple crisp. I based this cake off of this recipe, but made a number of changes. The original recipe calls these “brownies,” but it’s much more like a coffee cake.


  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 medium apples (maybe slightly less)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (this comes out really strong! if you’re not a huge fan of cinnamon, you could reduce)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 12oz bag of peanut butter chips (you could substitute walnuts)


>>Preheat oven to 350

>>Grease a 9×13″ pan

1) Peel the apples. Cut the apples into small chunks. My pieces were about 1/2″x1/2″, but I don’t think it’s too important.

2) Beat together the melted butter, egg, and sugar.

3) Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until smooth.

4) Stir in the peanut butter chips and the apples.

5) Spread batter evenly over the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes.

Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

vegetarian shepherd’s pie

October 3, 2010

Adapted from both Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics and this recipe.


  • ~2lbs potatoes or 5 medium potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons or so of butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into small slices
  • ~6 cups of mixed vegetables, chopped into small pieces (I used carrots, green peppers, zucchini, peas, and corn)
  • 2 15oz cans of lentils
  • 1 16oz can of vegetable broth
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Dried basil (or whatever herbs you want) to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Bread crumbs (optional)


>>Preheat oven to 350

1) Boil the potatoes in the skins until soft. Drain, then peel and mash the potatoes. You can make them however you normally make mashed potatoes. I put mine in the food processor with 1/4 cup of milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Be careful not to over mash, or they get very, very sticky. I added some dried basil to my potatoes.

2) Place the 6 cups of vegetables, plus the onion, into a large pot. Add the 1/4 cup of oil (you might not need that much) until they are well-coated. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until they are soft.

3) Stir in the lentils, then add the vegetable stock. Add whatever spices/herbs you want to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes.

4) Pour the contents of the pot (veggies, lentils, stock) into a 9×13 glass baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. If you want, you can sprinkle bread crumbs on top.

5) Bake for approximately 30 minutes.