Sunday, June 3, 2012

Goodbye, School Year!

Hello, Summer!  I have the best job in the world.  And I can say this was my best year teaching, even with my weird little seventh graders.  I love them, and they can't help being weird.  They did not love me when they found I out was planning on making them work through at least part of the last week of school.  One of the things I did with them was give them a chance to grade the novels that we read, and offer some suggestions to tweak projects and other assignments.  They also had to tell me at least one thing they learned, which I really enjoyed reading.  It was nice to remember why I do what I do at the end of a year.  Here are some of my favorites.  Spelling has been corrected, but in their own words:
I learned how to tell what the theme is.
I learned that any book is good if you get in depth with it.
I had no idea what mood was!  Now I do!
I learned to make a correct paragraph.
I learned a lot of values that you need in life.
I learned the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause.
I learned that Edgar Allan Poe was a poet.  Also that the exposition was where most of the settings and stuff is.
Not every story has a weird twisted problem.  Some can be peaceful.
Poets put their feelings and thoughts in their work.
I learned how to write using words like "said" from the past, "says" from the present, and "will say" in the future.  Now I can write correctly using "tenses" or whatever.
I learned all about the 60s.
I learned how to do a plot diagram and what the parts of plot are.
I learned that it is possible to have glass stuck in your head. (I showed them the scars I have from my car accident as part of a lesson plan, and she remembered!)
I learned that people in different communities that have different lives don't always have to fight.
I learned who Bon Jovi is.  My dad was stoked when I started listening to him.
I learned about Nelson Mandela and apartheid.
I learned that there are meanings of colors and symbolism.
One thing I learned is how hard kids in Africa have it.
I learned to put a comma or a semicolon in a sentence.
I learned how to be a better reader.

Now the trick is, will they remember it after summer brain drain?   I can't wait to get started next August.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recent Cookery

Prologue: Ode to a Rotisserie Chicken

O, Rotisserie Chicken, You champion of the deli.  I celebrate your thrifty value and sing of your endless versatility.  O, how many nights have you, in your juicy tastiness, saved me from a cold cereal dinner...

Chapter 1: What We Ate Last Week

Rotisserie chicken with salad and wild rice
Rotisserie chicken chopped up with pasta and white sauce
Leftover taco meat and/or rotisserie chicken meat in tortilla wraps with cheese
Shredded rotisserie chicken mixed up with barbecue sauce on buns with cheese

Variety.  Affordable.  Delicious.  I am a culinary genius.  But WAIT, there's more!

Chapter 2:  Mayonnaise-Based Salads, or My Signature Dishes

I love a mayonnaise-based salad.  And I am happy to share two recipes that Matt and I practically live on in the summer months. 

Rotisserie Chicken Salad: 
Disclaimer - I made this up.  I bet there are a lot fancier versions out there, and Hy-Vee sells a delicious one in the deli case called Napa Valley Chicken Salad.

Take a rotisserie chicken, and pluck its delicious bones.  Save whatever you want to make whatever you want later.  Put it in a big bowl with purple grapes (I slice them in half), and chopped celery.  Put in a blob of light mayo and mix until everything is moist and nothing is mushy.  If you're feeling fancy, squeeze in some lemon juice or add chopped cashews. Salt and pepper if you like. 

Macaroni Salad:
I have no idea where this recipe originates, but I've eaten it for many, many years.  I own a large Tupperware bowl whose sole and sacred purpose is mixing and storing this salad.  There are no exact measurements included.  Mayonnaise Salads are not an exact science. 
Boil and drain a box of elbow macaroni.  Put the noodles in your large Tupperware bowl.  Brown a package of cubed ham with some butter and brown sugar.  Pour ham into the noodles with the juice - this is critical.  It makes everything nice and sweet.  Add cubed cheese (I like colby jack), a can of pineapple tidbits, green grapes, red grapes, and equal parts sour cream and mayo.  I usually do a glob of each and mix, adding more if needed, again until we're nice and coated, but nothing is slimy or gloppy.  As a child, I ate this salad chilled, but as an impatient college student, I learned that it is also really good when it's still warm from the ham.  The good news is, you don't have to choose. 

Now reader, you know the secrets.  But please don't make and bring either of these to a baby shower or block party that I am also attending, because then I'd have to learn to make another reliable standby.  

Chapter 3:  Bread and Jelly

One of my favorite things in this world is Cooking Club.  It's also Board Game Club, Adult Beverages Club, Girls Talk and Cook and Boys Walk Around Back Yards and Plan Elaborate Projects Club.  It's awesome.  And just last week, I was quite proud to be a part of a team of bread bakers and jelly makers.  There isn't much in life better than a homemade roll hot out of the oven that I kneaded myself.  I added too much salt myself too, but it turned out perfectly anyway.  And when that roll is spread with homemade jelly, and then homemade cinnamon rolls follow for dessert, it's carbohydrate heaven.  So thanks for teaching me to make these flaky bits of paradise!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Instant Gratification

If asked, I would describe myself as a patient person.  My 7th hour class would disagree, but I think they are making bad choices.  I am cool, calm, and collected.  But when it comes to my entertainment, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.  I have completely lost all patience with series of all sorts.

I blame Netflix for my inability to watch television like a normal, patient person.  I don't have to wait until next week to see what happens next.  I have to wait until I push 'next episode'.  Maybe get a snack.  Even season finale cliff hanger episodes don't bother me, because the resolution is a moment away.  I watched Season 1 of Downton Abbey in about a week.  Matt was working late nights, there was no one home to judge me and my love of period pieces, so I plowed through it.  Then I watched most of Season 2 online.  When I got caught up, I could have watched the last episode in real time, but the Super Bowl was on, and I lost the vote (by a lot).  But now I have to wait until SEPTEMBER for the third season!  Impossible and ridiculous.  That's an eternity from now, and the worst of it is that I will have to wait a week between each new episode too.

I read a lot of young adult literature, and I read it fast.  And if it's good, I don't mind waiting for a sequel, because today, there is ALWAYS a sequel.  What bums me out is when I start a book without realizing there is a sequel, which has happened twice recently.  I start to develop a sinking feeling when I realize there aren't enough pages left to resolve a conflict, and the sinking continues until the unfulfilling end.  I stuck with Charlie West in The Last Thing I Remember for one book, but he annoyed me too much to read his other two adventures, so I'm stuck Googling, reading Amazon reviews, and searching Wikipedia to find out how exactly he lost his memory.  I'm still not sure.  Cassia in Matched was an interesting character, but can I really wait until November to find out if she chooses Xander or Ky?  When I first read The Hunger Games, the third book hadn't been released yet.  I ordered Catching Fire and Mockingjay from Amazon before I had even finished Hunger Games.  But when I was ready to read Catching Fire, which was approximately 3 minutes after I finished Hunger Games, they wouldn't send it to order to complete my order in the fewest transactions, Amazon made me wait the longest two weeks of my life to complete my trilogy.  I was a wreck.  It was as bad as waiting to find out if Dumbledore was really dead. And the Hunger Games movie I have been waiting for is this weekend, but who knows how long it will be before the next one comes?

Is my problem a result of my generation's increasing dependence on the speed and gratification of technology?  Is part of the thrill or enjoyment of entertainment supposed to be suspense?  Did people like waiting to find out if Darth Vader was Luke's father?  I may never know.  But in the meantime, the Season 2 finale of Grey's Anatomy was pretty dramatic, and this very moment I'm going to find out what happened. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Domestic Goddess

Move over, Martha Stewart.  There is a new happy homemaker of the year, and that would be me.  Do you doubt me?  Observe:

Baked Goods: We're going to St. Andrews, Scotland in July!  Matt is going to perform at the World Saxophone Congress, and I am going to sit in our quaint guest house, tour castles, wander along the shore, and generally enjoy myself.  To celebrate the news, I wanted to enjoy some Scottish cuisine.  I decided against haggis.  Instead, I whipped up a batch of cranberry-chocolate scones with the help of my Better Homes recipes app. It wasn't a difficult recipe, but they're really serious about only blending the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed, and kneading the dough just 10-12 turns,  They weren't horrible, but they were tougher than I wanted them to be.  Better than haggis, in any universe.  I'd make them again, but stir them less.  I also invented a fast new breakfast recipe when I ate all of my granola bars.  Spread peanut butter on a tortilla, sprinkle with chocolate chips, roll up, and go.

Thriftiness:  I'm a sucker for money saving articles, even if most of them advise me to give up my daily latte that I don't drink, or give up cable when my husband would wither and die without ESPN.  But I recently saw one that advised making your own laundry detergent, and it seemed legitimate.  I researched it a little, and came up with this link:
I wasn't interested in trying to find anything difficult, like Fels-Naptha soap and washing soda, whatever those are.  I used recipe #8, which only required me to grate a bar of soap, melt it in a saucepan, and add hot water and baking soda.  I used a bar of Yardley Lemon Verbena soap my grandmother had mailed me a while ago.  She likes to mail me things.  Therefore, the only cost for the detergent was $1.04 for baking soda.  The recipe makes 2 gallons, or about 64 loads.  Compare that to the usual Target brand we use, which washes the same amount for about $7.99.  Not too shabby.  We washed four loads this weekend, and everything smelled nice and looked clean, so I think we have a winner.

Sewing:  My brother-in-law Greg is probably my most devoted reader, so he's overdue a shout-out anyway, but last night he was heading off to work with a hole in his khakis.  I offered to fix them up for him.  He went off to work with the hole, and then came over today and sat on my couch in his unmentionables while I stitched them up.  When I brought them over for his inspection, he asked, "Wait, where was the hole?"  Boom.  Invisible stitches.   

Yep, it's pretty much only a matter of time before I'm writing for Real Simple. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Classy Weekend

Every so often, Matt and I like to vary our usual weekend plans of watching TV and eating pizza by leaving our house.  More rarely, we like to leave our house and go somewhere new.  This past weekend, we not only went to new places, we went to classy new places!

Friday afternoons are typically my time to veg out before Matt comes home so we can veg out together, but last Friday found me changing out of my tie-dyed AMS t-shirt and jeans into something nicer to meet up with some friends at Le Fou Frog.  Since my palate is usually satisfied with noodles, bread, and chicken, I don't really like to spend a lot of money on food, but thanks to Kansas City Restaurant Week, the Frog's prices had dropped into just slightly out of our range.  We enjoyed salad, lobster bisque, pork loin, salmon, and our waiter, Jean Pierre, even if he did scoff at my wine choice.  We each had a dessert with a lot of accessories - this wasn't just a lemon tart, it was a lemon tart with Buddha's Hand zest and a lime marshmallow, and chestnut cake with a variety of glazes and icings.  The atmosphere was a lot of fun too.  It's a very small space with a lot of tables, but it's cozy rather than cramped.  Jean Pierre was extremely nice, and the pastry chef and other employees sang selections from Les Miserables and Lady Gaga.  I would go back!

We were also fortunate to get in our first Kauffman Center performance on Saturday.  Our friend Ryan had gotten tickets to see Yo-Yo Ma's Master Class, which was where three cellists played for him, and then listened to him preach.  I left with a lot of admiration for both the building and Mr. Ma.  The hall was like nothing I'd ever seen, and I can't wait to go back.  The view from the 8th row was not too shabby.  Plus there were a lot of middle school kids there for some reason, and I was pretty entertained watching them.  I loved hearing the cello music, which has now been promoted to my favorite string instrument.  Viola is still my least favorite.  But I loved that this man, who is beyond famous and accomplished, would take time to work with a high school student and have such interesting and important things to say.  He's a phenomenal musician, and a great educator. And thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend, we got to go to the reception after the class, where we did not meet the man, but we did get some pastries.

We felt very sophisticated after such a posh weekend.  And with our Brewery tour yesterday, we are crossing a lot of Kansas City things off of our list.  We don't want to get too fancy though - we still have a Netflix queue to keep up with, and a Christmas wreath to take down.  To give me some credit, it is indoors, has MU colors and snowmen and says, "Happy Holidays."  President's Day is a holiday.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review

Oh, the plans I had for my Christmas break.  The lessons I would prepare, the menus I would plan, the library books I would read.  And with Matt off work as well, what better opportunity to get errands run and house cleaned?  But it's now afternoon, 9 days after this lovely break began, and we're both sitting in our pajamas,  not even really planning to leave the house.  I had holiday M&Ms for breakfast.  I thought about taking down our Christmas tree, but all the boxes for the ornaments are in the basement, and I'd have to put on slippers.  My dog is wedged very comfortably at my side, and I don't want to disturb her.  I've had about a day and a half of productivity. Fortunately, this past week is not indicative of the productivity of the last year.  And all this lazy time has been good reflection time on where we've been in 2011, and where we want to go in 2012 (at least before the world ends).

The House: If you've read this blog before, you know how much I love our house.  But I've also loved entertaining in our home, and to a lesser extent, learning how to fix broken stuff and be grown-ups.  This has mostly been Matt's region, and the Shop-Vac and cordless drill he got for Christmas will help him in his endeavors.  But I help, and I want to learn to do more around my home.  2012 Home Goal: Cook and eat at home more often, and try to develop a green thumb. 

The Job:  I love my job, and I always want to be a better teacher.  My professional goals are to be positive even when it seems like there's not enough time in the day, and to do more professional reading and writing.  I always make my students write specific goals, so I will add that I want to bring more technology into my classroom and reconsider how I approach outside reading assignments.

The Book of Stuff:  One of my more brilliant ideas of 2011 was to write down the fun stuff that we did over the year.  I have a lined book that I update as we travel, see movies, read books, or go to sporting events.  It's fun and easy, and I have no idea why I haven't done it in the past.  It was something we both contributed to - I wrote down the weekend trips we took for weddings and new restaurants we tried, and Matt handled the starting pitchers of Royals games we saw.  It makes me wonder how much stuff I've done over the years and forgotten, because I didn't have a record.  I really notice this in the books section.  It's no secret I'm a big reader, but I've never thought about writing down what I read.  As I look back, there are books I read three months ago that I'd forgotten about.  I set a somewhat arbitrary goal of 50 books for 2011, and as of today, I've done it!  To be fair, about eight of those books are just a bit below my reading level.  I had a lot of 7th grade literature to catch up on when I moved to the middle school.  However, no picture books were counted in this total, so I'm pretty proud of that!  I want to read another 50 in 2012, but do more writing and sharing about what I read. 

Now it's probably time to take care of some easier goals to accomplish, like showering and going outside.  Happy New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Terrible Television

I must confess that I am addicted to terrible, terrible television.  I'm trying to cut myself off reality TV.  I can honestly say that I don't watch very much - no denial here - but what I watch is so awful I think it rots my brain at twice the regular rate.  I used to ride a pretty high horse when it came to reality television.  Rubbish, staged, waste of time, etc.  Then I started watching Project Runway.  Then Top Chef.  Then Bridezillas.  Then I stopped watching all of those, and discovered shows that portray some of the worst wretches of humanity imaginable.  When Matt started having rehearsals on Sunday, I started watching Discovery Channel and TLC.  At first, I thought I could get away with it.  When someone asked me what I was watching, I could say, "Oh, just something on Discovery" without mentioning it was a show about 900 pound people, a mermaid girl whose legs were fused together, hoarders, polygamists, or people with Pica (look it up).  This doesn't work with TLC.  If I'm watching something on TLC, it's almost guaranteed to be the opposite of educational.  The Learning Channel does not fit the programming.  I suggest Toddlers, Lunatics, and Cupcakes.  Other suggestions? 

One of my favorites is "I'm Pregnant And...".  I watched a marathon once, and it was life-changing in a very depressing way.  The premise of the show is that a woman is pregnant and has some obstacle to overcome, or some weird quirk that makes her interesting to viewers like me.  For example, I've seen episodes about pregnant heroin addicts, prison inmates, and nudists.  But as I recently discussed with some friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are so many other weird things people can be in addition to with child.  Surprisingly enough, some of them already have their own shows (I'm Pregnant and it's Baby #20).  Also, some potential shows could be based around people we already knew of:  I'm Pregnant and in Driver's Ed, or I'm Pregnant and in 8th Grade.  So programming gurus, take note.  These examples are free.  I've got more - but they're going to cost you.  For your entertainment:

I'm Pregnant and...a Mature, Financially Stable Adult in a Long-Term, Committed Relationship
(Just Kidding)

I'm Pregnant and...Accused of Statutory Rape
I'm Pregnant and...A WWE Diva
I'm Pregnant and...My Sister Wives are Jealous
I'm Pregnant and...This Time I'm Telling the Truth
I'm Pregnant and...So's My Mom
I'm Pregnant and...I Made a Deal with the Devil
I'm Pregnant and...An Alien Abductee
I'm Pregnant and...I Have a 6 Week Old Infant
I'm Pregnant and...I'm Getting Divorced
I'm Pregnant and...I'm a Virgin
I'm Pregnant and...It Didn't Stay in Vegas