Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21: Saturday of "Vacation" Week

        Vacation is in quotation marks because we don't have students for a full week, but Monday and Tuesday will feature professional development work, so plenty of stuff to do. Still: "a change is a good as a rest," apparently, and I look forward to this week every year.

         Nate is home from Bates (so nice to 1. have him have a car; last year we were driving to Skowhegan to pick him up, which saved us an hour each way, but still: Friday night driving errands [and it always seems to rain or snow before breaks] tend to be grueling commitments; 2. have him close: Lyle's long, dark, traffic-heavy drives back from Saratoga Springs always worried me) with every piece of laundry he's ever worn, but his usual good nature, fund of interesting pieces of info, and variety of weird videos we "have to" watch or listen to or learn about. His request was for black bean soup and corn bread for dinner (!!??) so that was a 15 minute grocery shop and then about a 20 minute prep session. Our recipes for both are tried and true:

Easy Black Bean Soup

about 4 of the smaller cans of black beans, rinsed and sort of drained (last night I used 2 bigger cans and one smaller can)
about 2 cups of salsa, whatever kind you like (hot, med. or mild): we use Sister's, usually (and I did last night)
up to one box of chicken broth (but you could use veg. or maybe beef): amt. depends on your desired consistency (last night I used about 3 cups total)
various toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado or guac.. . . . lime juice is highly recommended. 

Cook the salsa for about 5 minutes in a medium/large soup pot, then dump in the beans and some of the broth; let simmer for at least 20 mins, then: squish up some of the beans with a spoon OR use an immersion blender OR transfer some to a stand blender OR leave as is. . . . Adjust amounts of beans and broth; add some salt if desired and/or more heat with various peppers, etc, and serve!

Of course, it looks weird, but it's delicious and pretty darn healthy. I think the base recipe came from a Real Simple "cheat recipe" years ago. As in: 10 years? 15?

Easy Corn Bread (from the back of one of the corn meal bags, I think)

Stir together:
1 1/4 cup of flour (I often use 1/2 c of whole wheat in there, though it reduces the rise)
3/4 c cornmeal (harder to find nowadays)
1/4 c sugar
2 tsps baking powder (I often forget this, which results in a polenta like patty. Not recommended, but it can be crumbled into whatever you're eating. Not so good with jam or honey, though)
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (I forget the exact measurement so I wing it)

**Heat oven to about 400; if you have a cast-iron skillet, put a lump of butter into it and put into the oven to heat about now. If you don't have a cast-iron option, turn the heat down to 375 or so and use a greased 8 x8 or so (medium sized) pan.**

Mix 1 c. milk, 1/4 c oil, and 1 egg; stir into dry ingreds. and, once the skillet is hot and butter is melted, pour mixture into skillet. Bake for about 20 mins. If you used w. wheat flour, it will not rise a lot; if you made "company cornbread," it should be quite puffy; use usual tests for doneness regardless.

Eat with tons of butter, honey, and/or jam.

It makes me laugh to look at this recipes, full of Granny lingo and ball park figures, but really: these are pretty fool proof, cheap, and, amazingly, impressively delicious recipes. Great for beginning cooks, broke young adults, and busy families. Since the soup also looks a bit dubious (my students would ask me, "Is that chocolate pudding?" in tones of horror), it's great for training kids to be adventurous eaters. My boys have inhaled it all their lives.

And: today he and I go to see my h.s.'s fall musical, which is usually stupendous. This year it's Chess, and the reviews are superb. I love seeing my students doing things they love to do, especially together. And: boom.

Tomorrow N and I will run the Turkey Trot in Brewer: it will be my seventh or eighth time, maybe? We registered early, and that means we'll get our laughably ugly tshirts. . . . and then run with company (probably more than 600 other people). Andy is coming up with us to cheer us on this time, which will be fun. AND I'll go to church tomorrow! It's been at least three weeks since I've been, and I'm delighted to get back.

My other wishes for my week:

  • to finish the Madelinetosh Vintage hat I'm working on, possibly for Andy for C'mas; 
  • to finish the various odds and ends of baby knitting that I have been carrying around in my bag since summer;
  • to do some reading for pleasure (Out of Nowhere by Maria Paidan, set in "Enniston," aka Lewiston, and Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, which I loved)
  • finish the enthralling but scary Station Eleven, which I find I need to read in daylight;
  • to read Faulkner's The Bear for MDIHS Readers&Writers and prep our next meeting;
  • to work on the table runner for Tove;
  • to get Nate's Advent chain done! Yikes!
  • to do some baking/cooking for pleasure;
  • to score the literary analysis papers from my 9th graders! 
I'm currently listening with mingled horror and delight to Career of Evil, the third Cormoran Strike novel (wow. It is creepy and irresistible!), waiting to start an increased dose of my thyroid meds after a recent test revealed that the ol' gland is slowing down even more, and considering that I might want to push myself to sew more! I want to make the Washi dress I bought the pattern and cheap fabric for a year and a half ago. . . . so I think I actually need to get up and make it. Sheesh.

I will share that I am proud of these:

Nate's orange socks, which are a bit tricky to get on, but which wear nicely when he gets them on (and contrast nicely with the collegiate stacks at Bates's library!). Yay!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15: A Nice November Sunday

Have finally finished my school law class (and I got an A!), but haven't really been able to get stuck into a book yet. I'm about 1/4 into Station Eleven by Emily Mantel, but mostly it's been audiobooks. I just downloaded the new Cormoran Strike (it's 17 hours. . . I can't wait. . . ), and I just finished:

Driving with the Top Down: A NovelDriving with the Top Down: A Novel by Beth Harbison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

. . . . Can't figure out if it wants to be a steamy novel (good Lord! I blushed!) or a fairly well-written troubled-teen story or a trite "I regret my life" bit of fluff. Doesn't succeed overall, though it has its interesting sides. Really just okay.

View all my reviews

Had a nice time with A's college friends; after they left I planted about 60 bulbs, dividing them up in three different gardens and supplementing with compost to, I hope, ensure their continued bloom. I then deadheaded and raked the front garden, getting gloriously dirty and sweaty, so I finished up with a shower and rest.

Soon: a new knitting project! Nice weekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14: Random Sweepings

Well, we're not going away this weekend, but we are having Andy's former college roommate and his wife overnight, so it's not a pj weekend at all. However, still nice to wake up at 8:30 and pad around in my jammies a bit.

Some loose ends tied up:

A hat for our Syrian refugee knitting project, made by instinct but finished following the Yarn Harlot's Lorne's Hat pattern, and Nate's long-promised orange socks, started in Norway, made even funkier by the Fault Lines pattern. I am hoping he can get his spatulate size 13s into them. If he can't, he may gift them, but I am *done* making socks for the young man who is fully capable of knitting his own! 

I have also finished the school law class, which was ultimately a lot of hoops for a bit of learning. I wrote a very honest evaluation on Wednesday, and am trying not to feel guilty about it, especially after all my scores were 100%s. It was just not well-taught, and one of my central teaching tenets is that people learn from targeted, specific feedback and challenges. This course had neither. So. 

Today I plan to do some cleaning (an hour), a swim, some bulb planting, and some school, before our guests arrive. Next week I hope to make an app't for my yearly check up (I'd love to switch to a doctor who would send reminders, too. . . . Do they do that anymore?) to get my thyroid checked again (weird sleep patterns and temperature swings. . .  could be The Change, but could be thyroid) and to get the okay for p.t. on my cuboid bone in my right foot, which is still giving me trouble. 

And the attacks in Paris are shatteringly sad. The Fred Rogers quote, "Look for the helpers," does sustain me, but the magnitude of hatred in our world is devastating. Holding that feeling into the clear, crisp sunshine of November. 

Onwards, with humility and gratitude. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7: A Breath at Last!

Well, I have finally completed my second big school law paper (this one on special ed. "best practice" with a million subsections and 21 pages), mostly completed my grades and comments for first quarter, helped organize two big Student Council events in two days (girls flag football and the blood drive), and met my personal (still fit in my 6/week workout goal) and professional (have been rocking the RTI Writing block and being a good classroom teacher too) goals! Then I did sleep till nine this morning, which felt pretty darn good.


A and I are heading down to Lewiston to see Nate in this play, as the Nutcracker, and again stay in a hotel booked cheaply through, and visit with my well-healing mama and see the matinee of the play with my dad and stepmom. We'll come back late on Sunday, so I am trying to relax but also pull together loose ends for school, which might not happen 100%, but I'll try.

At the same time, I am longing for time to knit and create and sew and bake and cook. Kate Davies is so inspiring, and so are the Liesl and Co patterns and Quince and Co. has just released a bunch of new colors and . . . . so. And I keep thinking about what I am interested in "doing next", which deserves some thought, but there are still areas that fascinate and delight me in teaching, not least the essence of kids engaged in learning, apart from all the grades fixation and technological immersion crap that is making teaching so un-fun.

So, there is much percolating. L is in Portland, excited and a bit scared, but also learning how great it is to be really at the center of things, as when our b'fast gathering last weekend was about 2 miles from his apartment. And with N having a car, and L having an apartment and a car of his own, A and I are feeling a bit. . . . free and open. And delighted when gatherings like this one occur:

(Nate, bro Tom, Dad, JB, Ellyn, Ann, Lyle, Andy, me)!

We're entering the more centered part of the year, and this year especially I think the holidays will be fairly focused and calm (cue ominous music. . . ), so I am trying to breathe deeply and be aware. 

And possibly finish a few knitting projects, like Nate's socks and a few pairs of booties and maybe even a hat for our Syrian refugee efforts. 

Hello, November. 

That's Nate, before the evil spell is broken!