Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sugar Detox

It's been over a year since my last blog post. Coincidentally, my youngest is just over a year old. Hmm…

But this is a story worth telling. I could make it really long and philosophical, but I'm going to attempt to cut to the chase.

Why I chose to do a sugar detox

I have been unhappy with my weight and health for many years, but especially since finishing grad school. I have done Weight Watchers to great success, but do best on it when I have the group support system which (for reasons I won't go into here) aren't really open to me right now.

I think in the last 10-15 years I've developed a lot of bad habits that many of us share. A cup of coffee in the morning, another at work, Diet Coke at lunch, maybe another, then another… Caffeine ruled my life.

I'm sad. I need a snack.

I'm happy. What's to eat?

Let's celebrate! Where should we eat?

Anyone want to get together? I'll bring food.

I'm stressed. Where's the junk food?

Emotional eating doesn't even begin to describe it. Every event or daily up and down was met with food. I think everyone does that to a certain degree, but I am the worst!

One unfortunate bad habit I picked up while counting points was just looking at the nutritional information. As I've discovered, the ingredient list is MUCH more important than the numbers. This was sabotaging my health as well.

I had heard of this sugar detox on the Rachael Ray Show several months ago and was intrigued, but not nearly motivated enough to take it on. It sounded awful actually.

Then about a month ago I saw Katie Couric promoting her new documentary Fed Up and there it was again. This time I was ready to attempt it.

I bought the book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body's Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast for Kindle for just $10 (hardback or paperback is about $16 on Amazon). By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. 

The basic premise of the book is that research shows that sugar is more addicting than heroin. The food industry picked up on that and has added sugar in its many forms (sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners etc.) for many years. They know it's addictive and continue to do it. It discusses in length the research, regulation attempts, and lobbying that is involved. Really fascinating back story.

Then he discusses what sugar does to your body. Not just your weight, but metabolism, blood sugar, kidney and liver function, etc. I can summarize it by saying it's not pretty.

That's what convinced me to do it. After all, what was I hurting and I was only out $10 for the book, right?

I will say there is another upfront cost for recommended supplements. He conveniently sells them on his website as a package, but I found them a whole lot cheaper at Target or Walgreens. My brother, who was skeptical of the whole thing, balked at the supplements, but when I told him what they were he not only backed off but also said he was taking several. They're either for general healthy (multivitamin, fish oil) or have metabolism and blood sugar balancing properties. Remembering to take the supplements has been a pain, but I actually think I will probably continue using most if not all of them.

To prepare, you have to wean yourself off caffeine and alcohol. That convinced me that I should wait until the school year was over to try this. I stopped caffeine on Tuesday, May 27 and haven't had any since. That in itself I wouldn't have thought possible. I went without caffeine cold turkey during my pregnancies but I was pretty motivated for that. I've also gone without alcohol since then, but I'm mostly a social drinker so that hasn't been a big deal. I also haven't been at a social gathering that involved alcohol though, so we'll see how that pans out.

Del Monte stewed tomatoes
The next step was cleaning out my pantry and going grocery shopping. I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping processed foods to a minimum. After cleaning out my pantry, I'd give myself a C+. Pretty much all my pasta was highly processed, the tomatoes and tomato sauces all had added sugar, and most of it had to go. 

Then I went shopping for the approved foods. Here's my disclaimer. The book recommends following everything to a T, including doing the exact recipes. Um, I'm not a very good rule follower. I basically used his ingredients but made my own things. I'd say I still achieved the end goal, so I'm okay with that. Here's what you can eat:

  • lean protein (chicken and fish)
  • raw nuts
  • non-starchy veggies
  • limited berries (1/2-1 cup in the a.m.)
  • avacado (my lifesaver)
  • flax seed (I ground it in my coffee grinder)
  • healthy oils (olive, coconut)
  • herbs and other seasonings
Yeah, that's pretty much it. Here's what you must cut out:
  • all processed foods
  • starches, including beans
  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • sweeteners, including natural (like honey or agave nectar)
I can tell you're upset at me. But it's only ten days, remember?

Grocery shopping. I'm a once-a-week shopper, sometimes even every other week if I can just run in and get milk. I found myself going to the store every three days. Why? Because I was buying fresh food. Of course you have to get it more often!

The basic meal plan is breakfast: smoothie, lunch: salad or soup (too hot for soup), dinner: protein and veggies.

I had this great plan to buy the Tyson grilled chicken strips for my salads because that would be easier. Luckily, I flipped over the package and low and behold… added sugar. I wish I was taken a picture of it because I'm sure you don't believe me. I'm talking the green package. The one that's advertised on TV as "all natural ingredients." Sugar may be natural, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't come naturally in chickens. I may have been skeptical about the "added sugar conspiracy" but now I was thinking maybe there really is something to this.

I haven't really gotten the grocery shopping figured out yet because I've just been trying to get through the ten days, but I know I have to find cost-cutting ways to do this. Luckily we have an Aldi's nearby which can sometimes have good produce. We also have a Dollar General grocery which I've never been in but heard the same. Being summer, I'm also excited about our farmer's market but unfortunately, they're not cheap. Last Saturday I got a dozen eggs for $4.50 and a honey bear for $5.00. Good stuff, but not cheap.

That's all the pragmatic stuff. Here's a quick rundown of how the days went.

Day 1-4:
Exercise. Whew, that was rough. 
Breakfast. Blech, that's pretty bland.
Lunch. Okay, not too different than I normally eat. Olive oil and vinegar makes a tasty dressing.
Dinner. Okay fam, please eat what I made.

Feeling like these days will never end, but I made it. Then day 5 came.


Days 5-7 were bad. I was cranky. I wanted to give up. I was tired of everything. I didn't think I would make it. 

So I cheated. I had a half pint of blueberries for a snack one day instead of the prescribed "crudités" (that's celery sticks for those of you who don't speak yuppie). I put two tablespoons of cheddar cheese on my salad. 

And it wasn't so bad. I didn't want to give up because I didn't want to start over. And I kept telling myself, this is not a long-term thing. It's not a DIET, it's a DETOX. I can do anything for ten days. That became my mantra.

Then day 8.

I made my typical morning smoothie: frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup almond milk, tablespoon flax seed, coconut oil, almond butter, cinnamon, ice, water. 

It was sweet. I thought that was weird. Must've done something differently.

Day 9. 

Same smoothie. Still sweet. Weird.

Day 10. 

Same smoothie. Sweet again. OOOOH, I get it now (I'm a little slow). I had become so desensitized to sugar that fruit didn't taste sweet to me. At dinner I ate half a peach and it tasted tart, like a lemon. 

I went out at lunch today to Zoe's Kitchen, my favorite greek place. Got my usual, their greek salad with grilled chicken, which is served with warm potato salad. I asked them to hold the potato salad. The only thing on the salad that was technically off limits was the feta, but I was NOT going to give that up.  Nope. Their salad dressing comes in a bottle on the table which thankfully had the ingredients on it- olive oil, red wine vinegar, seasoning. Good. 

And this is the biggest difference I've noticed (and my husband as well). In the past I would've eaten that whole salad, including the potatoes. Even without the potatoes, I only ate 3/4. And I was plenty full. The book promised doing this would reset your brain so that those signals that are supposed to tell you that you're full would work again. And it really was like a switch flipped. I'm that person that has to clean my plate. It's how I was raised. I will eat until I'm miserable because my plate must be clean. And then I'm allowed dessert. Now, even when I'm filling my plate I put less on it because my brain is more accurately predicting how hungry I am. I can't even describe it. I'm sure normal people do this anyway, but I told you, I had major food issues. I feel fixed. I don't need to nap in the afternoon. I'm still getting up school-year early, but staying up later. And I don't feel tired.

While out to eat, I went to the soda machine and even the thought of a Diet Coke was unappetizing. That made me so happy. I have wanted to kick my habit for years and it felt unachievable. Maybe it's not. 

So I've only been doing this ten days. This is the last evening of the detox. Everyone is really curious what I'm going to do tomorrow. I don't know. I can tell you I don't want to blow everything I've done. I certainly don't want to start over! I do miss dairy and fruit more than anything. I'm sure those will be the first back in my diet, with limits. My goal is to do the Weight Watchers Simply Filling foods, but watching labels more carefully. I would say one fault Weight Watchers has with the foods they market themselves is the chemical junk that eliminates calories or fat. At what cost?

Here are the habits I think will stick:
  • exercise (okay, maybe not, but at least for the summer?)
  • read food labels
  • eat in moderation
  • more fresh food
  • less snacking
  • drink water
I know I won't abandon coffee for long. I'm about to go to a country that grows the best coffee I've ever had. How can I say no to that?!?

I promise you I am/was more addicted to carbs and caffeine and junk food that absolutely anyone! I did it. You can if you want to. What do you have to lose?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creamy Linguine Casserole

I'm trying hard to motivate myself to cook more, but it's hard. Luckily a friend introduced me to emeals awhile ago and I'm back on the bandwagon. It's a subscription site that matches up menus to what's on sale at your selected supermarket that week. The meals are always pretty simple, few ingredients, and inexpensive. You can pick from a wide array of menus to fit your needs, including Natural/Organic, Paleo, Meals for 2, etc. Dave Ramsey-approved. All around winner. You owe it to yourself to at least check out their sample menus.

But I've touted my love of emeals before. Enough of that.

This dinner was 90% emeals and 10% poor planning on my part. Luckily, it all turned out good anyway. Here's my slightly revised recipe.

Creamy Linguine Casserole

1 lb ground turkey

1 t minced garlic
24 oz jar pasta sauce
8 oz linguine
16 oz sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c shredded mozzarella (Or more. We like cheese.)
1/4 c parmesan (the real stuff or the stuff in the can, whichever you have on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start heating water for pasta.

Brown turkey with garlic until turkey is crumbly & no longer pink. Drain if necessary (I find that extra lean ground turkey doesn't have much to drain). Stir in pasta sauce; simmer 10 minutes or until you're ready for it.

Prepare linguine to package directions. 

Combine sour cream and cream cheese, set aside.

Drain pasta, return to pot. Incorporate sour cream and cream cheese mixture until well coated. Spread in sprayed 13 x 9 inch dish (or my lovely Rachael Ray bubble and brown set). Pour meat sauce on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 min until heated. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan and bake 5 minutes more to melt cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad and dinner is ready! Hands on time was about 15 minutes, plus 30 for baking. Not too bad for a work night. Plus we have TONS of leftovers, which is a must in our house. Easy peasy and my big kid AND little kid loved it! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meal Planning

I don't know about you, but meal planning is so hard for me. I've tried lots of different strategies- some work, some don't. I thought I'd share some of my approaches with you!

I would rather try a new recipe that make an old standby any day. I just get really tired of the same old meat and potatoes. Luckily, Pinterest provides a plethora of inventive dinners just waiting to be tried out! How do I filter them all? It goes something like this:

"Take four chicken breasts and pound to a 1/4 inch thick..."

Fresh Rosemary...

"In your double broiler..."

I usually look for meals that are five ingredients or less, 15 minutes prep time, and less than an hour from idea to conception. I don't do the "plan ahead" thing very well these days, so running to the grocery store or roasting a whole chicken for several hours are out of the question.

The thing I don't like about Pinterest is there's often little feedback on whether the recipe was good or not. AllRecipes is an app and website that I LOVE for this very reason. It's worth looking at the user reviews because often they have comments that really improve the recipe.

I've tried sorting my Pinterest boards into categories that help me find meals faster. One of the approaches we've tried in our house is the "Sheldon Plan." This was inspired by our favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. If you're not familiar with it, the main character is autistic and has to have the same meal for each day of the week; Thai food on Mondays, Cheesecake Factory on Tuesdays, etc. So in our house it's Italian on Mondays, comfort food on Tuesdays, freezer meal on Wednesdays (I have faculty meetings and usually get home late, so the hubby can throw one in the oven), "Exotic" foods (Mexican, Chinese, Indian, etc. To my husband, that's exotic.) on Thursdays, leftovers on Fridays, and pizza on Saturdays. I can just click on one of those boards and find something to try.

Lately I haven't done much grocery shopping, so we're pretty limited to what's in the house. I started boards based on a main ingredient, so if I have a pound of chicken, I click on the "I have chicken" board and see what I can make. That's working well too.

I'm also trying to stockpile the freezer for after the baby comes. I did that last time (all in one week) and we ate them throughout the summer. Ironically, I ran out of freezer meals the week I went back to work. Yeah, life's funny like that.

And finally, I've paid for a subscription to emeals, which is really nice if you want to take all the decision making out of the process AND want to save money without having to coupon. I've gone through spurts of utilizing it well and ignoring it completely. It really is a nicely done site!

So those are all the good ideas I have. Seriously, if I were independently wealthy, I think the first thing I'd do is hire a chef.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Flipping OUT

My flipped classroom journey began about six months ago. What a long, strange trip it's been!

First, let me give you some demographic information about my school.
  • Our school contains about 950 students in PreK-6th grade
  • I teach four blocks of math, 29 students per block
  • Each block is 80 minutes long
  • Our Free-Reduced lunch rate is under 20%. (The achievement gap between our high- and low-income students is what inspired me to do this in the first place.)

Last spring, a friend who teaches college math told me about how they are using the flipped classroom model at UAH. I was immediately intrigued because I'm always looking for new ways to be innovative. I feel like my high achieving students are doing well, but the struggling students are falling more and more behind. I went to Dr. Coman, our instructional partner at Mill Creek, the next day for resources. She had already been collecting articles about the model and happily shared with me. Over the summer, I continued to let the idea stew and read as much information as I could on the topic. I knew I was going to do flipped classroom, but I wasn't sure how.

I found lots of evidence of flipped classrooms in colleges and high schools, but not in a middle school setting, and definitely not a sixth grade in an elementary school. I know from experience that the key to starting something new is to model and provide scaffolding, so I started there.

I would caution anyone trying something new to not be afraid of jumping in head first, but also know your limits. This year, we have not only adopted Common Core, but we have a new textbook series as well. I figured with all the changes, my old lesson plans were moot anyway, might as well start fresh! However, coming up with nightly videos was more than I was willing to take on at the time. Do I want to create my own cache of videos? Of course. Everything I've read says teachers who create their own videos see much more growth than those who use stock videos. I believe it, and hope to be creating my own. I've researched and downloaded great apps for the iPad to implement it, but I am still in the overwhelmed-barely-treading-water part of the school year. Maybe next semester. Until then, I love the Khan Academy videos. I almost hesitate to say that because it's so cliche, but "Sal" teaches the way I do. The terminology is the same, the technique is the same, in short, the expectations are the same. Oh, and the kids like the Khan Academy app. Several of them have created accounts and are actually engaging in it on their own, earning badges, doing extra practice problems, etc. I love seeing kids excited about math so much they do extra work! There have only been a couple topics so far (writing and solving expressions) that were too complex for the level of my students. I found videos on TeacherTube that were appropriate.

Instead of just sending kids to Khan Academy and telling them to search for a specific video, I provide links to them on my website. This is supposed to help prevent confusion about which video to watch, since many of the topics have multiple videos with varying difficulty. I still have kids watch the wrong video occassionally, but that's because they don't follow directions.
Note-taking is a skill that we focus on in sixth grade. In the past, I would say, "WRITE THIS DOWN," or provide outlines for students so the most important information is obvious. Taking notes at home, I knew the quality of notes would vary greatly unless I was very specific in my expectations. I created an outline (see below), copied it on bright green paper, and gave every student a copy. I spent one day in class watching a video with the class and showing them how to take notes. I am happy to report that this process solved the "how to take notes" challenge. It's surprisingly been an non-issue, but I really credit that to modeling and scaffolding. If I had just said, "take notes," I know it wouldn't have worked.

 A lot of teachers hesitate because they don't think the students will watch the videos. I handle that just like if they didn't do their homework. We use a "red form" (see below) in sixth grade. The student has to fill out what assignment they're missing, sign it, I sign it, and their parents have to sign it that night. I mark in my grade book who fills out red forms and whether or not they return them signed the next day. The red forms are great documentation for us for PST or parent-teacher conferences. As with the first six weeks of school every year, I had many, many kids not watching the videos for a variety of reasons. They didn't write their assignments down, they forgot to check their planner, they forgot their binder at school or at home, whatever. At first I wasn't having them fill out red forms and I was getting all sorts of ridiculous excuses, "My mom was on Facebook so I couldn't use the computer," or "My brother was on his PS3 for so long it broke the WiFi." As teachers, we get frustrated when kids go home and tell ridiculous stories to their parents, and then their parents believe it. We always make the deal that we won't believe what they tell us about home if they don't believe what they hear about school. I had one student write on his red form that he couldn't watch the video because, "I had no time to do my homework." Mom wrote back, "He did have time to do homework. I made jelly that night and he wanted to help. I did let him help and once we were done it was time for bed. I reminded him in the morning to do his homework but there was not enough time before the bus came. I told him to go to the lab in the morning to do the homework but he did not do this." It made me laugh. Now that I'm enforcing the red form policy, the excuse is usually just, "I forgot," or "I left it at home." We're now happily into week 7 and I may have five or six kids a day not have their notes done.

Side note- My husband tells me I'm not allowed to complain until the eight week mark about the kids being irresponsible, disorganized, or immature. They always are. I always do.
Dealing with students who don't have Internet access is another barrier to overcome. It started with asking my administrators to make supervising the computer lab my morning duty station. No problem. I surveyed everyone the first week of school and found fewer than ten did not have a computer or Internet at home.

The first couple weeks, the excuse language was TERRIBLE. I had too many kids making up reasons just to come to the computer lab.The alternative is sitting the gym,so I know why they wanted to come to the lab instead. I simply instituted a rule that said if they're not on my list of students without Internet, they have to have a note from a parent stating why they couldn't watch the video at home. It's worked well. More of the kids are getting it done at night, and the times when they have computer or Internet issues, they still have a back-up plan. I also gave everyone my home email so they can get ahold of me if there are issues. I haven't had anyone need to use it for that reason, but the support is there. I keep a clipboard for the students to sign in each day. Again, I feel like documentation is key so no one can come back and say the support wasn't there. I've actually had kids try to claim they went to the lab and no one was in there. I have a clipboard full of names that says otherwise.

The problem now is because most of the students who don't have Internet at home have to eat breakfast before they come to the computer lab, they arrive about the time I need to go upstairs to supervise the rest of the students, who have now been released from the gym. So far it hasn't been an issue because I've had a student intern do it for me, but next week she's moving on to her next placement. I don't know if I can trust them to just come up when they're done? I certainly can't leave the rest of my students upstairs and trust they'll do their morning work. It's only a couple students in the lab, and for the most part they're pretty responsible. We'll see.

Creating a working structure for the class period was the next hurdle. I've fiddled with it a bit and I like what we're doing. My class period goes like this: When the students come in, I have a standardized test problem for them to work on the board independently that is relevant to our unit of study. I let a student do the problem on the board. Then I assign 10 minutes to work on the group challenge. This is usually four to six word problems relevant to the previous night's video. While everyone is working, I check their notes to make sure they're done and to check for understanding. We use a 1-4 numbering system. One means I didn't watch the video, two is I need help, three is I understand the lesson, and four is I can teach the lesson to others. They write the number on the top right-hand corner of their paper so I can do a quick check without interrupting. I record their scores in my gradebook for my information. At the end of ten minutes, I do the group challenge problems on the board. This is my instructional time. Usually by the end of this short instructional period, anyone who was a two is now a three. Some of them just need to see me do it to understand. Next I give about twenty minutes to work on the traditional homework problems. It's usually ten standard practice problems and two or three word problems. I circulate the room, working with groups or pulling students to my table to help when they're struggling. I save fifteen to twenty minutes at the end of class to go over the answers and take questions. If a student has a question, they have the choice of doing the problem on the board, having me do the problem, or having a peer do the problem. It's usually a pretty even divide between the three. In the last five minutes, they have to summarize the essential question and provide an example on an index card. We call this the "tweet" of the day. Likening it to Twitter is a gimmick to keep them interested. I don't grade it (although they can get in trouble if they don't do it), but they are allowed to keep their tweets on their desk during a test, which provides one more incentive to do a good job and keep up with it daily.

You'd think since I'm not standing up front and teaching, it'd be less work on me, but it's not! I feel like I'm running a sprint pace in a marathon distance. It does make the day fly by!

It's too early to have data to see if it's making a difference, but I feel like it is. We just took a test on multiplying fractions. Ordinarily I'd still have students incorrectly multiply the whole numbers, then fractions instead of changing to a mixed number. I didn't see that very often, which is encouraging.

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to beat me at Scrabble

You know one of my all-time favorite games is Scrabble. I've been playing since I was old enough to spell, on one of the turn-table deluxe versions with the grooves for the tiles. 

My highest play ever. I'm still ridiculously proud of it.
One of my crowning achievements growing up was beating my grandma at Scrabble. I was twelve, and I remember the feeling of joy and accomplishment at this seemingly insignificant feat. Because in our family, adults don't just let kids win. You have to earn it. This tough-love attitude extended to all venues, meaning we also did our own laundry, made dinner once a week, broke the rules and suffered the consequences (oh, did we suffer). But if Grandma had let me win, I wouldn't remember the first time I beat her, would I?

When I play anyone now, even past, present, or future students, I don't let them win. But I do hopefully teach some strategy.

So here's my definitive "How to beat me at Scrabble" (or Words with Friends) strategy list.


This is not optional if you want to win. You cannot stack words if you haven't familiarized yourself with this list. Keep it handy while you're new and pretty soon you'll know it forwards and backwards.

Source: http://www.hasbro.com/scrabble/en_US/2LetterList.cfm
AA:  n pl. –S rough, cindery lava
AB:  n pl. –S an abdominal muscle
AD:  n pl. –S an advertisement
AE:  adj one
AG:  adj pertaining to agriculture
AH:  interj – used to express delight, relief, or contempt
AI:   n  pl. –S a three-toed sloth
AL:  n  pl. –S an East Indian tree
AM:  present 1st person sing. of BE
AN:  indefinite article – used before words beginning with a vowel
AR:  n pl. –S the letter R
AS:  adv to the same degree
AT:  prep in the position of
AW:  interj – used to express protest, disgust, or disbelief
AX:  v –ED, -ING, -ES to work on with an ax (a type of cutting tool)
AY:  n  pl. –S aye
BA:  n  pl. –S the eternal soul in Egyptian mythology
BE:  v AM, ARE, ART, WAS, WERE, WAST, WERT, BEEN, BEING to have actuality
BI:  n pl. –S bisexual
BO:  n pl. –S a pal
BY:  n pl. –S a pass in certain card games
DE:  prep of; from – used in names
DO:  n pl. –S the first tone of the diatonic scale
ED:  n pl. –S education
EF:  n pl. –S the letter F
EH:  interj – used to express doubt
EL:  n pl. –S an elevated railroad or train
EM:  n pl. –S the letter M
EN:  n pl. –S the letter M
ER:  interj – used to express hesitation
ES:  n pl. ESES the letter S (also spelled ESS)
ET:  a past tense of EAT
EX:  n pl. EXES the letter X
FA:  n pl. –S the fourth tone of the diatonic musical scale
FE:  n –FES a Hebrew letter
GO:  v WENT, GONE, GOING, GOES to move along
HA:  n pl. –S a sound of surprise
HE:  n pl. –S a male person
HI:  interj – used as a greeting
HM:  interj – used to express thoughtful consideration
HO:  interj – used to express surprise
ID:  n pl. –S a part of the psyche
IF:  n pl. –S a possibility
IN:  v INNED, INNING, INS to harvest
IS:  v present 3d person sing. of BE
IT:  pron the 3rd person sing. of BE
JO:  n pl.  -ES a sweetheart
KA:  n pl. –S the spiritual self of a human being in Egyptian religion
KI:  n pl. -S the vital force in Chinese thought
LA:  n pl. –S the sixth tone of the diatonic musical scale
LI:  n pl. a Chinese unit of distance
LO:  interj – used to attract attention or to express surprise
MA:  n pl. –S mother
ME:  pron the objective case of the pronoun I
MM:  interj – Used to express assent or satisfaction
MO:  n pl. –S a moment
MU:  n pl. –S a Greek letter
MI:  n pl. –MIS the third tone of the diatonic musical scale
MY:  pron the possessive form of the pronoun I
NA:  adv no; not
NE:  adj born with the name of (also NEE)
NO:  n  pl. NOS or NOES a negative reply
NU:  n pl. –S a Greek letter
OD:  n pl. –S a hypothetical force of natural power
OE:  n pl. –S a whirlwind off the Faeroe Islands
OF:  prep coming from
OH:  v –ED, -ING, -S to exclaim in surprise, pain, or desire
OI:  v – oy--used to express dismay or pain
OM:  n pl. –S a mantra used in contemplation of ultimate reality
ON:  n pl. –S the side of the wicket where a batsman stands in cricket
OP:  n pl. –S a style of abstract art
OR:  n pl. –S the heraldic color gold
OS:  n pl. –S ORA, OSSA, or OSAR either an orifice, a bone, or an esker
OW:  interj – used to express sudden pain
OX:  n pl. OXEN or OXES a hoofed mammal or clumsy person
OY:  interj – used to express dismay or pain
PA:  n pl. –S a father
PE:  n pl. –S a Hebrew letter
PI:  v PIED, PIEING, PIING, or PIES to jumble or disorder
QI:  n pl. -S the vital force that in Chinese thought is inherent in all things
RE:  n pl. –S the second tone of diatonic musical scale
SH:  interj – used to urge silence
SI:  n pl. –S ti
SO:  n pl. –S the fifth tone of the diatonic musical scale
TA:  n pl. –S an expression of gratitude
TO:  prep in the direction of
TI:  n TIS the seventh tone of the diatonic musical scale
UH:  interj – used to express hesitation
UM:  interj – used to express hesitation
UN:  pron pl. –S one
UP:  v UPPED, UPPING, UPS to raise
US:  pron the objective case of the pronoun we
UT:  n pl. –S the musical tone C in the French solmization system, now replaced by do
WE:  pron the 1st person pl. pronoun in the nominative case
WO:  n pl. –S woe
XI:  n pl. –S a Greek letter
XU:  n pl. XU a monetary unit of Vietnam
YA:  pron you
YE:  pron you
YO:  interj – used to call attention or express affirmation
ZA:  n pl. -S a pizza

It still irritates me that they don't accept "ew" as a word. C'mon. Everyone knows that ew means.
This is a good example of what "stacking" words looks like.
"BOOTY," worth 11 points at face value,  is now worth 41 points.
A couple other notes on two-letter words.

  • C and V have no two-letter counterparts, so they can block a section of the board pretty easily. 
  • Q on has QI,  Z only has ZA, and J only has JO. These are high-pointers though, so look to use them on a double- or triple-letter in both directions.
  • X is my favorite letter because it works with every vowel- AX, EX, XI, OX, XU.
  • The two-letter words that don't require a vowel are SH, HM, MM, BY, MY. 

Unless my rack looks like there's a 7-letter word in there somewhere, I look for a good spot first. I'm going to use the same game and show you what I mean.

When I look at this board, the first thing I see is the double word in the lower right-hand corner by "ORE." Add a B, C, F, G, L, M, P, S, W, Y.... I think that's all the possible combinations. You get the point. Now I don't have much left in my rack, but I was watching the spot for awhile. A and T have plenty of two-letter combinations that I could stack a word right next to "GOAT" and have a high value play. For instance, "PLAY" would work and I would also get "PORE," "LA," and "AT." Whereas "PLAY" is just worth 9 points, or 18 with the double word score. But put it all together, and it's worth 34 points.

The only time I try to find a good word is if I'm loaded with the magic combination of letters that looks like it'll net me a 7-letter word (worth 50 bonus points!), which brings me to my next tip.


These are magic letter combos:

If you have any of these combos, put those letters together and see what you have left. You might find a word that would have eluded you otherwise.


"ZAX" is one of my favorite words. I have no idea what it means.
These are some of the words that veteran Scrabble players will use to their advantage (not including the two-letter list above). 

The Q is one of my favorite letters, but you have to know how to use it wisely. Don't obsess about having a U. I bet "QI" is the most common Q word I play!

J is another good letter to abuse:

And Z...

This is by no means a definitive list, but they are some of my favorite tricky words that can net a lot of points.


An S is a treasure to be held until just the right moment. If you found a hundred dollar bill on the ground, you wouldn't just hand it to the next person you see, would you? No, you save it until an opportune time. 

In this game, I have an S in my rack. There are no words on the board right now that can end in S, so it'll sit there unless it gives me some advantage. What would be a good reason to use an S that isn't adding it to the end of another word? I'm glad you asked.

Look at the first word played, "AWAITS." This looks like a wasted S, right? Wrong. I'm not sure who played the first word here, but the S was used to move the W from a plain square to a double letter, meaning instead of four points doubled, now it's eight points doubled. From four to 16 points, just like that. Boo-yah.

Unless you have a good excuse, use that S to tack onto another word and rack up those points.


Consider yourself warned.


Yes, I am aware that there are a million Scrabble and WWF cheats out there. I know which of my friends use them and which don't. But I play for fun, not to win. It's not fun if you're cheating. And you'll feel much better about yourself when you beat me for real.