The summer of 1999 was spent in a rented house by the beach in Santa Barbara, California.Hubby and I were trying to decide if it would be a good place to settle our young family. We had just begun our surf and sand adventure when I came across a book called Montecito Boy, An Irrevereent Memoir by Nevil Cramer. In it, Mr. Cramer talks about his years attending a small Montecito elementary school called Crane, which happened to be a stone's throw from our newly rented cottage. Mr. Cramer wrote, "Every day, first thing, I was assigned to read a special thermometer that registered the day's extremes in temperature, and somehow Mr. Lejeune made me feel that this was a privilege instead of a tiresome chore." I loved Crane Country Day School before I even set foot on the campus.
I called the school that summer and reached Debbie Williams, the Director of Admissions for Crane. She was pleasant, friendly and said of course the children and I could visit. They were hosting camp sessions that summer so while it wasn't the same as school in session, there would be children on campus and she could give us a tour.
The moment I met Mrs. Williams, I knew Crane was the school for us. She introduced herself to me and then to my children. When she had questions about the children, she asked them directly even though they were just 5, 6 and 8 years old. You may find that an unusual thing on which to comment, but how many times did I encounter teachers and school administrators who asked me questions about my children when they were standing right next to me? When it comes to my children, I pay attention to every detail. It's often the details that make a difference in their lives.
One of the details that Mrs. Williams spoke of with pride that day was the Crane "family". Each child attending Crane, from Kindergarten through 8th grade, is a member of a family made up of at least two students from each grade. The 8th grade students are the "parents" and organize monthly gatherings with their entire family. When I asked Mrs. Williams what sparked the idea of the Crane families, she said it assures that every student at Crane knows someone in every grade. It fosters the relationships between the grades and develops a true family feeling amongst the students. I remember wishing that I could go to school at Crane.
It took us a while to move to Santa Barbara, and even longer for all my children to find a spot at Crane School, but eventually they did. And Mrs. Williams was there the whole time baking her famous Chocolate Chip Bars that most Crane Alumni recall with great fondness. Certainly my children do.
Mrs. Williams is still at Crane school today, adding a whole new dimension to her chocolate chip bars. She started a program baking with 4th graders to send care packages to Crane Alumni in their first year of college. That's right, their first year of college! Five years after they leave the campus life at Crane, they receive a care package from the youngest members of their Crane "family" wishing them well and reminding them that their Crane family still cares about them.
Baby Girl was over the moon when she received her package in that first year away from home. She was on her own in North Carolina, miles away from the love and sunshine of Santa Barbara. That gesture of kindness, reminding her how far she had come, meant the world to her. She shared the chocolate chip bars with new friends, although she admittedly hoarded most for herself, feeling happy to have been a part of something so special.
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." - Albert Einstein
Mrs. William's Chocolate Chip Bars
2 cubes Fleischmann’s original margarine, softened 3/4 c. sugar 3/4 c. packed brown sugar 2 eggs 1 t. vanilla 1 t. baking soda 2 1/4 c. flour 1-12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips 1-6 oz. pkg. white chocolate chips
In large bowl, combine margarine and sugars and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda and mix well. Add flour; mix thoroughly. Stir in both semi-sweet and white chocolate chips.
Spread dough evenly in 9 x 13 metal pan that has been sprayed with PAM. Bake at 325 oven for approximately 22-25 minutes or until the top and sides are a golden brown (if you slightly tilt the pan, the middle will still be somewhat jiggly); you do not want to overbake.
Cool completely before cutting into individual bars. Makes 32 – 36 bars.
Note: To see Mrs. Williams Chocolate Chip Bars on The Collegiate Cooker's blog, click here. Collegiate Cooker happens to be Baby Girl :)