Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! It's been so long since I spent Thanksgiving with my family. Last year I cooked for myself and my roomie, Todd. The year before, I was with Tom's family. The year before that, I was with Mr. B's family. The preceding year, I went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, Ted and Rosa were here to keep me company. Yay! I still can barely believe that she came all the way from California, or that he trekked all the way down here when he barely knows me. They are wonderful people. Rose calls her trip down here her vacation-within-a-vacation.

Wednesday, I was running around like a crazy woman, making up beds and cleaning to prepare for my guests. I hadn't seen Rose in almost two years, and even then it was only for a few hours in the JFK airport while Rose was on a layover.

When she arrived late that night, we hugged each other so hard! Thursday, I woke up early and exercised. When everyone was up, we started the dressing, prepped the Turkey and popped it in the oven.

Then we went on a walk around the ODU campus. Rose lead us in lunges across the entire quad. Yowza! We walked around my neighborhood a little more, then drove to the market for fresh salad supplies.

Then it was time to get started on the side dishes. Ted started the candied yams. Rose made a marinade for her salmon and prepped a head of garlic for roasting. I started boiling macaroni and chopping potatoes. Then Ted took over the macaroni and cheese and Rose mashed the potatoes while I showered and prepped for supper. Ted was great. He did the hardest part of the turkey (flipping the bird over half way through baking) and held down the fort while Rose showered and dressed for dinner, too.

We all pitched in for the finishing touches: setting the table, lighting candles and opening wine. I said grace, and we all sat down to a scrumptious meal. Later that evening, we finished our feast with Pushing Daisies and pumpkin pie.

The next day, we decided to go to Virginia Beach. We ended up parked in front of a cafe/psychic. Hee. We decided it was fate, because Rose had been wanting to have her cards read. We made an appointment, had some soup, then went for a long walk on the beach.

The weather was gorgeous: sunny and mild. The sky was so blue. At one point, we took off our sweaters. It was amazing to be outside in a tank top in November!

(Well, it wasn't as nice for for Rose. It's in the '80s where she's from.)Some watersports enthusuasts were crazy enough to be surfing and riding waverunners. It was warm, but it wasn't that warm.

We decided to write a little Thanksgiving card in the sand. Then we posed for pictures with the King Neptune statue and returned to the psychic for our readings. She guessed that I had been a reporter. Impressive, right?

We returned to my apartment for a dinner of leftovers, or "Thankgiving Dinner, part 2," as Rose called it. We even had port and Lindor truffles for dessert. MMMMmmm...port. If you haven't experienced it, it's like the wine version of candy. Or the candy version of wine? Whichever. Rose got it in Napa valley, and it was SO good.

Then Ted serenaded us for hours while we listened adoringly. He's been taking guitar lessons since he was a small child. His singing voice has a really nice tone, Rose has great rhythm, and I have teh ear for pitch. Put the three of us together and you'd have one fine musician! Heh. All that matters is we had fun. It turned from a serenade to a sing-along. Whenever we thought of a song Ted didn't know, we only had to go online and print out tabs and he could instantly play it for us. Awesome!

Saturday I was up early again, so I exercised, took a shower, and made some mixed CDs for Rose and Ted's car trip. We made french toast (using sourdough bread brought from SanFrancisco) and fruit salad for brunch. We watched a movie, and before we knew it, it was time for supper. Then my guests had to hit the road. Sigh! We rushed around finding packing up their belongings and said our good-byes.

Good-bye, Mariposa. Who knows when we'll be together again? Well, whenever it is, it will be too long from now...but also as if no time has passed. That's the best part of our friendship. It never feels like catching up. It's like we've been together all along.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rose is coming, hooray! Also: recipes for a feast.

Monday, one of my students gave me a great compliment...kind of: "Ms. Kiley, aren't you teaching English 111?" I told him I wasn't, because I'm better at the artistic side of composition than strict rhetorical forms (the focus of 111 is rhetoric and research). "Well," he replied, "I was going to take it with you. If my teacher next semester sucks, I'm going to be mad at you." Hee! Then a few other students added that they had tried to register to take 111 with me, too, and were disapointed to see that I wasn't teaching it. Aw! It's nice to be appreciated.

We're at that point in the semester when I start to panic just a little--the point when time is running out and I have tons of papers to grade and finals to complete. Aaaaiieeeeeee!

Well, I don't have time to worry about that right now, because Rose is coming. Hooray! First she'll fly from San Diego to DC and hang out with her friends there. Then she and her friend Ted will rent a car and drive down here. In honor of her visit, I've been picking out recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, and buying supplies. I even decided to do a little decorating. Okay, perhaps that's not the best use of time when there's too much to do, but our living room had zero decorations. I've stayed at hotels with warmer decores. At Wal-Mart I spent $12 on picture frames and a couple of dollars on acid-free paper. Then I printed out a black-and-white photo I took a few years ago. I cut out the paper, layered and glued it to make a little wall art. Ta-da! (Note to self: Straighten those pictures. They are crooked!)

Below are the recipes I plan to use for Thanksgiving dinner, adjusted from recipes found random places on the internet (I forgot to write it down). Travel safely and have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

• 1 whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
• kosher salt
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• fruit (I chopped an apple and cut the peel and skin off an orange and lemon.)
• onion, peeled and chopped
• thyme
• bay leaves
• dry white wine
• Optional: celery, chopped and carrots**

1. Rub the turkey inside and out with the kosher salt. (Last year, the turkey was too frozen to rub inside, so I just rubbed outside. Place the bird in a large stock pot, and cover with cold water. (You can also use a thick plastic bag inside the roasting pan.) Place in the refrigerator, and allow the turkey to soak in the salt and water mixture 12 hours, or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Thoroughly rinse the turkey, and discard the brine mixture.
3. Brush the turkey with 1/2 the melted butter. Place breast side down on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Stuff the turkey cavity with fruit. Scatter the vegetables, bay leaves and thyme around the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover with the white wine.
4. Roast uncovered 3 1/2 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Carefully turn the turkey breast side up about 2/3 through the roasting time, and brush with the remaining butter. Allow the bird to stand about 30 minutes before carving.

Mashed Potatoes-
1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered length-wise
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp milk
Salt and Pepper
A potato masher

1. Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until done - a fork can easily be poked through them.
2. Warm cream and melt butter, together, either in microwave or in a pan on the stove. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl. Add cream and melted butter. Use potato masher to mash potatoes until well mashed. Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you desire. (Do not over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.) Salt and pepper to taste. [Edited to add- Rosa ended up making the potatoes. She fixed a whole lot more potatoes and added fresh roasted garlic and a bunch of low-fat sour cream instead of heavy cream.Yum!]

Candied Yams
* 1 (29 ounce) canned yams
* 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. Drain yams. Place sweet potatoes in a medium baking dish and mash slightly. Distribute butter pieces evenly over the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Layer with miniature marshmallows. [Edited to add- Rosa ended up picking out some of the butter. She did not approve of the suggested quantity.]
3. Cover and bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender and marshmallows have melted. Hint- spray foil with Pam. Remove foil and bake a few minutes to brown marshmallows.

Macaroni and Cheese
* 5 cups cooked macaroni (8 ounces raw)
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 4 tablespoons flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 pepper, or to taste
* 2 cups milk
* 3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
* paprika, optional

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir flour into the butter until smooth and bubbly. Stir in salt. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese and continue to cook and stir until melted. In an 8x10-inch baking dish, alternate layers of macaroni and cheese sauce. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. (Toss some buttered bread crumbs if you want to add a little crunch.) Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Serves 6.

Crock Pot Stuffing
5 c. bread cubes
1 c. chopped celery (or to taste)
½ c. chopped onions (or to taste)
½ tsp. Sage
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ c. chicken broth (or more. Enough to moisten the the bread.)
up to ¼ c. melted butter

1-Combine all ingredients but butter. Mix well. Toss with butter.
2- Spoon into slow cooker. Cook on low 4-5 hrs.
Note: The portion is rather small because I have the 1.5 quart Crock Pot. If you have a big one, triple it!

[Rose ended up adding a lettuce salad with cranberry goat cheese, raisins, raspberry vinaigrette, and who knows what else, and she baked some salmon with an awesome marinade. I've got to get the recipes!]

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This year, fall did not sneak up on me. Last year, it was an instant revelation: When did these trees turn orange and red and gold? When did the air take on this edge? This year I saw it as the leaves turned, not just tree by tree, but leaf by leaf.

Here, fall is a rainy time, but some crisp, clear mornings, all I can think about are high school football games, with waxed paper bags of popcorn, and cocoa in styrofoam cups, reverently held between two gloved hands--those cold nights, huddling over the cup, breathing in the scent of chocolate, breathing out a plume of breath to the sound of plastic helmets and bodies crashing as the crowds cheered and groaned.

If ODU had a football team, I would be tempted to attend a game.

Since I posted last:

Election night, I went to sleep and woke up at 11 p.m. to the sounds of joyful cheering in the distance: Obama had won. I was happy. Some people I knew were sad, and I sympathisized. Soon, McCain was back to his old self on TV-- the guy I actually liked before the election began. Why must candidates pretend to be more stuffy and conservative when they run for office? It didn't work for Dole or Gore or McCain. Hopefully, future candidates will take note. Be yourself!

I recently came down with a virus that made my temp go up and down. The doctor's verdict? Get rest and lots of fluids. Gee, thanks. I was too out-of-it to grade papers, and my throat was so sore I could only eat soft food. I fell asleep one evening at 5 p.m. and slept the whole night through. Sigh. I cut exercise out of my routine for a while and spent every minute when I wasn't in a classroom in bed. I'm almost all better now.

I'm also excited, because one of my best friends in the world, Rosemari (aka Rosa), has decided to come visit me during Thanksgiving. First she'll visit her friends in D.C. Then her friend Ted will drive Rosa to Norfolk. He let Rose and I stay at his place years ago when I visited L.A. The three of us will have Thankgiving dinner on Thursday, and that weekend we plan to visit Colonial Williamsburg, too. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Please Vote! (Also, what Obama has done for me.)

I just stood in the rain for and hour and a half (with another half-hour waiting inside) just to vote. Did I mind? No, because as Alice Walker said (and Barack Obama quoted), "We are the ones we have been waiting for." Everyone in line was in good spirits. Teens were having people take their picture in line, to commemorate their part in this election. Parents had their children with them, some planning to drop the kids at school after, but others to teach them about the democratic process.

I grew up in a politically active family. Grandma was a mayor and she and Grandpa advocate for veterans' rights. Dad was on the Planning and Zoning commission. Mom protested for Planned Parenthood. We went door-to-door working on political campaigns. We would all go vote together. I was a page in the Iowa State House of Representatives.

I helped run letter writing campaigns for issues I thought were important, like preserving the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge. At the time, the campaign brought in more letters to the White House than had been seen on any issue in nearly three decades. It worked! We won. Then Bush took office, and quickly undid all of our sweat, work and words. He didn't care that hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Americans cared enough to write on behalf of the preserve.

I found myself disillusioned with politics, a disillusionment that only grew as I taught in the South Bronx under the No Child Left Behind act. Day after day, I saw the needs of people fall by the wayside, lost to the needs of political parties. I stepped away from politics, and began waiting for someone to fix things somehow. I forgot that no one can do it but us. ("Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead)

Recently, Barack Obama has given me some of that old optimism back and (dare I say it) hope. My friend Kelly has accused me of "drinking the Kool-aide." I haven't. I used to be a reporter, and I still have a level head. I'm good at cutting through spin. Obama's yes-we-can-hope-hope-hope rhetoric is a sales pitch, but I respect that he chose a positive sales pitch. I respect his economic and social ideas. I think he will be a remarkable diplomat, repairing the USA's relationship abroad.

Obama did something unexpected: he appealed to the patriotism of the left! Democrats may love their country differently than Republicans, but just as deeply. He has roused not only my activist side, but that of scores of people who previously felt disenfranchised.

If you love your country, go vote for whomever you believe in. Be a part of the process. As Ghandi said, "Be the change you hope to see in the world." We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween in NYC

I decided to spend Halloween in New York because I miss my friends and I love the parade. I had planned a costume, Joan from Mad Men. I arranged a place to stay, with my friend Madrid. I scheduled a take-home test for my students (Halloween is traditionally a low-attendance day, anyway) and hopped on the bus to NYC. A friend from the MFA department, Jesse, was coincidentally on the same bus, so I even had someone to talk to on the long ride.We got into the city around 7 a.m. and grabbed breakfast. Then I went to Madrid's for a nap. Her hubby, Chris, was home, and post-nap we grabbed lunch.

Then it was time to get costumed-up. Joan is known for three things: Her pen necklace, her red hair, and her figure. I donned some strategic padding, pinned my hair in a sixties hairdo and threw on a vintage dress and accessories. I had died my hair auburn the day before, but it didn't turn red enough, so I added some red spray-on color. (In natural light it looked more natural, but in flash photography, it looks more punk-red. Less authentic, but still fun.)

I met up with Madrid, Jenny, Irene and several of their teacher-friends for drinks. Jenny and Irene were 80s prom murder victims. Madrid was Professor Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter. We spent hours talking. Then everyone went their separate ways. It was fun, but I must admit, I thought to myself, "Wow, that was a long, pricey bus ride just for drinks at the local bar." Everyone except Carolina had even baled on watching the parade with me.

I couldn't find Carolina anywhere. Our phones kept cutting out. There were so many people between me and the barricade that I could barely see the parade. Then, I got a text from Carolina explaining that she had accidentally ended up in the parade (more on that later). I managed to sweet-talk a police officer into opening a barricade to let me in. When I finally found her, we were giddy with relief. Our giddiness only increased when we ended up on a float.

To truly understand how I spent Halloween, first I need you to watch the first five minutes or so of this. (If you're in a hurry and want to fast-forward to the good parts, "Danke Shoen" starts at 0:45. "Twist and Shout" begins at 2:37 and ends at 5:18.)

Who doesn't see that scene from Ferris Beuller's Day Off and think, "That looks so much fun! I'd love to be part of something like that!"

Now watch this. There's no sound, but we were shakin' it up, baby. (I'll post a better video at a later date if I can find it online.)

I'm the one in the red dress. My friend Carolina is the German Beer Wench on the right.

Two NYC artists, Mina Karimi and Kara Suhey, decided to recreate the parade scene from the movie, recruiting thousands of people to help. Carolina's costume just happened to match the girls on the Project Beuller float. When Carolina got shoved into the parade, it gave me an excuse to get into the parade. ("Officer, my sister is in there, and I have to find her!") Hee.

"I wish we were on the float," Carolina said. So we approached a barmaid and asked her about it. Her reply: "Sure. If two people get off, you can get on, as long as you dance." We waited for our moment, hopped on and joined in the dancing. It didn't take us long to pick up the official dance moves. First we waved languidly to Danke Shoen, then we twisted and shook, singing along to "Twist and Shout." Well, you've seen the clip, so you know the routine.

Even when the sound system shorted out for a while, we kept singing and dancing. At least it was working when we went past the TV cameras (for NY One, I think?) According to NBC New York, 2 million people watched or participated in the parade. Dancing on the float was the most fun I've had in a long time, and it is one of my all-time favorite New York moments.

The next day I spent some time with Madrid and Chris (watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog). Then I met up with Lex (one of my best friends from the Teaching Fellows) for brunch. She's in a Leadership Academy to become a principal. When she gets her principal gig, it will be amazing. She says she'll still teach at least one class a semester, so that she never loses sight of what it's like to be in the classroom. God bless her!

Then I hopped on the Chinatown bus back to Virginia, knowing my weekend in NYC couldn't get any better. Save Ferris!