Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's Lent! aka I quit you, Internet!

For my non-Christian (or non-churchy-Christian) readers, Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter (although different denominations count it out differently, according to Wikipedia, with Western churches claiming that Sundays are "mini-Easters" and don't count). The 40-day time period represents the time Jesus spent in the desert enduring temptation by the devil. Some Christians choose to give up a temptation during Lent in sympathy with Jesus. Others feel that the sacrifice, combined with prayer and "alms giving" help prepare the spirit for the coming Easter holiday.

I generally give something up for Lent, partly to sympathize with Jesus, partly as a reminder to think about God daily, and partly to remind myself about what I really need. I eat at least one piece of chocolate every day. Giving up chocolate for 40 days reminds me that, although I love chocolate, I don't need chocolate.

That said, I'm not giving up chocolate this year. I'm stressed out enough right now as it is. Also, last time I gave up chocolate for Lent, I gained weight. I think I subconciously overcompensated for the lack of chocolate with other food, which is counterproductive.

No, I'm giving up the Internet. Well, not the entire Internet. I still have to teach and be a student, and these days the web is required for both. I'll be cutting out any non-essential internet activity. Writing is kind of my job, so I'll still post here, but I'm giving up on reading blogs and using social networking sites until April 12. Sigh.

Earlier this semester, I was depressed, and when I'm depressed I have trouble focusing. I turned to social networking sites and blogs. They required very little concentration, yet could occupy my thoughts for hours. Now, they've become a pleasurable habit, but they're taking up too much of my time. Thus, for Lent I'm swearing off of them all, including Facebook, Twitter, Television Without Pity, Dear Old Love, CakeWrecks, Craftastrophe, LOLCats, Cute Overload, One Sentence, and Passive Agressive Notes. I'm kind of hoping I won't miss any of them, and when Lent is over I'll only read my friends' blogs. It's worth a shot. I know some Christians' pet peeve is people who treat Lent like a second crack at New Year's resolutions, but to them I say, "Phooey." If a resolutionish Lent sacrifice gets me to think about Jesus daily while improving myself as a person, how can it possibly be a bad thing?

(The image above is from

Monday, February 23, 2009

Buffy and Angel Crossover Episode Guide

Recently, I was trying to watch some Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel crossover episodes in order (I watch them while I exercise in the morning). I couldn't figure it out using the guide booklets that come with the boxed sets, so I did a quick search of the Internet. I quickly found a chart by Simon Hampel. Thanks, Sim'! I then turned the chart into a list, which can be copied and pasted into Word, printed small, and tucked neatly into a boxed set. You're welcome. Warning-TONS of spoilers.

Buffy and Angel Crossover Episode Guide

B 4-1 The Freshman -Angel calls Buffy but says nothing.
A 1-1 City Of... -Angel moves to L.A, saves Cordelia.They team up.

B 4-3 The Harsh Light of Day -Oz agrees to take a ring to Angel for Buffy.
A 1-3 In The Dark -Oz gives Angel the ring in LA.

B 4-8 Pangs -Angel visits Sunnydale without telling Buffy.
A 1-8 I Will Remember You -Buffy visits L.A. and Angel, who becomes human.

A 1-10 Parting Gifts -Wesley, a “rogue-demon hunter,” joins the team.

B 4-15 This Year's Girl (Part 1)-Faith wakes up from her coma.
B 4-16 Who Are You (Part 2) -Faith takes over Buffy's life.
A 1-18 Five By Five -Faith is in L.A., being a bad girl.
A 1-19 Sanctuary -Buffy comes to L.A. to take on Faith.
B 4-20 The Yoko Factor (Part 1)-Angel comes to Sunnydale and fights with Riley.

A 1-22 To Shanshu in L.A. -Darla (staked in B1-7 by Angel), is resurrected.

A 2-1 Judgment -Angel visits Faith in jail to see how she is.

A 2-9 The Trial -Drusilla comes to L.A.

B 5-17 Forever -Angel comes to Sunnydale to comfort Buffy.

A 2-17 Disharmony -Harmony comes for a visit in L.A.

A 3-1 Heartthrob -Angel retreats to grieve over Buffy's death.
A 3-4 Carpe Noctem -Angel learns Buffy is alive.
B 6-4 Flooded -Buffy leaves to meet Angel.
A 3-5 Fredless -Angel returns from meeting with Buffy.
B 6-5 Life Serial -Buffy returns from meeting with Angel.

A 4-13 Salvage -Faith breaks out of prison to help fight Angelus.
A 4-14 Release -Faith fights Angelus.
B 7-17 Lies My Parents Told Me- Willow gets a call from Fred in L.A.
A 4-15 Orpheus -Faith’s in Angel’s/Angelus’ mind. Willow comes to L.A.
B 7 -18 Dirty Girls -Willow brings Faith back to Sunnydale.

A 4-22 Home -Angel is given an amulet by Wolfram and Hart.
B 7-21 End of Days -Angel returns to Sunnydale to help Buffy.
B 7-22 Chosen -Angel gives Buffy info. and a mystical amulet.

A 5-1 Conviction -Harmony joins the team in L.A.
A 5-2 Just Rewards -Spike is resurrected in L.A. and joins the team.

A 5-10 Soul Purpose -Buffy appears in Angel's nightmares (at least her voice).

A 5-11 Damage -Andrew appears in L.A. searching for a slayer.

A 5-20 The Girl In Question -Angel and Spike rush off to Italy to try and protect Buffy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Word Cloud

Wordle: My Poetry
I just went to a cool site called Wordle. You enter a web page or document. It creates a graphic ("word cloud") showing the words used most often in the text. You can tell which words are used more often based upon their size.

I entered a document with all the poems I wrote from 1999 to 2008. Iowa and NYC are so big because I labeled where I wrote each poem. The layout is chosen by the computer, but I tweaked the coloring a bit. Cool, right? To see the image above full-sized, click the image above or click here.

I'm not surprised at my use of love, like, body, skin, heart, light and life. People comment on how much I mention earth, land and dirt in my poems, but they don't show up here at all. Hmm. I am surprised how much I use the words girl, even, want, let, know, hair, one, still, leave and away.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cagey Cardinals and Incredible Edible Eggs

Oh, but not cardinal eggs, of course. Heh.

In a previous posting, I mentioned my mini-photo-safari I set out on in pursuit of one of the many cardinals who've been flitting around the neighborhood. When I went out with my manual camera with the awesome telephoto lens, they were nowhere to be seen. (I guess when you're the color of a bull's eye, it's smart to be so easily spooked.

One cardinal kept mocking me by perching on the fence outside my window. The moment I peeked through the blinds or walked out the front door, he would take off. Well, one morning I saw him when I first woke up. I grabbed my camera and slipped out the front door, then tiptoed into the yard. I stalked around snapping pictures.

I think I got some nice shots, but I won't be sure until I develop the roll. I tried to get the cardinals on my digital camera, but couldn't manage it. Then, later in the week, I saw the silhouette again. I decided to try getting the picture through my window. Got him! It's not the most impressive picture, but it's a start.

Erin's Over-easy Egg Sandwich Recipe

This year, I've been living on egg sandwiches. They're cheap, easy, and delicious. When I was a child, if my Dad was cooking, chances were he would make fried egg sandwiches. Dad's were fried over-hard on toasted, buttered bread. The egg and butter complemented each other perfectly, especially combined with the nuttiness of wheat bread. YUM!

I first tried eggs over-easy in Europe. In Spain, my senora (house mother) made a soup with an egg poached in the broth. It was surprisingly good. Then, upon returning to the states, I fell in love with Eggs Benedict (especially the three-chiles version at Itzocan Bistro in Spanish Harlem).

I can't afford Eggs Benedict these days, but I've developed the next best thing.

First spray the frying pan with Pam and carefully crack in the egg. While it's frying, toast bread or, better yet, a flaky layers biscuit. Then lightly butter the bread, and sprinkle lightly with paprika, sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. Carefully flip the egg, taking care not to break the yoke. Let it cook a little while, then gently lift the cooked egg onto the bread or biscuit. Sprinkle bacon pieces (I use the pre-cooked kind that come in a pouch) on the egg and close the sandwich. When I take a bite, some yolk drizzles out onto the plate, and I dip the sandwich in the yolk. YUM! It tastes fancy and indulgent, but is cheap and easy. Buen provecho!

Friday, February 20, 2009

I quit you: Private Practice (and Grey's Anatomy?)

I quit you, Private Practice. One of the most amazing things about Grey's Anatomy is that they brought in Addison Shepherd-Montgomery to break up Meridith and Derrick, but made us grow to love her. We loved her, even though she cheated on McDreamy with his best friend. She was smart, funny and (poison oak notwithstanding) classy.

When Private Practice started, it had a lot of the light-hearted fun that GA has been missing lately. Okay, so the patients of the week seem more emotionally manipulative...and the soundtrack isn't as good as Grey's. So the characters are starting to act like they're in junior high...and this show has Broadway luminaries, but they never sing. Okay, so the awesome Dell never does anyhing anymore...You know what? Not okay. I'm a busy woman, and I don't have time for a show that requires me to make this many excuses for it. Addy, Naomi, and Dell you are welcome to cross-over any time. See you in Seattle.

Maybe...because I might quit you, Grey's Anatomy. Thankfully, the ghost sex has come to a close. I loved the original storyline. Dr. Izzie Stephens fell in love with heart patient Denny, who died of complications. It made me sob out loud like a little girl. (The last time a tv show made me cry that hard was when Stone died of AIDS on General Hospital, and that was a long time ago.) As such, I was okay with Denny being back as a ghost/hallucination, even a bit psyched. But the writers drew it out too long, took it too far (GHOST SEX, PEOPLE!), and are resolving it soooo sloooowly.

In general, everyone at Seattle Grace is just too sad right now. Grey's Anatomy used to be sexy doctor fun with a little drama and angst mixed in. Now it's drama and angst and doctoring with just a little sexiness and fun mixed in. Give us more fun, more Alex, and more George! While I'm making wishes, can I also have cocky old Christina and spunky old Izzy? Writers, you recently gave back old Bailey. Keep going. You can do it!

On the plus side? Christina and Hunt make my heart flutter. Sigh! That is all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I quit you: Gossip Girl

I quit you, Gossip Girl. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I watched you at all, but (like your predecessor The O.C.) in the beginning, you were smarter and funnier than most people gave you credit for. A friend talked me into watching you, and once I did I was smitten. You were trashy, witty, razor-sharp eye candy. But then you started trying to convince me that a date rapist was so dreamy. (I find the number of people out there with Chuck Bass crushes scary.) Listen, I just don't like the Beauty and the Beast Blair's-love-redeems-a-rapist concept. The thing is, you kept Chuck just enough of a drugged-up-prostitute-frequenting-asshole for me. (He's not completely redeemed; Blair just has masochistic taste.)

With this new Letourneau storyline, though, you may have driven me over the edge. Lately the media has been amping up stories about female teachers sleeping with their male students. Statistically, it is more often male teachers with female students, but that's not the story that's being told. It's sexist, and it's irresponsible, because in some ways it perpetuates the problem, as when Dan is in the courtyard getting high-fives for his 'conquest' of the hot English teacher--a Teach For America volunteer who moved to NYC from Iowa. Of course, the fact that I'm and English teacher from Iowa who moved to Manhattan for the New York City Teaching Fellows (which is just like TFA) added insult to injury. Getting appropriate respect from teenage boys is hard enough without you encouraging those kinds of fantasies. Cut that nonsense out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I quit you: J.J. Abrams shows (present or future)

I quit you, any television series by J.J. Abrams. J.J., you broke my heart when you abandoned Alias for Lost. You had an intricate plan and labyrinthine twists and turns, but I trusted you to make it all make sense and get us to a satisfying conclusion. Then you got distracted, and left other people to enact your plans. It didn't work.

Imagine if Michelangelo had just found some decent painters and told them, "Listen, I have a plan for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It's going to be God and Man reaching toward each other, almost touching. Now, I've planned it out for you. All you have to do is...paint God. Good luck with that, I'm out!"

Dude, no. That's not how it works, J.J. You get lackeys to paint sky, clouds, maybe some cherubs. You don't get them to paint GOD.

I intensely loved Alias. Even now, I look plan to re-purchase the entire series box set the instant I have disposable income (mine was stolen last year). For the first three seasons, at the end of each episode, I was dying for the next. A couple of times, the show startled me and made me scream aloud. (Sorry, roomie!) No other television show has made me do that.

It was a smart, funny, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride for years, but without J.J. toward the end it began to feel convoluted. During the series finale, I got distracted and started doing the dishes. That is SO wrong. As such, I don't plan to ever watch a J.J. show again. Sorry, Fringe. I'm sure I'd love you, but fool me once, shame on J.J. Fool me twice, shame on me. J.J. will get distracted and break your hearts, people. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I quit you: Judge, Talk and Reality shows, and Ugly Betty

I'm quitting some things that I no longer have the time, money or patience for. I will write about the things I'm quitting and why in a series for this blog.

Part One- Television:

I quit you, judge shows, talk shows and all but the highest-quality reality shows. Judge shows, you taught me not to make loans. You taught me to get it in writing, keep the receipts, and take pictures when you get something and again after any damage. Thanks. I think we're done here.

Talk shows, unless you're The Daily Show, The Colbert Report or Craig Ferguson, I have no use for you.

Reality shows, I love top-notch competition (Hi, Project Runway!) or functional families with cute kids (Hey, Gosselins!), but other than that, meh. I now know how to pick the right pants, create a faux finish on my walls, and smile with my eyes. I also learned that alliances are annoying. Thanks, reality TV, but if I never hear the term "threw me under the bus" again, it will be too soon.

I quit you, Ugly Betty. I signed on when you were about a spunky outsider, fighting for her dreams, supported by her awesome family. This season, Betty has not been her smart self, her family has been truly awful to her (How dare you have your own life, home and career, fully grown woman? Don't you know your place is taking care of your father and sister? What? Who are these people, and what have they done with the REAL Suarez family?) Also, this season some of the gay jokes felt less campy, and more...mean. I can't explain the shift, but I felt it, and I'm out. I hear rumors that the show has improved recently, but since quitting you, I haven't really missed you so...bye!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Nothing too special happened today. I took the holiday as free license to eat all the chocolate I wanted, and roomie Todd and I went for cheap, yummy frozen drinks at the local Mexican restaurant. Perhaps next year will be more romantic. Well, may we all have days filled with the love of family and friends, if not romance. If we manage to score some romance, too, that's the icing on the cake!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Usually, I send flowers for Mom and Dad's anniversary. This year that was not in the budget, and I feel bad that I didn't send a card. I'm terrible at getting stuff in the mail before important days. I did get to talk to them on the phone, though. It sounded like they were having a nice night.

My parents have been married since mom was 20 and Dad was 21. If my math is right, they've been married for 37 years. Isn't that something?

(Forgive me if I get any of these facts wrong. I'm working from memory, and memory is a tricky thing.)

Mom and Dad met on a blind date. Dad's fraternity brother wanted to date Mom's sorority sister. Mom’s friend would only agree to go on a double. The other couple wasn’t a match, but Mom and Dad have been together ever since. Two months later, they were engaged, and six months after they met, they were married.

Mom says they just didn’t want to wait. There was a war on. Everyone would sit in campus lounges watching the lotteries to see whose numbers were up in the draft. Young men would be taken from their lives, and return changed if they returned at all. My parents couldn’t take for granted that they would have time for a long courtship. When Mom told me the story, she used the same words Grandma Carmie used when explaining that she ditched a date at a dance for Grandpa Keith: “I think I made the right decision!”

I’m lucky, because my parents are not just still together, but crazy in love. When I was in high school, my friends were shocked when we’d walk into the house and find my parents passionately smooching in the kitchen. I didn’t realize how rare it is, that my parents kiss and joke, that they hold hands when they walk around the State Fair.

Being in love doesn’t make life perfect. I asked Mom when I was a little girl, if Dad passed away, would she remarry? She told me she probably wouldn’t, because creating a good marriage was such hard work. But my parents do work to understand each other, and make each other happy. That hard work built a loving family. Their marriage is truly an inspiration.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sunday Stroll

Saturday, I finally began to pick up steam. My room had become a pit of despair. (Actually, The Pit of Despair in The Princess Bride was grimier than my room, but MUCH less cluttered.) In a burst of energy, I updated my blog, created new spreadsheets to keep track of the apartment finances (did a mini-audit), and then started cleaning. I didn't want to lose momentum, so I stayed up until it was done at 6 a.m.

I got up at 9 a.m. and it was such a gorgeous day, sunny and 70 degrees. I decided to go for a walk to get some fresh air, exercise and sunshine. It would also give me a chance to try out the awesome camera Sandy gave me, and its amazing giant lens. Hooray! I don't have a guide book or anything, and I hadn't used a manual camera for quite some time. Actually, I've never mastered manual photography.

The day before, I'd seen some cardinals flitting around, and I hoped the awesome zoom lens would allow me to get one on film. I found a purse big enough for my manual and digital cameras. I put on some sunglasses and my iPod. This is partly because the sun was bright and music is entertaining, but partly a defense measure. Guys in my neighborhood can be very flirtatious. Some of it isn't flirting, really. It's just a cultural difference.

In Iowa, people smile and wave or nod, and maybe say "Hi," or "Morning." In Spanish Harlem, Harlem or my current neighborhood, some people say "Good morning," but men are as likely to say "Lookin' gooood, girl." Sometimes it feels like a friendly greeting, but other times it makes me uncomfortable.

Usually, if a guy seems too flirty, I give my best You're sweet, but I'm just too shy for you smile. (Erin's acting skills put to good use!) The shades and music give me the option, though, to ignore them without seeming rude. In the pre-iPod days, sometimes a guy would give me a creepy feeling, so I would ignore him, and he would get offended. "What, you too good to talk to me?" I would go from dealing with an overly-flirtatious stranger to a hostile stranger. I don't have that problem anymore. Hooray for iPods! (On a safety note, ladies, don't turn them up too high. You need to be able to hear if someone's approaching you from behind.)

I started out taking pictures in the back yard, then got some shots of the big Baptist church on the corner. Next, I walked and walked until I finally found a park I'd never seen before. I sat and watched kids run and swing and play. They were all so giddy. Just a few days before, it had been below freezing and windy. Now it was balmy.

Norfolk is a funny place in the spring. Some deciduous trees are bare, with some berries or seeds dangling. Others never lose their leaves at all. Despite the cold last week, at the least warmth, crocuses and daffodils sprung up in local gardens. I never did see a cardinal on my trip, but I did get some bird pictures and shots of spring flowers. I have no idea how my non-digital photos turned out. I haven't finished the roll of film, and I'm waiting until I have a little spare cash, but for now I have some lovely digital pics.

As I returned home, my neighbors Justin and Stephanie were out with their dogs, Tinkerbelle the pit bull and Jagermeister the boxer. The dogs bounded over for me to pet them, and I did for a good long while. I miss having pets.

It was nice to be out in the world, enjoying its beauty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe!

Okay, technically I made turkey noodle soup. At Thanksgiving, I roasted a turkey and froze most of the leftovers with a drizzling of the liquid from the roasting pan (A mixture of white wine, herbs and turkey drippings) to keep the meat moist and flavorful. This week, it was cold, so I thawed out a small batch to make a cheap, warm, hearty soup.

It was mom's soup first, but she's been making it so long that she doesn't really use a recipe. The recipe she gave me didn't seem to have the right liquid to dry ingredient ratio or taste like hers. (The first batch I ever made is in the photo. I hadn't gotten it right yet. It should have more liquid.) I think I also bought the wrong chicken soup base. Anyway, after some experimentation, it's not as good as Mom's, but it is flavorful and satisfying.

This recipe is designed to be made from a winter pantry, but in the future I'd like to try it with fresh onions and garlic. I'd also like to try liquid stock. Adjust the recipe to your own taste!

4c. Water (or more if the soup is too thick or too much liquid boils off)
2c. Egg Noodles
1.5 or 2 c cooked chicken or turkey or 1 9oz. can chicken breast and 1 4.5oz. can mixing chicken.
1 T onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 tsp. low sodium chicken-flavored soup base
cornstarch to thicken
Salt to taste
(I've also made batches where I added mustard powder and lemon pepper. Trust your instincts.)

Boil water and cook noodles until tender. Add all other ingredients. Heat to simmer. Dissolve cornstarch in warm water and add it to the soup. Stir until thickened. Serve.

This one is a family favorite, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My new guardian angel, and a design adjustment.

This week has been all about trying to get back in the swing of things. I've been catching up on work, schoolwork and housekeeping. Now I'm catching up on blogging, too.

When I first got back from Iowa, I meant to post on this adorable little statue Sacketts got me. Doesn't she look at home on my bookshelf? They also gave me a great t-shirt.

They made official farm shirts as Unkie's Christmas present, and gave me one as an honorary family member. Everyone weighed in on the design, each person requesting a different image. Hannah, for example, insisted on the kitty. A designer helped put it all together in a way that looks clean and modern. The shirts look great! My dad thinks they need one little adjustment:

Hee! Dad keeping some sheep at Unkie's farm was supposed to be temporary, but I'm beginning to suspect they're there to stay. Next time they order a batch of shirts, maybe they should add a Suffolk!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Getting through

I spent most of the week in bed, studying and planning lessons just enough to keep my head above water. I really only got out of bed long enough to teach, hold office hours or go to class. It was a rough week. I longed to hug my family.

I wanted to stay in bed, but I made myself get up, and go to school and work. I'm glad I did. It was a good teaching week. My students were so receptive. One student has an undiagnosed learning disorder, and I think I really helped her. I gave her tips for coping with her challenges, and they seemed to be working. If they do work, then I've given her tools to succeed, not just for my class, but for her entire college career and beyond. It made my heart flutter, almost like being in love. Teaching is so powerful, because it can transform lives for the better. That's why we do it. (Most of us, anyway. I suppose some people do it for the vacations.)

I talked to Mom a lot this week. The snapdragons I ordered arrived in time for Helen's visitation. I asked for snapdragons for two reasons. First of all, I didn't want to leave the florist to his or her own devices. Some florists make such morbid floral arrangements for funerals. Funerals are depressing enough without depressing flowers! I wanted something colorful and fresh. Also, Helen liked snapdragons. Once, when I was a little girl, she had a gorgeous vase of them on her kitchen table. I asked why they were called that. She pointed out the dragon faces in the blooms, and showed me how to gently pinch to make the blossom's jaws open and snap shut. I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, and the flowers have made me think of her ever since.

Friday, the MFA program had a reading with judges to help us improve our technique. The judges told me it was lovely (yay!). They also gave some helpful suggestions for improvement. After the reading, about 20 of us went out to The Tap House. It was so nice to spend time with them outside of class and chat.

(Family, I know how some of you are. Don't get excited by the picture of me and a guy. He's a happily married classmate.)

Now I just need to get back to my routine of sleeping right, eating right, studying, writing and exercising. Piece of cake, right? Mmm-hmm. Sure.

(Snapdragon photos from and