Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Birthday Douglas Adams!

Today's Google Doodle was wishing Happy Birthday to Douglas Adams who is best known as the author of  "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy." This book has always been on of my all time favorite books. It is one of the few books that I have read that I will reread. When I first read the book in Jr. High  it taught me that reading is an excellent form of entertainment. I think many readers can tell you about their "first love" of books. Do you know what yours is?

As a parent I am always hoping my kids will  find that one book that turns them into a lifelong reader. For my oldest it came quickly I am going to guess it was Harry Potter in the 3rd grade. I remember worrying that she was too young for some of the later books in series. I asked the librarian at the middle school where I work and she reassured me that she would be fine reading it. She was so right. She read it as a 3rd/4th grader would see things. My youngest is a different story we are still waiting for her to find her "first love".

Ahh but I digress back to the amazing Douglas Adams. How can you not love an author who writes a 5 book trilogy. If you are a fan of  English satire such as Monty Python this is a great read that will have you laughing out loud. I love this book and author so much I named this blog after a line from the book.

What is your "first love" in books? 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Today is our first snow day here in Western Mass since October 30th. It is funny how as a teacher I am just as excited about a snow day as my kids. I really do not want to have too many this year because the October storm created such havoc that we missed several days due to power outages. 

I have spoken and tweeted with several people and it appears we are all making soup today. The perfect snow day food. I rarely get to do much cooking because of my crazy soccer mom schedule and my pathetic time management skills. So I thought I would share the recipe with you . 
Photo by um-um-good

I wanted to do something my husband would enjoy since he does most of the cooking at home. One of his favorites is Pasta Fagioli. I found this one at . It hopefully will taste like the one at "Olive Garden". Now if I could get the recipe for the  Red Rose Pizzeria in Springfield he would be super happy! 

About This Recipe

"This tastes exactly like the pasta e fagioli soup at the Olive Garden. Wonderful! Husband loves it!"


    • 2 lbs ground beef
    • 1 onions, chopped
    • 3 carrots, chopped
    • 4 stalks celery, chopped
    • 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 1 (16 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
    • 1 (16 ounce) cans white kidney beans, drained
    • 3 (10 ounce) cans beef stock
    • 3 teaspoons oregano
    • 2 teaspoons pepper
    • 5 teaspoons parsley
    • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
    • 1 (20 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
    • 8 ounces pasta


  1. Brown beef in a skillet.
  2. Drain fat from beef and add to crock pot with everything except pasta.
  3. Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.
  4. During last 30 min on high or 1 hour on low, add pasta.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My road to Podcamp Western MA

Well I attended my first Podcamp last week and it was awesome. What is a Podcamp?? It is an un-conference about social media and online networking. It is an open and collaborative event with discussions and interaction from attendees. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join. Some sessions will be planned ahead of the event, but plenty of spaces will be open for the topics YOU want to discuss and learn. Tickets are $30 ($10 for students), but all are expected to participate and/or present. You can participate by giving a presentation, demo, or joining into another cooperative event, being on a panel/roundtable, or in other ways helping out on event day.

I heard about Podcamp Western Mass.  Several years ago when I started using Twitter. I had followed a few people with ties to Western Ma. Realizing that by doing so I became much more intune with what was going on in my community. I attended a few WesternMa Tweetups . At first I was very nervous. As a middle school teacher I constantly teach my students not to meet people they talk to online. This seemed to be a bit hypocritical of me to then go and meet all my Twitter friends. I tend to share my technology adventures with my students and refuse to be anything but 100% honest with them. (If you loose a middle schoolers trust they will chew you up and spit you out.) I turned out to be a good teachable moment.

The tweetups were great I was able to put faces to names and meet more people and increase my #westernma following. I was also able to collaborate with others and really learn more about technology which in turn made me a better educator. What was best was I was able to make some new friendships with people I would ordinarily never meet.

That of course led to the Podcamp Western MA 4. Every year in the past has been on the day of my kids swim Championships. Finally this year they did not conflict. To off I went to my first Podcamp. I was actually quite anxious. Thankfully when I arrived my twitter friend @mmpartee met greeted me and his son who is my student said hello and from that point my anxiety went away.

  • I received my first interactive shirt.
  • My cool swag bag.
  • I followed @BusinewsChannel answered a question correct and won a filtered water bottle.
  • Went to a presentation by @ThomasJFox on Social Media Putting it all Together
  • Learned about Pinterest from @LesleyLambert
  • Pod casting was discussed by David Pakman .
  • Monitoring your Online Reputation was very helpful by @massmarketing
  • Improved my Google+ skills from @AlSantaniello
Now because it was an Unconference some of the rules of etiquette are reversed.
  • It is ok to be on your phone, ipad, laptop or other devices.
  • Tweeting, Texting, Facebooking and other social networking tools are strongly encouraged to be used during the presentations.
  • It is OK to switch to another presentation when you want.
  • Discussions, questions, and sharing are welcomed in each presentation.
Because of the openness of the presentations I learned about
So I have been trying to digest all of the amazing things that I learned and trying to figure out where it will best help me in my personal and professional life. Its important to make sure that what you learn is not just a "time suck" as stated at Podcamp. I need to now spend my time figuring how to make the best out of what I learned. That should take me about 365 days until next years Podcamp. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Post Weight Loss Surgery Update

When I last left off I was preparing for weight loss surgery on June 15th. I had a lot to do before hand and all went well.

Two weeks prior to the surgery I had to go on a mostly liquid diet. This was probably the most difficult 2 weeks of my life. I was only allowed 5 shakes a day and 1 serving each of a fruit, veggie, and a starch. I was so hungry for two weeks. It did have some great effects however both physically and mentally. I lost about 5 lbs giving a total of 25 lbs since January. So I knew if I cut the calories I could really lose the weight.

The mental part was that I was miserably hungry for the entire 2 weeks. I had a lot of people tell me that if I could lose it before the surgery why have the surgery. This was very common and quite annoying. No one knows how difficult it was. The level of hunger that I felt for the two weeks showed me more than ever that I want the surgery. I would never be able to maintain that level of food intake and be happy unless I had the surgery.

The day before the surgery I had to drink that citrate of magnesium. Anyone who has had a colonoscopy should know this product. It was not fun but had to be done. No food that day so I am sure a few more lbs fell off.

Finally the surgery day came we arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am. It was too early for me to be nervous. Leading up to the surgery a lot of people asked if I was nervous and I really was not. I felt that I had done all that I was asked to do by the various doctors involved in the whole process. I was able to do it all with little or no problems. If you buy into the entire pre op process (psych eval, nutrition meetings, diet changes, support groups, sleep studies etc.) you should feel ready on the day of your surgery. Everyone was great leading up to the surgery. The anesthesiologists were a bit aggressive. Three different ones introduced themselves to me saying they were going to work with me. It felt a bit like “Gray’s Anatomy” with the doctors fighting for the next case. In the long run I have no idea who actually was my anesthesiologist because they gave me some awesome meds to relax me. Rolling into the ER was like a fun ride at Six Flags.

My surgeon is a Yankee fan which was difficult for me being a diehard Red Sox fan. My kids still do not believe that I would trust a Yankee fan to do my surgery. I did put some Red Sox temp Tattoo’s on my arm and belly to show my allegiance. He did a great job even for a Yankee fan. I was very happy.

Surgery went great I went home the next day and started my new eating regimen. The first week was back to shakes but only a few the first few days then up to four. It was amazing it took about an hour to drink one 11 oz shake and it was hard to have 4 in one day. The second week I was allowed to start pureed food however I had a huge dumb butt moment the day before I was going to start. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up and started eating a bag of “Smart Food”. DUMB FOOD> popcorn is the worst thing to have at that stage in my recovery. I soon realized what I was eating and eventually felt some discomfort. The nurses told me to go back to clear liquids and I had to delay my food for a few more days. Now I am eating some soups and pureed foods and everything is good.

I am back to the surgeon and nutritionist tomorrow and hope to be able to enjoy some new foods over the 4th and perhaps an adult beverage. I am down a total of 35 lbs since January and 10 since my surgery.

To everyone who has helped and supported me I want to say thank you. My friends, family and social networking buddies have been awesome. I could not have gotten this far without you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Finally Got my Surgery Date...

On January 5, 2010 I had my first Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) appointment and was given a list of requirements that I had to follow before my surgery could be scheduled. Some of the requirements were.

  • A psych evaluation which much to my surprise after 2 visits I was cleared. For those that know me this perhaps was a mistake. LOL 
  • Several Nutrition meetings where we set goals for my life after WLS. I will discuss some of these changes later in this post. 
  • Sleep Study- where I had mild sleep apnea which should go away with weight loss. This was an interesting evening. My was in the ER at the same hospital with a heart attack and I was expected to sleep well. Needless to say he is doing much better and I do not have to sleep with a Darth Vadar mask like my spouse.
  • Support group meetings- my insurance requires 3 meetings. I struggled at first to get to them however they are so helpful I plan on continuing throughout the process. Of course I do find a lot of humor in the meetings perhaps that is my nervousness. I crack up every time I go because of the way people sit. A lot of people like to sit at the ends especially fat people so they can have more room. This however causes a problem because if on fat person sits at the end it makes it difficult for other fat people to slide by to get to the inside seats. So every time I enter the room I crack up because the end seats are all taken and no one in the middle.

So it has been six months and my surgery date has been scheduled for June. I have learned a lot throughout this process and really think that I should be able to carry these habits into my post WLS life.

• New reciepes- recently I purchased the book “Eating Well after Weight Loss Surgery” by Patt Levine• New reciepes- recently I purchased the book “Eating Well after Weight

• Hot sauce- I love hot sauce thanks to my niece in Colorado for being such a sriracha freak and getting my hooked. When I put this on the foods that are not particularly yummy or exciting to my palate it makes things bearable.
• Chicken- for those that know me I hated chicken I now realize it is a good source of protein and if cooked correctly is quite yummy.

• Crystal light on the go packets- I hate water so this is a lifesaver. I keep about 6 different flavors in my desk , pocketbook, car, and kitchen. Just toss it in a bottle and voila a tasty refreshing drink.

• Protien shakes- I have tested out many different things and now have a good idea of what will work when I really need them after the WLS.

Well I am down 20 lbs and hope to continue. Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think, suggest, ask a question. LET ME KNOW SOMEONE IS READING THIS!!!

Below are links to some of the items that have worked for me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Letter from an Old Friend

The recent events in South Hadley have really shaken the educators in this town, the parents, and community as a whole. The teachers and administrators that I work with are all dedicated professionals that truly care about the well being of all their students. Is there room for change in South Hadley and school districts throughout this country? YES!! I hope to be part of that change by dedicating myself to MORE extensive cyberbullying curriculum, participating in the Anti - Bullying Task force, and hopefully working a cyberbullying professional development presentation for educators.

I was really affected by the negative attacks from the media, blogs, forums, and social network sites that were attacking the education system where I have worked for the last 10 years. I as well as my colleagues have dedicated our lives to our profession and do it to the best of our ability and to hear what I did really shook me up. I do not believe that the teachers at the high school are any different than any other school in this country. I have done extensive professional development presentations throughout the country and have never found the teachers in South Hadley to have any less professionalism that those from other districts.

I recently received a letter from a student that I had 10 years ago when I was teaching my first class. It came at the most opportune moment in my life. I needed a real kick in the butt to put what I am doing back in perspective. I need to move forward with my teaching keep making changes where they need to be made and never forget that I am here for the students not the Boston Herald, the Springfield Republican, the local news stations, nasty blogs, or the MassLive forums.

Here is the letter I received that has put my career back into perspective after all the events here in South Hadley. I have changed some names so that they do not get targeted by some of the negative people who do not want to see any good in people.

Hey Ms. Manzi!

Okay so the end of the semester is approaching and it’s now time to get on the extra credit band wagon. The basic idea of the assignment is to contact someone that you would like to thank for their support as a mentor in your life and you are most certainly someone that came into mind! I’ll attached the assignment and if you’re cool with it that’s great! So here it goes.

It’s been just about 10 years since I had you for a teacher in the sixth grade and in many ways I remember it just like it was yesterday. I can appreciate looking back at those years now (especially now that I have just seen M go through the same process). It’s a time in your life where you are really defining who you are. When I look back at my friends at the time and the different places life has brought us all I cannot be thankful enough to be where I am today. Although I am still only in college I would like to think I have learned a little about life up until this point. What I have learned is that life is a team effort (we can’t do it on our own!) and it is through the choices we make, our experiences (good and bad), and most importantly the people in our lives that shape the people we are and the people we want to become. When you get ready to go to high school there are many paths you can take but generally there is a good path and a bad path.

I would like to think that I took the good path whether it has been graduating sixth in my class, being a junior in the Isenberg School at Umass, being involved on campus, or just being a good influence on my little sister. Where did this road start for me?...the sixth grade in your class.Up until the sixth grade I did not see myself as a smart person. I had stayed back in kindergarten and just wasn't the fastest student. I also believe at the time the sixth grade was the first year you actually received letter grades. What I learned about myself is that maybe I had to study a little bit longer than the naturally smart kids, but hey I could get the same As they were getting. I also realized that you could be the smartest person in the world but if you were lazy and didn't do the assignments you weren't going to get an A.

It was then that I told myself I would study a little harder and do all my assignments and do them well. I did well in your class and having you as a teacher really helped build my confidence because for the first time I remember having a teacher that believe in me even if I didn't believe in myself. I’m blessed to say that my experience with you as my teacher would not end there. I won the lottery and you became the technology teacher! This also meant I could sneak to the lab during the last 25 minutes of school to just hangout and talk about life. Like so many kids these days my family life was dysfunctional to say the least and to be able to have someone at school that I trusted and could confide is what made the difference for me. I am sure that it is extremely difficult to be a teacher in the South Hadley public school system with everything that is going on right now, but I hope South Hadley (and at this point the rest of the world) knows that it is teachers like you that are true assets to the town and to the students. I could go on and on for days, but in short I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being my teacher, thank you for being my sister’s teacher, thank you for being my mentor, and thank you for being my friend.

Forever grateful,


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is online activity worth the loss of your privacy?

When I decided to write about my WLS experience a lot of people were surprised that I would do it on a public place like a blog. However, when I was researching the whole process I found a lot of very useful information from blogs. I enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations that people have gone through and overcome. I also have found some amazing ideas from many blogs. If you have a blog you want to share please leave your link in the comments section.

One concern that I had was the nasty people in the world that would attack me because they enjoy going on the internet and hurting people. This actually just happened to me with a blog concerning a topic in our schools.

I have really enjoyed being able to communicate with people via the internet and try to keep my online identity as respectful as my offline self. I started out using social networking sites to learn what my students were so interested in now I use them for my own personal enjoyment and education.

I do not friend any students on Facebook. That to me is personal and I do not want to encourage kids to use a site that has an age restriction. Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with so many of my friends from the past and family members. I also have been able to make many professional contacts using this site.

Twitter is another cool site that I have been using. This site has allowed me to follow a lot if different types of people that have similar interests as me. I have found some amazing new educational ideas from my tweets, WLS ideas and questions answered, social contacts made (WMTweetup), and much more. At some point I will open my twitter account to the public but at this point I can not because obnoxious people keep posting it on thier blog.

I started blogging a few years ago because I thought it would be a way to improve my terrible writing skills and share some of my thoughts and ideas. I guess it is not too bad because some of my stuff appears in the Masslive entertainment section and I am getting a few more followers each day to this blog.

I will continue to share my thoughts with people who are interested. I only hope that the people that are using my online identity as a tool for hurting me and where I work understand that what they are doing to me is just another form of bullying. I will not stop any of my activities because of the actions of a few sad individuals.