Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Looking for the Little White Church

Clingmans Dome with my Head Literally in the Clouds
The destination wedding to Gatlinburg is on; more of a weekend retreat than destination.  The original date is still off due to events we didn't see coming, but that is life.  In order to be prepared (biggie for me), we ran down to TN this past weekend with research on the brain.  I wanted to see the chapels before I sent money, and I am really glad I did.  In case any of you have used the chapels in downtown, this is not judgmental in any way.  Every  wedding should match the bride AND groom; however, I really don't want to get married next to Ripley's Believe It or Not.  Love that place, but not dream wedding material for me.  It worked well for my groom's dad, but I want to be away from the sounds of the tourists.  Tourists can be a loud bunch.    With that in mind, I am happy to report we did find a place with a lot of potential.  The Chapel in the Glen is beautiful and tucked on a mountain several miles outside of town.  Quiet and peaceful are the two best words to describe it.  She took us into the chapel, and it just looked perfect for what we had in mind, just us and the kids.  Nothing tacky, which has been a worry for the groom's mother.  No Elvis at the door with wedding book in hand, which disappoints Thing One.  Simple, sweet, and beautiful.  I am interested in a waterfall service below the chapel.  This also appeals to the groom since he loves the look of overhanging trees.

Now the hard part...when.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Simple, Wanna-be Cook Goes Country

Today began with taking my granny to her monthly doctor's appointment.  Since she was a good girl and didn't cry, I took her to a local drive in for lunch. After traditional fast food bliss, she and I wanted something completely different for dinner, and thanks to our local produce stands, we were able to have half-runner green beans, new potatoes, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and homemade blackberry cobbler.  Yummy!

My contributions were the tomatoes and cobbler:

Simple Blackberry Cobbler:
When I was about six, I would climb the hills behind my house to pick berries for my neighbor's cobblers.  I would bring my basket into her kitchen where she always asked if I had been eating the berries.  I would shake my head and say, "Nooooooooo", even though I was covered in sweet, purple evidence.  If you go picking, be careful since blackberry bushes seem to attract copperheads.  This recipe came from my neighbor's kitchen to my mother's to mine.
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 stick butter
About two-three cups fresh blackberries

1.  Mix sugar, flour, milk and melted butter together until smooth.
2.  Pour mix into a baking dish that is buttered, floured, or sprayed with oil.
3.  Sprinkle berries over the top
4.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about an hour or until the top is golden brown and the cobbler is bubbly.
Doesn't get any easier or better than this

Simple Recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes:

Make a batter from 2 cups flours, 1/2 cup corn meal (or panko crumbs), salt, pepper, and just enough milk to make it smooth.
Dip your tomato slices and fry.  
Some time ago, I Googled how to keep fried foods crispy and read that you should put fried food in a colander.  Place it over a paper towel on a plate and let the oil drain.  Whoever posted this, thank you!  Perfect for fried green tomatoes.  
The colander in this picture is about sixty years old and actually not a colander at all.  My granny bought strawberries in the 1940s and kept the plastic container.  This is the only colander she has ever used.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

Today has been a busy one.  I have been running the roads since 9 AM this morning, and I am ready to relax with the magazines I never have the chance to read.  First stop was to open a checking account with a bank that has a branch in the town I am moving to this summer.  Then Thing Two had an eye appointment.  Turns out he needs reading glasses due to a focusing issue.  I did chuckle at the way it was worded.  Pizza and light shopping ended with me picking up my engagement ring (had to throw that in), but that is nothing compared to what I found when I made it home.

I opened the door to find my eldest cleaning the kitchen.  A beautiful sight for my tired eyes, but she was beaming from ear to ear.  She had made the perfect egg (sunny side up) and homemade pancakes.  The recipe came from a website.  As she happily went out of the room, I nibbled a leftover pancake, and wow, she impressed me.  They were delicious and better than most adults'.  I have to admit I miss the little tow head that stood in front of the pantry and asked for "hot yummies", but I am blown away by the independent young lady she has become.  My baby is an extraordinary young lady, and I am humbled that she is mine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blueberry Dreams Done Simply

I love blueberry pancakes, and today I indulged by making my first batch of blueberry syrup.  My favorite critic seemed to enjoy it!

Blueberry Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. Cornstarch
1 cup water
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice

a.  Mix sugar with cornstarch
b.  Over medium heat gradually add the water, stirring as you do
c.  Add blueberries and lemon juice
d.  Bring mixture to a boil and stir constantly for two minutes

Very simple!  I added my extra blueberries to my pancake mix and served warm.  The recipe makes three cups, so I now have extra for the weekend.  Waffles anybody?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Summer Reading Treat

So far this summer, my reading has centered around education and professional development.  I am switching school districts this fall, and I am looking for inspiration, page by page.  Needless to say, I became a bit bored.  My choices were good, but I got a hankering for  Here is what I found so far:

Bubba and the Dead Woman
This mystery is free right now for Amazon Kindle, and I have to say it was entertaining.  The bad guy is not that difficult to figure out, but that didn't deter me from finishing it in one evening.  This characters are a hoot, especially Bubba's mama.  A nice, little mystery.

Still Life with Murder (Gilded Age Mysteries #1)
Now it is time for something completely different.  The characters are far from light and fluffy.  The mystery is dark and complex, and I cannot get enough.  Nell becomes the unlikely governess for a wealthy family right after they discover their two sons have died in Andersonville.  Three years later, the eldest son is very much alive and accused of murder.  He is far from perfect with an Opium addiction, and the author doesn't gloss over the character flaws.  I wouldn't call the mysteries "gritty" but they do have an edge to them, and once I began to read, I couldn't stop.  I finished book two last night, and I have a feeling I will have the entire series read by July.  There are six books in all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Be or Not...Internet Connection Has Been Lost

A fellow teacher Facebooked yesterday that she was reading an article about the future of textbooks in the technological age, and it began a conversation with a colleague about what should we expect.  Basically, they are going the way of the dinosaur.  In the near future, netbooks and E-book readers will take the place of the big, bulky books your children or grandchildren are carrying. 

On one hand, doesn't that sound amazing?  No more back strain by the ripe old age of thirteen. The resources online are endless, and less trees will  be destroyed.  Children, who are naturally geared toward the new and shiny, will easily adapt to the changes, and most will excel.  We then can drive them to school in silver jumpsuits and flying cars.

Don't get me wrong, I love technology.  My kindle is my new favorite toy, and I love how easily I can zip in and buy a book and zip out to read.  I would love an I-Pad.  Don't see one in my future, but it would be fun; however, we need to realize that using technology is easier said than done, especially in rural or urban areas with higher rates of poverty.

First and foremost, technology fails, big time.  We are using an online computer program for summer school this year and guess what happened after lunch yesterday:  we lost Internet connection.  We had a plan to go and grab...insert gasp...textbooks, but the final bell rang, and the children skipped merrily home.  We lost seat time due to the fact technology is completely unpredictable.  My own desktop, hooked up to my Smartboard, proves this on a daily basis since it takes twenty minutes to just  boot up, if I am lucky.  The same teacher workstation is so outdated, I have to use another computer in my room to just open my school email.   The list can go on and on and on.

Yes, I know, in the long run the argument is based on expenses.  Every thing in education is based on the bottom line; however, technology doesn't last forever.  Within moments of purchase, your items go immediately out of date.  Things need updated.  Computers need to be replaced.  School boards don't have the budget in coming years, and then none of this happens.  Then what?  My district can't even afford to replace the English textbooks we are currently using.  They are over fourteen years old.  How will they be able to do yearly upgrades? 

They next argument is that this will allow every student the ability to do more and learn more ( and pass more state tests).  Well, maybe not.  Not every student in my school has the ability to access the Internet at home. If I offer a technology based assignment, I have to present an alternative to the students who are unable to go online.  We even have students who live in areas where cable companies fear to tread, and have you even looked at the online packages for most satellite providers?  Downloading is only free from midnight to six AM?  Seriously?   Once again, a one size fits all solution to a diverse population isn't the answer.

I hate being negative, and to be honest, I want this to work.  I want to see technology incorporated into the curriculum in a manner that is productive and reliable.  I want them to prove me wrong.  I want to see my children with their school paid for I-Pads growing and learning in ways I never could.  I want their success in this miraculous age we live in; however, maybe we need a more realistic view of what life is really like for our students.  Maybe we need more than the latest fad.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Simple Wanna Be Cook Makes French Toast

Yeah, so what.  Big deal.  I know, French Toast is not rocket science, but I had a house full of people and not much time on Saturday until a wedding (not mine).  How was I going to feed them?  A few weeks ago, I read about making French Toast the night before and then baking it.  That sounded perfect, and this is what I did with the ingridients I had on hand:

1.  One loaf of French Bread.  I cut it into about one inch slices
2. One cup of heavy whipping cream
3. Five eggs
4.  A dash of vanilla
5.  1/2 cup of sugar
6.  Cinnamon
a.  Whip the eggs with the cream and vanilla
b.  Layer a baking pan with bread and pour mixture to saturate. 
c.  Refrigerate overnight
d.  Preheat oven to 400
e.  Pour sugar and cinnamon over the bread
f.  Bake twenty minutes
g.  Serve hot

I wish I had a picture, but people were too hungry.  My son ate it with bananas and syrup, and asked for more.  Since he is my most critical eater, I took it as a compliment.  This recipe will be made again soon, but I am thinking of making a blueberry syrup to go with it.  I also like making eggnog French Toast in the winter, and I believe this will translate nicely with a little nutmeg instead of cinnamon. 

I will take pictures. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Kindle Treat

"I teach, therefore, I am...poor."  John Pearson, Learn Me Good

Thanks to my lack of summer reading, Amazon introduced to me to the hilariously honest Learn Me Good.  Even though I am not an elementary school teacher, I still found this book to be a realistic view of not only the first year of teaching but teaching in general.  This isn't for you if you are looking for new ways to use a Venn Diagram or wanting the politically correct Another Casserole for the Educational Professional.  This isn't that kind of book.  Learn Me Good instead reminds me that there is a time to laugh, mostly at myself. 

Teaching can be an adventure. People often have their opinions of public education and educators, but I don't think you fully understand teaching unless you spend time on the front lines (No, Sunday School doesn't count, and yes, politicians, I am talking to you).  From the moment I began the prologue, I knew this book is different.  First of all, I like how it is an epistolary memoir; the tone is more conversational and relaxed.  The emails add to the humor, as you imagine two geeky (saying this with only the love that a fellow geek can convey) friends, joking between work mishaps and The Big Bang Theory.  By the time the book was over, I wanted to be in his address book.  I wanted more.  Thankfully, Mr. Pearson is a blogger at Learn Me Good .

I also enjoy the fact this book isn't all cutesy and huggy with butterflies and rainbows.  Teachers do experience those moments, but come on, not on a daily basis.  A student has vomited on my desk. 'Nuff said.  I hypervenelate every time test scores are released. I find NCLB idealistic.  Mr. Pearson may not agree with my statements, but in my fantasy school faculty, he understands enough to hand me a brown bag before I pass out.  In other words, this book is by a teacher who teaches, not a consultant who...well, who knows what they REALLY do.  

So, here is my call to action:  stop taking yourself so seriously and check out Learn Me Good by John Pearson.  I was lucky enough to get it for less than a dollar but the 2.99 is workable, even on a teacher's salary.

Buy Learn Me Good

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Paris Wife, Part Two: So This Is the End

The novel ended just like the history books.  No startling revelations or new found secrets.  It just was.  She lived her life, and we can just go to Wikipedia for his.  I have to admit I became obsessed for several days with the many characters that breezed through.  Who were they really?  What significance did they make?  I Googled their images and wondered about those hot days in Spain that were so critical to Hemingway. Of course, this novel wasn't their story, so we didn't really get to know their motivations; instead, they were characters who fretted their hour upon stage and then no more.  This made the illusion of Paris more real because who really knows the superficial. By the way, the biography of Duff is fascinating, and she knew how to make a grand exit. Too bad she wasn't explored more.

Desperation filled the climax and falling action of the story.  Could you, would you try to save a marriage that gave no sense of fulfillment?  Could you, would you sacrifice yourself for the love of another?  It is easy to read the fiction and grumpily say NO, but what do we actually lose when we love?  How much do we throw out and never see returned.  The Hemingways burned bright and then burned out.  The failure of the marriage seems to have haunted Hemingway where he later wrote A Movable Feast, and I have to wonder did the myth actually live to regret his actions and heartbreak, not just to Hadley, but to the others who followed him to ends of the world and back.  Why him?  What exactly was his power?   Was it basically the thoughts of changing the man?  Comfort to the loss?  Rescuing that that cannot be saved?  Maybe it was just lust. Maybe all of the above.  Women break every day trying to save the broken.

The resolution to the story feels rushed and a bit tacked on, but I cannot see how it would be otherwise.  Time passed quickly, and then it is over.  After I closed the last page, I couldn't help but wonder how much of the novel is accurate, but the glimmering characters give more to the idea of myth vs. reality.  To know the full truth would only take away from the mystery.  Sometimes fantasy is better.

  Hemingway explored masculinity in his novels, and The Paris Wife seems to be the antithesis of his very nature.  Every aspect of feminine relationship is explored:  wife, mother, lover, child, sister, friend. Hemingway may tell us what it takes to be a man, but Hadley allows us to understand the egnima of the woman.

Perfect Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

Today was a very busy but lovely beginning to our Halloween Festivities.  My husband and I went to a Farmers' Market that was featuring ...