Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Grant Writing

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National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes for Teachers

Last year, I applied for and was accepted to participate in an NEH Summer Institute for Teachers.  This grant was to visit Oaxaca for four weeks to participate in an Institute on Mesoamerican Culture and the National Endowment for the Humanities paid $3300 towards the trip. That money covered the apartment rental, air fare, meals and various other expenses.  I had some money left over to buy some art and books – and I may have had some left over to pay for expenses for some of my family to visit…

I have spent some time trying to get the word out about the NEH seminars and institutes that are available this year.  I have encouraged my colleagues to apply.  There are two seminars that are going to be in France – one in Avignon and another in Paris, Lyon, and Normandy.  There appear to be many offerings for Spanish Speakers, with destinations such as Spain, Mexico, and New York City. Many of the seminars and institutes are in the United States, but there are others (besides the ones I mentioned) that will take you to Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Austria.

These seminars are open to teachers from K thru 12th grade.  All subjects are welcome – don’t assume that a trip to Mexico, for instance, is just for Spanish teachers.  In our Institute, which took place in Oaxaca, there were art teachers, Spanish teachers, social studies teachers, and even a media specialist and a science teacher.  Read the Dear Colleague letter and think to yourself about what you can bring to the table.  There is a new part of the program where graduate students may also apply (up to 3 positions can be filled with graduate student applicants).

In order to apply for a grant, you need to register online with the NEH.  An applicant can apply for up to two different seminars or programs, but can only attend one of the choices (if the applicant is offered a spot on both!).  Then, the application process is spelled out on the web pages of each of the participating universities.  Basically, it involves writing a 4 page essay on why you want/need/have to participate in that particular seminar.  I encourage you to have some concrete ideas or lesson plans or units that you envision completing during the seminar.  You will need to procure 2 to 3 sealed letters of reference from colleagues or administrators, and write up a curriculum vitae as well.

If you are planning on taking family or your spouse with you, I suggest that you contact the director of that program.  When I went to Oaxaca, my husband was able to accompany me there.  He could not participate in any of the classes or field trips, but he did go to the opening and closing receptions.  He also did all of the shopping and errands – it was good for his Spanish, I think.

The application deadline for an NEH Summer Seminar is March 1, 2011.  The application envelope has to be postmarked before March 1st.  I recommend that you use a delivery confirmation or something that will let you know it got to its destination.  I had a really great Director who was patient when I kept e-mailing to ask if my application had arrived (even though I had used delivery confirmation, there was a snafu in even THAT process!)  The participants are notified, I think, in April, and have a limited amount of time to accept or refuse the grant so that alternates can take their places.

Fund for Teachers Travel Grants

Four years ago, I was awarded $5000 from the Fund for Teachers to study Spanish in Morelia, Michoacan (Mexico) and to collect art and arts integration ideas from the region.  The grant was for five weeks and included air fare, apartment rental, one-on-one language classes and trips to Patzcuaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Puebla.  I also had money left over from my budget to buy art pieces to exhibit at my school.

Unfortunately for most teachers who live in Georgia, there are not many school systems that are eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants.  The organization is out of Houston, Texas and the year that I applied was the one and only year that Marietta City Schools employees were eligible to apply.  I believe that there must be some sort of auxiliary present in the system – a group of wealthy people, I mean – to raise part of the funds for their teachers.  That’s just a guess.  I think I’m right:  here is a page for Partners who provide funding.  But some Partners cover a lot of states.  You need to go to the Apply page and see if your school system is eligible.

When it comes to the application process, the Fund for Teachers Program is really the most user-friendly of the two.  The entire application is done online.  That means, of course, that you need to read over the instructions carefully and come up with your itinerary, project, and projected budget before you go online “live”.  There are all sorts of helpful resources – examples of successful essays, budget tips – really everything you need to get the process done right.  The added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about postmarking and mailing the application – and then worrying about when it gets there. I think that I remember that correctly, but it may have been necessary to apply online AND send in a written application.  Check the website.

Now, when you are awarded your trip, you are expected to keep up with all of your receipts and expenses, and make a detailed financial report when you return.  You are given a couple of months to gather your report materials, and to write an essay or make a scrapbook or do SOMETHING to record your experience.

One more note on the Fund for Teachers application process.  A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in choosing the candidates for the Atlanta Program.  I believe that I received 3 to 4 applications ahead of time to read and evaluate. It was a lot of fun – we gathered at a nice restaurant and sat at round tables (about 7 to 8 to a table, I think).  After a presentation of the program and past participants, the people at my table got up and presented the application (or applications) that we thought merited a grant.  When we were done, we had ranked the applications in order of importance.  Then, the emcee went around to each table and chose grant recipients until there was no more grant money left!

It was amazing how passionate and defensive some of us got about our “pet” applicants.  We were truly disappointed when our pets did not make it.  On the other hand, it seemed easy to see those applicants who mixed up the name of the organization.  It’s not FUN for Teachers – although it can be.  I’m just saying that your application really does have to have some evidence that you will be sharing your experience with your students and colleagues.  Keep that in mind before you ask for that trip to Vegas to study “math”.

The application deadline for a Fund for Teachers Grant is January 28, 2011 @ 5:00 PM.  After that, the computer application center closes.  I know that’s short notice for this year, but, if your school system is eligible, consider it for next year.

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Smoky Margarita Syrup

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I ran out of my last batch of smoky tea syrup and did not take notes when I made it.  So, today, I’m making some more.  I made regular margaritas yesterday and found them less tasty (okay, sweet.) than my new regular.

So, I have all of the ingredients handy, and I did write my measurements down:

First, start with the chile water:

Put the three chile peppers in a pan with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and let the chile peppers “steep” for a whle – you may smush the chile peppers with a wooden spoon if you like.

Strain the chiles into a receptacle to catch the chile water.  You may save the chiles for another use. Check the measurements and add more water if necessary to bring the amount to 3 cups again.

Next, use the chile water to steep your tea:

Return the chile water to the pot and bring to a light boil again.  Place tea bags in pot and steep for a while.

Add:

  • 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Penzey’s smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. Penzey’s ground red chipotle
  • a dash of cinnamon (okay, that may not be necessary)

Strain the mixture one more time and add the following while the water is still hot:

  • 2 cups sugar (1 cup white and 1 cup brown) – I ran out of white sugar.

I strained it one last time, adding a paper towel to my strainer to sift out most of the grains of spice.

Transfer to a glass or plastic bottle or container and keep in the refrigerator. Keeps in the refrigerator for over a month.

It looks sort of like this...Here is the first try-out:

Pour the ingredients (except the lime wedge) over ice into a cocktail shaker.  Shake well, then pour into a glass with crushed or chipped ice cubes.  Garnish with lime wedge.

Now, ordinarily, this is also supposed to include Mezcal, but I didn’t buy any this time.  I have to say that this is pretty good – I could taste the chipotle only in the concentrated syrup.  I didn’t think that the drink itself was spicy in a bad way.

Pay de Pastor (Mexican Shepherd’s Pie)

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I am stuck at home on the fourth snow day of 2011 in Georgia.  A record, at least, in my lifetime…  Lucky for me, I have a well-stocked kitchen.  So, I have been cooking quite a bit.  Here is a recipe I whipped up last night.  Now, I know that some sticklers are going to get me for calling this a Shepherd’s Pie (Pay is Spanglish and pronounced “pie” BTW) because it uses turkey (and a little bit of beef because I thought it needed more meat), but that’s okay.

One caveat:  This is my best attempt to write down what I did to make the casserole last night.  I did not measure all of the spice ingredients, so you can monkey with that at will.  Also, you may make any meat, veggie, or cheese substitute you want!  I used the Old El Paso enchilada sauce because it is gluten-free (many enchilada sauces are NOT).

Pay de Pastor: Mexican Shepherd’s Pie with Sour Cream and Green Chile Mashed Potato Topping

Vegetable Filling:

1 onion
2 shallots
4 celery stalks
1 orange or yellow bell pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Fire-Roasted Corn
2 cubes Dorot Chopped Garlic Cubes
3 – 4 cubes Dorot Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop onion, shallots, celery, bell pepper, and carrots to small dice. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stove. Put all of the vegetables in the pan and add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin.  Saute until vegetables are soft, then add roasted corn. Blend corn with vegetables until defrosted.  Put the vegetables aside in a bowl and wipe out pan.

Meat Filling:

1 pkg. ground turkey (19.2 oz.)
1 angus burger patty (5.3 oz.)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Put the ground turkey and beef patty together in a bowl and mix the meat together. Heat the oil in the large skillet and saute the meat until lightly brown.  Pour the contents of the skillet through a strainer and return to the pan.

Gravy:

1 pasilla chile
1 guajillo chile
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can Old El Paso mild enchilada sauce
1/4 – 1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. Don Julio Cumin/Pepper blend
1 tsp. Penzey’s Ground Red Chipotle Chile Pepper
1 tsp. Penzey’s Smoked Spanish paprika
2 – 3 cubes Dorot Chopped Cilantro
2 cubes Dorot Chopped Garlic

Soak the chile peppers in a bowl until soft.  Discard the stem, seeds, and veins of the chiles and slice into smaller pieces.  Place the chiles in a blender with the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and some chicken broth and puree ingredients. Pour contents of blender over the meat in the skillet (use some more chicken broth to get the rest of the sauce out if necessary).

Mix the sauce and the meat and add spices as needed.  I added Don Julio cumin/pepper powder, chipotle powder, and smoked paprika.  I also added the enchilada sauce as an afterthought, but it could be added to the blender gravy if desired.

Add the vegetables to the meat mixture in the skillet or in a large bowl and mix them together.  Spread mixture in an 11 by 17 lasagna pan or clear baking dish.  Set aside while you are making the mashed potato topping.

Mashed Potato Topping:

3 large baking potatoes, peeled
1/3 cup light Sour Cream
1 small can chopped green chiles
1 7 oz. package Kraft 2% fat shredded Mexican Cheese blend

Chop the potatoes into approximately equal chunks – about 1 to 1 1/2 inches.  Put cut potatoes into a pot and cover with water.  Allow the water to come to a boil, then cook potatoes until they are able to be broken apart by a fork.

Strain the water out and return the potatoes to the pot.  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes part-way.  Then, add sour cream and can of green chiles and mash until smooth.  Add half the package of shredded cheese to the potatoes and blend the mixture.

Spread the mashed potato mixture on top of the meat and vegetable mixture.  Place in a pre-heated oven (about 375 degrees), and bake for about 30 minutes.  Take the pan out and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of the casserole.  Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly an casserole is heated through.

Remove from oven and allow the casserole to settle before slicing.  Serve with additional sour cream and salsa.