Friday, February 29, 2008


I'm not actually writing this now. This is one of those back-dated entries where I pretend I'm writing them as they're happening. The truth is, I've been too swamped to blog to a long time. Let's just pretend it's February 29, though.

It's been crazy, lately. Last week, I had a big presentation to do for my 18th Century British Literature class. Dr. Jacobs is known for being a tough grader, and that's a reputation he earned before he recently injured his back. He's gone off the pain-killers but is on a lot of muscle-relaxers and withdraw from the painkillers has left him hypersensitive to lights. He has to teach with sunglasses on and can't stay standing or sitting for too long. Even then, he sometimes has to dismiss class early. What am I getting at? Just that a normally-tough grader grouchy from extreme pain may be even tougher. What's more, one of my group members never sent me his info for the Power Point presentation I was preparing. Grr. I ended up working down to the wire to cover for him.

The next week was student conferences, so I had a ton of papers to grade. Then all day Monday and Wednesday was spent meeting individually with my students for half-hour appointments. One student told me, "I feel like I just got out of therapy or something." I thought that was pretty funny.

That pretty much brings us up to "now." I need to calculate all my students' grades and post them online. On top of that, I have an 8-10 page paper due in my Harlem Renaissance class on Tuesday and a 6-page paper due to the tough grader on Thursday. Then I give my students their final on Friday. Then I'll finally have a moment to breathe.

I did recently take a few steps to de-stress. I framed a couple of photos to hang on the blank wall over my bed and hung a mini-shelf. The shelf came with it's own tiny level, which allowed me to hang the shelf and the pictures straight. I own a level now! I decorated my shelf with a couple of candles new African Violet, yay!

And I shall call her Moxie, and she shall thrive! Seriously, though, I've actually managed to keep it alive for weeks now, and it's even bloomier than before. (See photos above.) Hooray! Perhaps I have cured my brown thumb. And if not, well, it's like I bought myself a bouquet that's lasting a really long time.

Wish me luck on midterms.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cookie Catastrophe.

Okay, catastrophe is a little too strong, but things did go a bit awry and I had to scrape my oven floor clean.

For quite a while, I'd been craving homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. I bought oatmeal and raisins last week at the store, but it was a busy week with papers to write and a major presentation to give. (I think it went pretty well.) Today after I finished teaching my 8 a.m. class, I decided it was time!

I got out all the ingredients and the great little mixer Grandma and Grandpa Staker gave me. The dough was ready in no time, and I spooned eight dollops onto my baking sheet. I didn't have a cookie sheet, so I used my pizza tin, which has holes in it to help pizza crusts bake up nice and crispy.

When the timer went off, I smelled something burning, but the cookies didn't even look done. Then I noticed weird little droppings on the bottom of the oven...and saw another one fall.

I know cookie dough gets melty when it's hot. That's why you have to space your dollops of dough a few inches apart. But for some reason, it never occurred to me that liquifying dough and a holey baking tin might be a troublesome combination...thus, oatmeal raisin stalactites. Hee!

I decided to stop baking for the day until I could get the burning cookie droppings out of the oven. Todd was actually glad. As my chauffeur, he gets a portion of all baked goods. Because of my mishap, he woke up to cookie dough instead of cookies, and as it turns out, that's just how he likes it. Heh. Cookie dough is quite enjoyable, but I did go out and buy a solid cookie for next time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've always liked the holiday, with or without a boyfriends. It's the best thing about cold and gross February, as well as an excuse to give your friends cards and candy (and receive the same in return). If nothing else, there is awesome discount candy available the day after.

One of my favorite Valentine's Days was one with a boyfriend. When I was 16, I was dating Doug. I was scheduled to cheerlead in a basketball game at Doug's school, but he wasn't going to be there because he had to work.

Well, I comforted myself that at least I was getting my braces off that day! The dentist removed them and cleaned my teeth. I couldn't stop running my tongue over them because they were so smooth! No more pokey brackets and wires. My smile was so big and bright and straight without braces. (For years after that, people would come up to me and ask if I'd had braces. They would nod with satisfaction and reply, "No one's teeth are that perfect." Hee.)

I was having fun cheering that night, and Doug's sister brought me a bouquet that he sent because he couldn't be there...but then Doug showed up just in time to give me a hug and a kiss before I had to jump on the bus back to Woodward. Aww...high school romance.

This year I made raspberry fudge (perhaps the SMARTEST thing I've EVER done--It's my mom's fudge recipe, but with raspberry extract in place of the regular vanilla) and hand-made Valentines. (Take that candy and card companies! I can have the traditional trappings of Valentine's Day without you.)

I cut out the hearts way back when I had that awful flu. I couldn't concentrate enough to study. I was too nauseated to even sleep, so I started snipping away. More recently, I taped them to some tissue paper. (Note to self: buy glue.) They turned out so cute! I sent one to Mom and Dad. I planned to sent out the others, but I got swamped. Maybe I'll send them out next year. (Hah! I've been telling myself that about my Christmas cards for three years now.)

I hope you all had a great Valentines Day. Remember, it's not just for couples: Valentine's Day is about showing appreciation to anyone who brings love into your life.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Culinary Weekend!

I had another nice week of teaching and learning. I feel like I'm getting back in the swing of scholarship, and teaching is easier this semester because I have sample papers from my former class. Things that took me a week to explain, they got in one day this time. Yay!

Before I knew it, it was Friday. I discovered my bananas were over ripe. On top of it, my roomie Todd (the one who drives me everywhere) was in a sad mood because of a lower-than-expected score on a paper. He loves banana bread, so much so that one family member gives him a loaf of it each year for Christmas. I found a recipe and made us a loaf to share, a surprise which cheered him up quite a bit. I also treated myself to some strawberries at the grocery store. For breakfast, on Saturday and Sunday, I sliced them and ate them with vanilla yogurt. It was so delicious! Then I kicked it up a notch, dipping berries in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Dipping berries is so easy. Just wash the berries. Then make sure they're completely dry and not too cold. Put some chocolate chips (I did about 3/4 cup) in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave 30 more seconds and stir. Dip about 12 berries and set them on waxed paper. Chill them in the fridge until the chocolate sets. I had some left over, so I sliced a banana, put some peanut butter on the slices, then spread chocolate over the peanut butter and chilled that, too. YUM!!!

To end the weekend yumminess, I make turkey noodle soup. We have frozen thanksgiving turkey leftovers in the freezer that should be eaten now or never. Something's not quite right on the recipe card I have. Last time, I had to play around quite a bit, adjusting the water level, spice level and corn starch to get it the right flavor and thickness. By that point, I'd added a little of this, a tad of that, and didn't know what to put on the card. This time, though, it came out great with a lot less trouble. It might not taste just lock Mom's, but it's pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I mentioned something about experimenting with the next batch. Todd didn't like that. He told me it's so good as it is that he thinks messing with it would be a bad idea: "So please don't. Make it just like this." I laughed and told him, "It's always nice to have someone appreciate your cooking."

Monday, February 04, 2008


Wow. I'm shocked! I don't even care about sports, and I'm shocked. The last few weeks, you couldn't get away from talk of the Patriots' possible perfect season. Even NPR, the talk radio station that wakes me up each morning, did I bizarre little skit where they acted out a Super Bowl press conference as though it were written by Shakespeare. Click the link for the full text, but here's a sampling: "...Think on it: those called Giants are but dwarfs here, Mere ciphers in the point spread, a goodly dozen down. [...] Yea, the true giants, these peerless monsters, Call themselves Patriots [...]" Oookaaaay... Can you imagine waking up to that? You wake up confused. Really confused. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The last time I posted, I was down with the flu. That Tuesday, the university had a great poet, Nikki Finney, come to speak at a service to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Finney wrote a speech that was basically one long poem. It was full of encouragement for artists, activists, and anyone who contributes to King's concept of a Beloved Community, a community in which all people do their best to respect, love and are for each other. She also encouraged young black scholars, which is so important.

Some of my inner-city middle schoolers (especially the boys) suffered from a lack of educated role models. Many of their parents didn't have degrees. Some of their friends who struggled in school teased them for being geeks, or soft if they worked hard at studying. The young black and Hispanic men in my composition classes tell me the same thing. Some of them say they get more encouragement to take part in street life than to better themselves. Making things harder, as they become more educated, it becomes harder for them to relate to and connect with (even the positive influences in) their friends and family, which further weakens their support system.

I used to try to close the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic children by playing catch-up with middle schoolers. Now I'm working with college students. It occurs to me that having more black and Latino college grads as parents can only help the next generation of students (not to mention the good these grads could do as teachers, community activists, etc.) And just imagine...we're living in a time when our next president might be a black man. America has come a long way.

I spent the rest of that week recovering from the flu. I was frustrated that it was taking so long and went to Student Health Services. The Nurse Practitioner said post-nasal drip was aggravating my nausea. Ew. Okay. So I bought some Claritin D, which did clear up my allergy trouble, but also woke me up in the night. I can't believe I took that stuff every day for many years!

The following week was spent getting back up to speed. I ate more normal food (included the herb chicken I was contemplating last posting), did some exercise and a lot of studying and homework. Then it was the weekend again.

Tom and I had discussed the Giants' prospects a bit. He explained it like this: "When the Giants beat the Cowboys, it was like someone gave me a big bowl of ice cream. Now it's like they're offering me sprinkles. You say, 'Sprinkles? Sure, I'll have some sprinkles!' But what you're really excited about is the ice cream. The Super Bowl? To be honest, I'll be happy if they don't get slaughtered. If they actually won the Super Bowl, would be like, 'Forget the ice cream. Here's a steak and some 12-year-old scotch.'" Hee.

Now, to be honest, I was not glued to the TV for the game. I was flipping back and forth between it and The Biggest Loser. In my defense, the first half of the game was very slow, in terms of offense. For the longest time, nothing happened. Then, toward the end, hello! With two minutes left, the Patriots scored to retake the lead. But then, in the end, the Giants managed to pull it off. As the New York Times put it, "Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown, a 13-yard pass with 35 seconds remaining in the game." Hee, Plaxico.

I text-messaged Tom : "STEAK & SCOTCH!!!" He couldn't reply, though, because New York City's cellular system became overloaded, something that usually only happens on New Year's at midnight or in emergencies. I talked to him later, and he informed me that he'd basically had a conniption fit when they won. "I don't know what a conniption is, exactly, but I know I had one. I was lying on the floor, pounding my fists. Picture a two-year-old having a tantrum, only a grown man, and very, very happy." Hee! And this with all of his friends watching.

Well, I'm happy for him and all his friends in New York. Sorry to any of you who were rooting for the Patriots. It would have been neat to see a "Perfect Season." The Giants win did give me a nice lesson for my students: "Just a reminder from the Super Bowl, guys: Even when you're at the top of your game, you have to keep fighting to stay the best. When you're the underdog and no one believes in you, you can prove everyone wrong."