Last Friday, my 25 little 6th graders shuffled to school in slacks and ties and skirts and ruffles. They climbed into the warm, waiting cars of parent volunteers and we all carpooled to High Point, a city over an hour away. After arriving right on time at the High Point Theater, we settled into our seats in the balcony and waited eagerly for Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim to appear. This 6th grade trip to see A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition designed to introduce students to the Industrial Revolution and the theater -- but it's more than that, as well. It's a chance for us to bond as a class with an inspiring experience right before winter break.
This year, the excitement in the cool air was even more palpable than usual. My students and I knew that in a few short hours, I'd find out whether or not I was one of the three finalists in Project Food Blog, the competition to find the next food blog star. Many of them had signed up to vote, left me sweet comments, and cheered along with me each Friday when I heard good news. This time around, I warned them not to be sad if we found out I wasn't moving on; after all, 75% of the 12 competitors left in Round 9 were about to be eliminated. Regardless, we were anxious to find out the news as soon as we returned from the play.
During the intermission, one of my students -- Charlotte, an effervescent and multitalented 12-year-old -- turned to me with a smile. "Ms. Ruble," she began, "I know this is going to sound weird." I prepared myself for a bizarre observation about the cast of characters in front of us, or perhaps a bit of 6th grade humor -- a beast I'm (for better or worse) quite familiar with. As it turns out, though, Charlotte had something entirely different to say: "I know this is going to sound weird, but I'm so proud of you."
That sounded a lot of things (precious, thoughtful, and characteristic of Charlotte, to name a few), but it didn't sound weird to me at all, and I told her so. In fact, that moment was a gift, wrapped up and handed to me by one of my students to put in my pocket for later. When 3 pm rolled around and I found out that I was not one of the three Project Food Blog finalists, I mentally took out that gift, unwrapped it, and remembered with satisfaction that in every way that mattered, I'd already won the competition. My efforts in Project Food Blog were successful.
- I was successful because I did things I didn't realize I could do. Part of my mission in writing Willow Bird Baking is to tackle challenging new things and to encourage you to do the same -- and Project Food Blog was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
- I was successful because I got to share my journey with my students, some of whom went on a journey of their own at the same time. For the first time ever, I taught a cooking class this past trimester called "Desserts at Home," wherein 8 high school students became food bloggers on our Woodlawn Kitchen Blog, and chefs in both our school kitchen and their own home kitchens!
Two of my Desserts at Home students pose proudly with their creations.
- I was successful because I met other people who care about the things I care about: food, friends, community, innovation.
- I was successful because I had experiences that I'll never forget, and that I wouldn't have had otherwise: my parents' anniversary dinner party, the picnic by the mill, the conversation with lovely Dorothea.
- I was successful because I realized that I am part of a loving community. I was stunned that so many people joined together to support me. Winning Readers' Choice in Round 8 of Project Food Blog was one of my proudest moments.
- Finally, I was successful because every Project Food Blog challenge became a personal exploration for me, and enhanced both my life and my blog.
In short, I just want to say -- to Foodbuzz, to the judges, to my students, to my friends and family, to YOU -- thank you so very much. I will never forget this crazy, magical experience.
Here's a reminder of the places I've been, things I've done, and dishes I've cooked along the way:
P.S. Congratulations to Leisal and Peggy, winners of the Oh! Nuts gift certificates giveaway! Stay tuned for another giveaway within the next few days.