Top Ten Reasons Working With Teachers Is a Delight

After spending a day working with educators, coming up with 10 delightful things about working with them was easy.This past Saturday, I spent the day with 14 educators. They were there to complete the first half of a teacher’s licensure recertification class. I was there as their teacher. Here are the top 10 reasons I’m looking forward to working with those 14 teachers again this coming Saturday for the second half of the class.

10.  Teachers are very prompt. They were on time or early with the exception of 1 class member who got lost on the way.

9.  Teachers practice self-control. They have no trouble keeping their hands and feet to themselves.

8.  Teachers are generous. When the dollar their instructor tries to use in the vending machine won’t work because it was taped together, they give you quarters to use instead.

7.  Teachers are inclusive. They will actually invite the instructor to join them for lunch. And one of them may offer to drive so you can have a break.

6.  Teachers are conscientious. They willingly use their expertise to do extra research for the good of the larger group. When you email to say they’re are excused from their homework because of the extra work they did, they email back to say they already completed the homework.

5.  They are readers. When you assign them a few pages, they read the entire chapter.

4.  They take lots of notes about what they read. Reams of notes. But that’s not all.

3.  Teachers also ask good questions. Some of their questions are based on what they read or what they wrote in their notes. And some based on what you say because…

2.  Teachers love to learn. About all sorts of things. But they are extra-passionate about learning that enables them to work more effectively with children because…

1.  Teachers care about their students. They really do. And they are willing to do more than you can imagine to help their children learn and make them feel safe at school.

Do you work with teachers? What would you add to this list?


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Walking under a harvest moon, why I'm a nervous Nellie, and the breakthrough toddler toy of the century in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. When your day begins with a sunrise walk under a harvest moon so bright it makes a dusty gravel road into a shimmering silver pathway, you know it will be a very good day indeed.
  2. For the next two Saturdays I’ll be teaching teachers. Teachers who know their stuff. And their stuff is teaching. I am extremely nervous. Prayers appreciated!
  3. My grandson has spent many hours during the past week trying to place clothespins on the rim of a cardboard box. I’ve spent many hours during the past week trying to come up with a way to disguise clothespins and cardboard boxes, market them as the breakthrough toddler toy of the century, and get them on the shelves before Christmas. Can you guess which one of us has been more successful?


No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe replaces butter or shortening with oil to make the most delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies ever.Along our gravel road, cookies are considered an art form. Within that art form, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies sit at its summit. I thought I had scaled that particular peak with a wonderful dairy-free recipe that uses “futter,” Gravel Road’s affectionate term for all non-dairy shortenings. However, my daughter found a no shortening recipe from the Half-Baked Harvest website. The daughter’s version cuts the sugar and chocolate chips by half and uses dairy-free chocolate chips (this time from Trader Joe’s) so it is really, truly a non-dairy delight.

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Put eggs, sugar, oats, flour, soda, salt, canola oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix them well by hand. Mixture will be crumbly. If it is too dry, add a few tablespoons of rice milk, cashew milk, or some other milk substitute. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Use your hands to make balls of dough and place them on heated baking stones. Press the balls down with your hand. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let them sit on the baking stone a few moments before removing them from the baking stone.



Young Frankenstein Top Ten Quotes

The Gravel Road Gene Wilder retrospective wraps up the memories with a tidy bow made of 10 favorite Young Frankenstein quotes.Gravel Road’s Gene Wilder memorial screening of Young Frankenstein was a great success this weekend. The movie was as funny in 2016 as it was in 1974, thanks to these top ten quotes, at least in my humble opinion.

10. Inspector Kemp: Need a hand?
Dr. Frankenstein: No, I have one. Thanks.

9.  Inga: Dear, what is it exactly that you do do?

8.  Dr. Frankenstein: Yes, I did read something of that incident when I was a student, but you have to remember that a worm… with very few exceptions… is not a human being.

7.  Dr. Frankenstein: Perhaps I can help you with that hump?
Igor: What hump?

6.  Almost Everyone in the Cast at Some Time in the Movie: …Frau Blucher.
Horses: Neigh

5.  Igor: Wait, Master, it may be dangerous…you go first.

4.  Dr. Frankenstein: What knockers!
Inga: Thank you, Doctor.

3.  Igor: Walk this way.

2.  Elizabeth and Inga: (when in the throes of passion) Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!

1.  Igor: It could be worse.
Dr. Frankenstein: How?
Igor: It could be raining. (Insert downpour here.)

What’s your favorite Young Frankenstein quote? Leave a comment.



Three Thoughts for Thursday

Gravel Road showcases triple Iowa nice in this week's 3 thoughts.


  1. On our last really rainy day, it started to pour. I was stranded in the grocery store. Until the man in line behind me opened his stadium umbrella and walked with me to my car. How’s that for Iowa nice?
  2. A few hours later, the hostess at Applebee’s stuck her head out the door as my small umbrella failed to protect Mom, her walker, and I on our way to the restaurant entrance. “I’ll bring a bigger umbrella,” she said. By then, we had reached the door, but we appreciated her offer. More Iowa nice.
  3. When I arrived at home that evening, our mail delivery person had sealed our mail and a large package in a large plastic bag and placed it on the stoop beside the kitchen door. Iowa nice. That’s how we roll around here.

What’s nice about where you live? Leave a comment.


Chicken Salad

The surprise ingredient in this chicken salad adds a delicious crunch to this lunchtime favorite.Sharing the kitchen with my daughter and her family has many advantages. One of the greatest advantages is that I am in charge of only half the meals. Another is the opportunity to learn new recipes from the cook who’s in charge of the other half of the meals. Here’s her take on chicken salad. I never would have guessed how much cauliflower can add to this simple dish.

Anne’s Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 large pickle spears, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Saute cauliflower in olive oil until some pieces begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Combine chicken, onion, celery, pickles, and cauliflower in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving with your favorite bread or on a bed of lettuce.


Notebook Neurosis

Writers have their quirks, and Anne Fleck is here to confess hers...and reveal a few of her mother's, too.Today’s post comes from a fellow resident of our dusty gravel road. It’s a pleasure to turn the keyboard over to Anne Fleck who happens to be my daughter. Once you read what she has to say, you may see a family resemblance. And you’ll understand the significance of the yellow legal pad graphic, too.

Notebook Neurosis

I don’t usually think of myself as a neurotic writer. Disorganized, eccentric, prone to edit my work until the second coming of Christ, yes, but neurotic? Definitely not. I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and it was like reading a field guide to a foreign country: informative, but hardly familiar. When I sit down to write, there are not voices to ignore, no thoughts about success or failure or other people’s opinions. Just me, my pen, the page and the call of adventure.

The page is the fly in the ointment. When it comes to the physical paper I write on I am cagier than a zoo. I’m not alone. I seem to remember there being something about it in Bird by Bird. I’m not really that sure, I read it a while ago. In my own life my mother also displays a paper-related psychosis. She will only write her books on a yellow legal pad.

Clearly she’s a sick, sick woman. The very thought of it makes me shudder. That terrible yellow burning its way into my eyeballs, the red line a knife in the consciousness. The subtle horror of the lines–are they grey or blue? Blue–printed on yellow–looking grey? Or green? Let’s not even start on flipping the page up instead of over.

If there were nothing but yellow legal pads in the world I would write my novels on napkins and bed sheets before succumbing to their canary-colored tyranny. The correct thing to write on is a spiral bound, five subject notebook with a blue cardboard cover.

To read the rest of this article visit Anne’s blog,


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Happy trees; green-eyed, man-stealing women; and Gene Wilder retrospectives in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Good news for those who haven’t mastered the art of painting happy trees. The entire Bob Ross PBS series is now available on Netflix.
  2. In my entire life, I have never purchased a Dolly Parton 45, LP, 8 track tape, cassette tape, CD, or iTunes download. And yet, ads about her new Pure & Simple album keep appearing in my Facebook news feed. So I have concluded that part of her marketing team’s strategy is to target every green-eyed Jolene who uses social media.
  3. Was anyone else surprised to learn that the forever young Gene Wilder was 83 when he died last month? We’re keeping his memory alive at our house by scheduling a Young Frankenstein retrospective viewing in the near future.

What’s your favorite Gene Wilder movie? Leave a comment.

Top Ten Reasons to Take a Walk in September

The Man of Steel and I went a little wild and crazy celebrating Labor Day, 2016. Not only did we visit the health food store and then order our favorite drinks at our favorite coffee shop, but we also took an early morning walk the High Trestle Trail. Here are 10 reasons for central Iowans to consider a September walk on the trail. For those of you who live far, far from the most beautiful spot in the world, many of the reasons apply to a walk in the woods anywhere.

10.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Walkers who have horse phobias have no reason to be paranoid on the High Trestle Bridge.

9.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.This is a proper Iowa trail paved with smooth cement, and benches are strategically placed along the way for those who need to rest now and then.

8.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Signs along the way let you know how many of the optimum-for-health daily 10,000 steps you have walked.

7.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Wildflowers along the way will put you in a good mood.

6.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Someone created the coolest bike racks ever along the path, too.

5.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Fall colors are beginning to peek through with the enticing promise of spectacular autumn foliage.

4.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.If you stay alert, you might see late summer fawns with their mommies.

3.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The sumac, oh, the sumac.

2.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The view of the Des Moines River from the bridge is breathtaking.

1.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The High Trestle Bridge is a beautiful work of art.

Where do you like to walk in the fall? Leave a comment.