Sunday, March 31, 2013

You're Such a Pansy

I couldn't help it.

I am so sick of everything looking brown, grey and dead.  I don't think I've ever bought pansies but I just couldn't resist.

They are so green!

And colorful!

And it was pretty warm when I bought them and planted them.

It's back to New England spring today- somewhat sunny but the air still has the sharp cold of winter.

I feel like it might be eons before I see things like this lush jungle again.

On a different note, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blogs at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do You Suffer From Clothesline Droop?

If you have a clothesline, you know that when you first put the rope up, it's always nice and tight and strong.  Over time, it droops and sags and eventually, the clothes just about drag on the ground.

When I put up my new clothesline, I made it a little higher than I should because I'm so short.  But, I knew it would droop, so I put it up pretty high and then as it droops, I tighten it again.  Eventually, I tighten it enough times and the weather gets to it, and it just breaks.  It's a royal pain to untie the knots and retie them.

Cue the light bulb over my head.

I decided if I could use a cleat, like the kind you tie a boat to the dock with, then I'd have a secure line that I could just undo and tighten easily as it droops.

And now, no more droopy lines!  They were very droopy before but the picture has vanished, so you'll have to believe me.

I pretty much need a step ladder to get the first pieces hung on the line but then it's low enough that I can do the rest. And it's not foolproof.  This rope will weather and rot eventually, but at least I can raise it a few times until it does!

And if you have a yard and have never had a clothesline, I cannot emphasize how fantastic it is to put clothes on the line and have them dry, naturally.  Even when there's snow on the ground.  If it's sunny, the clothes will eventually dry!

You have to put up with looking at clothes hanging in the yard, but I clearly have no issues with weird things in the yard so  maybe I'm not the right person to suggest it...

Just think of electricity and money you will save when the drier doesn't run!

Linking here and here and here and here and  here

On a different note, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blogs at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Think I Flashed The Neighborhood

I've long extolled the virtues of outdoor showering.   There's less grime in the shower.  You're not humidifying the whole house and letting mold grow in the bathroom.  I swear the water is different out there even though I know it's the same faucet.  I can splash as much as I want and it doesn't matter.  In the summer, I collect the run off and use it in my non edible plants.

We installed ours back in 2001 and have never stopped using it.  Ok, I have stopped using it for most of the winter, each winter, but k-ster uses it pretty much year 'round.

Last year, we had a mild winter so he went out every night for a shower.  This year, it's been colder, so we've actually had it turned off more than usual.

I don't usually take them outside until the weather warms up.  Except the winter when we had a broken indoor faucet and I had to take showers outside in December!

The shower door currently looks like this.

Since it's winter and has been dark at like 4:30 for months, k-ster hasn't worried about the door.  He just set it to the side and when it falls down, he picks it back up and reminds me we need to get a new door.

Tonight, it was still light at 7pm, so I thought I'd take a shower outside since it was like 40 degrees and I didn't have to shave tonight (because goosebumps are hard to shave).  I was thoroughly enjoying the warm water, the nearing dusk,  the half way point of my shower, when I looked to the left and saw this.

The fence between the front yard and the side yard, where the outdoor shower is located, is missing a slat.  When k-ster told me this after a big storm, I was like yeah, yeah, we'll fix that when we get around to fixing the door (never).  Little did I know that it provides a direct view into the shower.  The one that currently doesn't have a door.  While it was still light out.

I took this from the shower.  A direct view of the road.

If you were one of those unfortunate souls, out walking after supper, and you looked over and saw me showering, I am so very sorry!

Linking here and here and  here

On a different note, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blogs at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

I Could Totally Do This

As promised yesterday, there will be no more waxing philosophical for a while.

K-ster sent me this picture yesterday because he knew it would make me laugh.  And given the state of the water table around here, it wouldn't even  be too hard to do that right now!

Linking here

Now, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blogs at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taking Out That Forgotten Pair of Shoes

I'm telling you up front:  I'm going to make an analogy.  I know, I know, a rare moment of thought is going into a post.  If you don't have time for this, move on.  I'll be back tomorrow with something inane like this or this.  Don't get nervous- I'm not going to wax all philosophical on you.  I don't wax anything.

For 17 years, I've taught French to 11-14 year olds in the same building, mostly in the same classroom.  This all happened by complete accident.  I literally sang for my job.  I was fresh out of college, no real job in sight, and I joined a local chorale of adults who sing pretty serious music like the Brahms Requiem and Ravel's Bolero and all sorts of fun and difficult and often very boring pieces of music.  But, it reminded me of the chorus I was in in college, very serious and good, so I joined.   The median age of the group was around 80, so I stood out like a sore thumb.  Everyone hovered around the new girl and I just went every Thursday night at 7pm like it was my job.

I can't even remember if this conversation took place the first, second or third time I went.  During the break, an alto came over to me and I remembered immediately that she was a German teacher in my high school.  She remembered me and my penchant for languages in high school and immediately assumed I had majored in language education.

I did not, but this didn't deter her when she was adamant that I needed to interview for a French position in the nearby middle school.  I explained that I had majored in French and education, but not French education.  They were so desperate since it was September 20 something, they hired me.  I figured it was my way into the district.  I really wanted to teach 4th grade, since that was where my real major lied, and maybe this would be my way into the district.  As retirements happened, I'd move into the elementary school.

There have certainly been many retirements in the time I've been at school and I've remained right where I started because I discovered I like teaching this age group.  6th grade is always the most fun because we don't get far into the nitty gritty of grammar and language rules.  7th grade is interesting because they turn into absolute monsters in January and go from pleasant kids I loved in 6th grade to creatures I don't even want to look at by the end of 7th grade.  By 8th grade, they either hate French or love it and there's not much that will budge those who've deemed it ridiculous and useless.  Around this time of the year, we usually turn a corner where they realize high school is just around the bend and they kind of silently agree to play my game and we end their time with me on a fairly pleasant note.

I've done this for a long time.  I know this routine really well.  And except for last year's anomaly class in 8th grade that literally made me consider retiring on more than a dozen occasions, this formula for behavior is pretty normal.

I've weathered 4 principals, 3 classrooms and more kids and assistant principals than I can count.  I thought I would start and end my career in this school.  And I'm sure some of the families of 4-6 kids assumed that too after spending so much time listening to their kids go through the trials and tribulations of that which is my classroom.

Friday, I found out I'm moving.  I will finally graduate from middle school...and go to 4th and 5th grade.

If you know anything about me, you know that change is not something I wake up in the morning hoping to find.  I do not seek change with the most open of arms.

However, this change is not making me double over with stomach cramps and I've known about it for 3 whole days.  Every time I think about it, I get excited!
This news came so far out of left field, I'm not even sure we were playing on the same field.  Or even  neighboring fields.  The talk of elementary foreign language has been on the table for as long as I've been there, but nothing serious has ever come of it.  This year, one elementary school has a 2nd and 3rd grade Spanish program but it seemed kind of fly by night.  A flash in the pan that probably won't continue.  We've had a lot of discussions with the superintendent and it's apparent that she is very pro language, but where this 4th and 5th grade position came from is a mystery to everyone I tell.

Here's why I'm ok with it:

1.  I'm moving to a different building but I'm going with at least 2 people I know very well and really enjoy.  There are others who have moved down to 4th and 5th grade over the years and though I've sort of lost track of where they are, we'll be together again.

2.  I'm going to be working with my 2nd principal, who I know well and like and can work with.

3.  I'm going to create the program as I go, so I don't have to follow what someone else has done.  Since I taught 6th grade for so long, I can use most of what I did with them, so I am not starting at square one.  It's not like I'm going from 14 year olds to 5 year olds. 

4.  I will be away from the insanity of the middle school child.

5.  I will be away from the insanity of the middle school teacher.  There will be a multitude of changes in my current building next year and the thought of not having to be involved in that circus makes  me really happy.

So, here's the shoe analogy.  I often have a pair of shoes that I wear a lot and then put away and forget about.  I don't wear them for a while because it's winter or they don't go with anything or whatever.  They are great shoes but sometimes they don't quite fit or they need a new heel bottom or something.  They have their quirks  but overall are good shoes.

Then, out of nowhere, I find them again and put them on.  I remember right away why I loved them and I'm tickled that I still have them.  As the day wears on, I remember they are a little tight when I wear them with certain socks or they make more noise than I remember or the heels are just a little too high to be running back and forth to the computer lab

I just have to remember which socks to wear and which days work for those shoes and it's love all over again.

Going back to work with this principal feels like that.  I haven't worked with her for 5 years.  I'm excited that we're being reunited.  The beginning will be the joy of rediscovering what I loved about working with her.  And as the day gets longer, I will remember the particulars of what it's like to work with her.  But I'm ready to reacquaint myself with her and the other people that are moving too.

It feels like we're going home after a long vacation.  Oh dear, that's two analogies in one post.  And I suppose we can't go home when we're moving to a building we were never in together.  But something about not going to a brand new place without knowing a soul makes this a pretty exciting bit of news!

On a different note, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blog at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 

Linking up here 

Friday, March 22, 2013


I have to go to school in this???

While I listen to every town within 30 miles announcing a 2 hour delay, my district thinks 4 inches is just fine for putting buses on the road and making us go at the normal time.

I know, 4 inches is no big deal.  I've certainly driven in it before.  But we've gotten so soft with cancelling school over a flake, that I have a really hard time understanding why we have a full day of school!

Delayed openings count as full days, so we wouldn't have to make this one up.  But kids who don't come, because their parents either don't want them on a bus in snowy weather or are easily convinced that it says on facebook they have no school, will have this day counted against them for attendance.

I've been up off and on all morning thanks to plows slamming their way down my street, so a couple more hours off would have been just dandy.

I'm complaining about this one 'til the end of time. 


To top it all off, the fire alarm went off about halfway through the morning.  We have a strict policy that you leave the building NO MATTER WHAT when the fire alarm goes off.  This was perfect since I had left my coat and boots in my classroom and had a class in the library.  Outside we trudged, in the back yard, through the snow and stood for about 12 minutes. 

And I forgot to grab my phone so I could text my whininess to the world.

I may never recover from this day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is My Crock Pot the Easy Bake Oven I Never Had?

My childhood happened smack in the middle of the Easy Bake Oven era.  Actually, I don't know if that's true because I dont' have time to research when they first arrived on the scene, but I will imagine it was around the early 60s that they first hit the shelves.  By the late 80s, they weren't such a big deal.

Thus my theory that I was right in the middle of the Easy Bake Oven era.  The first one.  I know there has been a relaunch of the Easy Bake Oven because I bought the little cake packages for someone's niece a few years ago. 

Being ever so practical,  my mother would not let us even entertain the thought of an Easy Bake Oven.  I think her reasoning out loud was that we would want to use it upstairs and the electricity upstairs was not as modern as downstairs and we'd likely blow a fuse or actually burn the house down.  And that was probably all I needed to keep my wishes to myself, lest I be the one that actually burned down the house with my easy baking.

I know her reasoning to herself was that she would open up a can of worms which would never return to their can and would only result in endless begging to go buy more cake mix and lots of crying about who got to use it and she would have ended up with really fat kids.

So, we survived without easy baking anything.

If you've been asleep for a few  years, there's a resurgence of crock pot usage abounding on the internet these days.  All hail the mighty crock pot.  And everyone claims this ain't your mama's crock pot cooking.  People are making all kinds of things never before imagined in the crock pot.  They're setting it and forgetting it and having a feast of feasts by the time supper rolls around.

And the craze my family has hopped onto is  crock pot chicken.    You put the whole bird in, with nothing, and let it cook itself silly and have a fabulously cooked chicken ready for a multitude of meals.  There are those, like my father, who say that it's kind of dry.  I can't imagine how, given the way crock pots work.  I'm thrilled with the whole idea of it.

My favorite part is putting the chicken in mid afternoon and letting it cook until evening.  Then I take it out and let it cool and put it away for the next day.  When I get home the next day, I have a whole cooked chicken all chilled and ready to be made into something and I didn't have to get all raw chickeny before breakfast (a drawback to the usual crock pot meals- getting them ready in the morning means you have to smell onions and touch raw meat while in your pajamas and who wants to start their day that way?  I know, you can do it all the night before and put it in the refrigerator overnight, but that's a long time for the raw meat to breed its e.coli all over the vegetables.).

The last time we had crock pot chicken, my father poopooed the whole idea.  And he was supported by a few boys at the table who chortled right along with him at the wattage of a crock pot and its ability to "cook" food.  Because, apparently, the crock pot isn't much more than a lightbulb cooking our food, if we start looking at wattage.   Since I am not an electrician, I don't even know what to do with wattage except not to put a higher watt bulb into the light than recommended on the tag, so I have no idea.

I do know that Easy Bake Ovens are basically a lightbulb in an enclosed space that creates heat and eventually cooks. 

So, if I  make a chicken and veggies in the crock pot, I might as well bake brownies in an Easy Bake Oven?   If I reheat it all in the microwave does everything cancel out?

Now, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blog at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 
Linking here and here and here and here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Family That Blogs Together...

Is probably a great case study for some psychology phD candidate.

I remember when weblogs, the precursor to the everyday blog, was the rage.  And by rage, I mean Silicon Valley workers had them as well as a number of geeks.  The rest of us were like- what?  You have a what?  Why do I want to check in and read what you've been up to every.single.minute. of the day?  You're crazy.  That'll never catch on.

I've always held technology at a distance because I've always known it was going to take over our lives.  Rather than embrace that which is speed, multi tasking and utter mind blowingness, I've always been skeptical and annoyed that I have to learn how to do one more thing that will bring me into the current century and supposedly simplify my life.

I never thought a day would come when we say things like "the computer won't let me do xyz" or "the screen says xyz" or "well, email it to your gmail and then drop it to my dropbox and then pat your held and rub your stomach three times will sneezing" or I would actually require students to post comments on my school blog and get a grade for it.  I knew we'd be run by computers but who could have imagine this?

I remember when the non geeks started to know about the web when I was in college and I remember having to go to a special computer lab to use Netscape Navigator.  I didn't have to do it but I was slowly interested in what this was all about.  But then I didn't know what I would want to search for, so I didn't do much with it.  I kind of thought it was about alligators, because it was navigator and I didn't know why they didn't use an alligator as their logo.  You can see where my mind goes.

Email I was all over, but the internet?  Probably best left for those who were doing real research and needed to have an online card catalog.  That's kind of what I thought it was in the mid 90s.  A card catalog.

When I first started teaching, internet access at school just wasn't.  There was one little modem in the library that was connected to a local thing and you could check your email but there wasn't much to do on the web yet.  Of course it all exploded within about 2 years and a T1 line was created and suddenly computers abounded and here we are today.

My father has always been on the cusp of new technology and brought home the TRS80 from RadioShak, which we put on a typewriter stand.  God, I 'm not even that old and I'm harkening back 3 decades and some of you readers are like "typewriter- man she's old!!"  I remember playing The Temple of Ra or Sha or something like that where you got stupid commands and wrote stupid commands.  There were no graphics. You had to direct someone to get a key and not get eaten by the asp.  Maybe that was a Bible story.  It's ancient, that's all I remember.   The screen was certainly not multicolored.  It was black with greyish text.  Apple had the black with greenish text.

I blew the mind of my 4th grade teacher when I word processed my report on Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys on my Commodore 64.  My uncle sent us all sorts of games on the big floppys- the kind that were actually floppy, not the hard ones we came to use later that you could drive over and not damage.  We played Jumpman and the Summer Olympics and fiddled with Mastertype which did not teach me to type and yet I am a typing wizard today.

Along the way, my father went to the Mac side and started with the little classic and today has whatever the latest laptop is.  Though I used the mini Mac all through college and enjoyed it, I moved to the dark PC side when school did the same and I had to buy my first computer.  Oh and k-ster might have influenced that decision too because God help me if I own a Mac and then had a problem.  He is not Mac friendly and since I am sometimes a technoidiot, I need someone who will help me out of the jams I often find myself in.

Somewhere along the tech journey, my mother got off the typewriter and put her business stuff on the computer.   She emailed.  She learned how to use facebook.  She got an iphone.  She got a digital camera and became the photographer at her quilt guild and stored the pictures online.

And somewhere, I can't even imagine where, she learned to use blogspot and created a blog.  Long before I thought I should spend so much time telling the world of my day to day escapades, she created nutsaboutquilting and started putting pictures of quilts and then some.  She was the first to say "have you seen my blog post" and I would forget and didn't get the reason she was doing it.

My sister created her blog which is now callajaire (but might not always have been called that because I wasn't paying much attention).  She put up tutorials of her sewing adventures and then took a powder while she moved, got married, moved, moved, moved (?) and had a baby.  There may be one too many moveds there.  Luckily, l-ster inspired her to get back on the sewing horse and off she went into the sunset leaving tutorials from one coast to another.

Somewhere in the middle of their blogfests, I started reading blogs and realized the joy, necessity and sometimes frustration of creating and maintaining a blog.  The 3 of us have completely different takes on what a blog is and treat them all very differently.

Since my sister is the computer science major, she has the most skills of all of us.  I can hold my own when it comes to speaking blogger's code, but she's had to help me out of a jam or two.  My mother remains an expert at what she does with her blog but hesitates to journey down the path of adding widgets and ads and things to her blog.  She doesn't do a lot of self promotion but she has some followers who spy on her stop in to see what she's up to.  She's doesn't try to earn a living off her blog.

My sister, on the other hand, has recently had two offers to create tutorials in exchange for some fabulous gift cards.  I've made a penny or two from the things I've done on mine and I think the rush of ponyhats I've made has been due to the mention of them on my own blog.

In a twist of irony, we have another sister who actually works for an IT company and yet, she doesn't have a blog!  She doesn't care about having one and she doesn't do much with ours.  My father, of course, being a man, does not have a blog either, but he's in a race to stay on top of the Apple market and remains loyal to the core.  And he secretly reads ours once in a while too.

I look at 2 generations of us blogging and the different ways we each approach our blog and I think it's kind of funny.  My mother and I are not fans of new technology but we hang onto this one.  I actually have a separate blog for school that has become a mainstay as an instructional tool.   My sister can write her own code and make magic on her blog if she so chooses.  My other sister could also probably write her own code and doesn't even care about having a blog.

I'm sure there's a study there somewhere.

Linking here and here and  here and here and here and   here 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Use Your Powers For Good

Ok, I have to use a picture of myself to enter a contest online.  I'm not giving you many details in the event that I become one of the 15 finalists (I'm a little superstitious like that) but basically, if I win the whole shebang, I can go to France for free this summer and do something REALLY COOOOOOL.

And you can be sure I'll tell you all about it when I win.  Over and over, probably.  And over again.

But, I need your help.  It seems that all of the pictures that I put on my blog are a bit ridiculous.  I combed through all of my electronic picture files and there is not one picture of myself that is even remotely appropriate.  I'm either making a horrid face, wearing something bizarre or standing somewhere I shouldn't be.

Since this contest will likely become solely a popularity contest when it goes live, I think the picture should:

 a) show me in decent clothing
b) probably show a little something of what I actually teach
c) like part a, probably shouldn't be a photo of my derriere.  Although k-ster says a thong would help me win.  Hands down.  Or should I say, pants down.

I felt ridiculous asking any adult to take pictures of me hugging my Eiffel towers, so I had to bring in my digital camera and self shoot myself a million times.  All the while worrying that someone would walk in on this modeling session and have me committed.

And, as always, worrying that I might look like that typical French teacher.  You know, the total whackjob who thinks she's so super French and chic and carries herself with the air of "I know fashion and you don't"?  Right, you know better than to think I could EVER pull that off.

Without further ado, I need your help.  Can you please choose which photo, numbers 1-4 is you absolute choice of the following?  I need this decision by 2pm March 15th so hop on it!





Originally, I had planned to surround myself with the dozen or so glass Eiffel Towers that I have, so it would look like I'm lost in a sea of Eiffel Towers.  But, they are clear, so it just looked like I was surrounded by a bunch of bottles, drunk at the Eiffel Tower.

Maybe these people  and these people and these people and   these people  can help me make a decision too!  

Thank you for the votes on my blog and through my email.

And the winner is:#2.  I had many debates with myself over this and decided that it had the best light and had the most votes.  I don't think my smile is as enthusiastic as in others, but the quality overall seems better.  None of my family voted for that one though.  Probably because I NEVER EVER wear my hair down, so they had no idea who that was in the picture!!

Now, if I'm a finalist, I'll tell you what it's all about!

Monday, March 11, 2013

One Big Promise

I might be an idiot.  This hasn't been confirmed for sure, but I made a discovery today that has led to me believe it's possible that I am really dumb.

For years, my grocery store has carried Nature's Promise products.  I buy them all the time, especially when it comes to meat.  You can't get me to buy any other brand of meat, actually.

This week, there's a sale on Nature's Promise chicken and Nature's Promise Organic chicken.

Wait, WHAT?  There's a difference?

Suddenly, I have a choice between Nature's Promise chicken and Nature's Promise Organic chicken.

This is where the problem comes in.  I can't remember if I used to think that Nature's Promise chicken WAS organic, or if I knew it wasn't but was willing to believe it was better quality and less tampered with than the chicken further down the row.

I actually stood in front of the meat and had this mental conversation and near breakdown because I. Don't. Know.  I don't know if I knew or it if this is news.

And if it's news, this is a REALLY BIG DEAL  because I've been paying extra for this better quality chicken that isn't!

If I already knew it was 'natural' and not 'organic' then whoo hoo, I can now get 'organic' if I so choose and it's n big deal.

Unfortunately, there is no way I'll ever know.  And I feel a little resentful toward Nature's Promise.  Because I might have been stupid enough to fall for their sly advertising that might have led me to believe there was goodness in their products.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

High School Memories All Over Again

And not the good kind.

Just like other professionals, teachers have to keep up their certifications to keep their jobs and we do that by taking graduate courses or attending workshops and getting professional development points (the sacred PDPs).  In my district, as in many fortunate districts, I am allowed a certain amount of funds every 3 years to take such courses/workshops and I can go higher on the payscale as I do that.

All I need is a little carrot like more $$ and the course covered by district funds and I'll do whatever I need to do.  It was kind of like a game at first, trying to see how fast I could move all over the ladder.  Until I realized that eventually, I would be over as far as I could go and I would be up to as many steps as I could go and then it would just be taking courses to maintain my certification with no extra pay.

Since I still have one more step over before I max out, I'm still playing the game, although a little slower because once I get there, the next step is PhD.  I don't think PhDs are allowed to play in the dirt and mow the grass.

Plus, once those initials are next to my name, people would assume I could solve math problems like this and I couldn't live with that kind of pressure.

And, since a teacher's PhD isn't worth the $100K+ that other PhDs are (at least when you remain a teacher in a public middle school) it wouldn't be as lucrative as it might seem.   I'm pretty certain I've made it clear that I don't belong in higher academia.

So, all of that leads to how I am about to terrorize you into believing you have a test tomorrow and you didn't do your homework.  Get ready to sweat.

Remember when you had that teacher who couldn't photocopy things the right way?  There was always something crooked, or the margins were weird, or words were cut off?  Or maybe you are of an age where things were mimeographed which was even worse because they were purple and often even more impossible to read.

If there's one thing I work hard to do, it's make sure that my students get clean, clear copies of whatever I am giving them.  If I am illegally photocopying out of a book, I never leave those thick black margins.  I always cut off the black and try to make it look nice.  Plus, it makes it less likely that the copyright police will ever detect the original source. 

Who said that?

So, I'm taking a French cinema class online for some graduate credits.  It's really hard to take a French class where I live because most are offered at colleges in the city and that's way too much of a drive to make one night a week.  Sometimes there are weekend classes but they suck just as much.  So, I found this one online and figured it wouldn't be too bad.

Watch 5 movies.  Do some writing about them.  Go to Blackboard, which is the source for most online courses, and write some comments in various threads about the movies.  Get reimbursed by the district once I get a grade.  Get my 3 credits and move one step closer to my last step on the ladder. 

And then I received the information and had a heart attack and then some.

Watch 5 movies- all from the 80s.  Because the teacher is about 80 and I think these are the only movies she's ever taught in her classes. And there's a handy book to use for the course and the book has chapters for, you got it, these 5 movies. If you took French in college or high school since 1980 something, you probably saw them:

Jean de Florette
Manon des Sources
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Les Choristes
Trois Hommes et Un Couffin

Are you sweating right now?  Having a French class flashback?  It gets worse.

I did not see Au Revoir les Enfants or Trois Hommes et Un Couffin (and no, that is not coffin.  It's the French version of 3 Men and a Baby) but I heard about them all through my studies and have almost watched them numerous times.

Do some writing about them- if you call 4 hours of work "some" then this is the course for you.  She suggests 4 hours to do all of the pre movie paperwork and then some more time afterward for the follow up essays.

Go to Blackboard- well, Blackboard apparently erased all of what she had spent hours putting up there for us and was rejecting everyone, so she sent no less than a dozen emails causing me to panic that I  had missed a deadline.  The first set of work isn't due until March 18th, but she has been on a tear all week with minute by minute updates.  I had planned to work on these on weekends and she got me so lathered at one point this week, that I logged into Blackboard at 10pm, long after the computer is supposed to be shut off, only to find that the online conversations are optional.

Get a grade and get reimbursed- had I known what this would entail, I might have not taken the class but since they have all of my money and I need that reimbursement, I am cursed with taking the class.

I realize it's a graduate course and I should expect to do work, but I would not say that this is the sort of quality paperwork I would expect in a graduate course.

See the poor photocopying?  The drudgery of a million questions? Are you really flashing back right now?  You might have even had that very same paper in your binder at one point!

And that's just the first page of the first set of documents for the first movie!  We have to fill out vocabulary lists.  And use words in sentences demonstrating those vocab words.  And translate other sentences.  Things that made me hate French and made me certain I'd never speak it again after high school.  Things that my high school French teacher made us do but good teachers today do not do because it's drudgery.

What she should be doing is making us meet regularly on skype and actually use the vocab in real conversations with each other.  Be all nerdy and actually talk about the movies as we speak French.    We should have to write about the movies in the discussion groups online, not if we feel like but because it's mandatory.  That should be the essence of the work we do.  Not fill in the blank sheets on ancient photocopies!

Whining Linking here and  here

Friday, March 8, 2013

We Like It Classy

This is what I made for supper tonight.

That's right, it's pizza with hot dogs.  I'm not ashamed.  I wanted to put some thinly sliced sausage but I didn't have any.  What I did have was turkey hot dogs and when I asked k-ster if he wanted hot dogs on his pizza, he said "SURE!"

I warn you, the hotdogs made it salty.  Salty enough that I probably will not eat it again but I am very salt sensitive.  K-ster thought it was fine and wants me to make it again.

The crust is homemade.  The sauce is not.  I am in love with the pizza crust from this baby and I was making it once a week until we got a little off schedule.   I think I should just call my breadmaker the doughmaker because I make a lot more dough for things than I do actually bake bread in it.

It could probably even be called the lazyverifier because I'm way too lazy to make my own dough without it.  Nothing makes me happier than putting the ingredients in to make pizza dough, going to the barn to ride, and when I come back, the dough is totally ready!

Just to be clear, when you come to dinner at my house, we eat only classy food, prepared in the most classy ways. It's black tie mandatory around here each night.

You can see other the other super classy food I make here or here or even here.

Linking here and here and here and here and here and here and here and  here

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Eating Off One Chicken Forever

Crockpot chicken is all the rage these days.  I hopped on the bandwagon back in October and I've been pretty happy with it.  My mother and sisters are all over it too.  Sometimes, k-ster claims that it's dry, but I don't think so.  Plus, I use it 800 ways after I've made it, so he can't tell it's dry unless we're eating it as plain chicken.

There are two things I love about cooking it in the crockpot.  First, you can put it in and in less than 5 hours it's completely ready.  One of the things I've been doing it putting it in when I get home from school and letting it cook all evening, for use the next day.  I think if I set it to cook all day long, it would be a gelatinous mess by the time I get home at 5:30 or so!

The second thing I love is that because it's all so thoroughly cooked, I literally get every, single bit of meat off of it.  The bones literally fall away from each other and there's nothing left for meat when I'm doing.  When I do it in the oven, the meat never completely releases.

One complaint that I've heard is that it doesn't get crispy when you put it in the crockpot.  I have never, in my life, been excited about crispy chicken skin, so I don't really care.  However, tonight's chicken in the crockpot browned up  and crisped up like it was its job.

You can see in this picture that the legs and wings had fallen right off when I scooped it out of the crockpot.

Tonight, we had chicken with stuffing and broccoli.  I had made French bread in the bread machine last week, but it was a total disaster.  It didn't rise properly and and it was a thick, hard mess.  I almost threw it out, but my sister said to freeze it to use later for croutons or bread crumbs.

Tonight, I took it out and cut it up to make stuffing.

You can tell by some of these pieces just how wrong it was for French bread.  I can't even tell you what went wrong but it was wrong from the get go.

I toasted the bread for about 15 minutes at like 415 degrees.  I just wanted it to dry out a little bit.  I cut up a yellow onion, 3 stalks of celery and mixed them with some butter, thyme, dried parsley, salt and pepper.  I didn't have any poultry seasoning, so that's what I had on hand.  I mixed them up and added about 1 cup or more of chicken broth.  My stuffing is never very moist and stuck together like many people's but it's edible and k-ster enjoys it like I do.

I baked it at 350 for 20 minutes in this pan with the cover on it, to try to encourage the moisture to build up.  Then I took off the cover and let the top crisp up for another 15 minutes.  There was still some liquid at the bottom, but it wasn't all mashed and stuffing-like.  K-ster says it's because I put too much celery and it's too big.  I love celery for the crunch and the flavor, but he doesn't, so he fusses when I put it in things. 

Oddly, it didn't make  him not eat it, he just pulled out the celery.

When I do a crockpot chicken, I can usually get 3 meals out of it, for the two of us.  I can't remember the weight, but I'm thinking a few pounds.  Maybe 5?

From this one, we ate the breast meat as pieces of chicken with some sides the first night.

I made chicken salad for lunches this week.

I made chicken soup for lots of meals for me.  K-ster isn't a fan of soup because, he claims, it's not a meal.  He doesn't want to drink his meals.  I, on the other hand, could eat chicken soup every, single day for lunch.  I LOVE IT.  The only part I dont' love is heating it in the microwave and it's either way too hot or not hot enough.

The last time I did a crockpot chicken, I made some chicken sloppy joes one night and instead of making chicken salad, I put barbeque sauce with some cut up pieces and made a BBQ chicken salad.

When I use the chicken in dishes like these, if it's dry, it soaks up moisture from whatever it's mixed with (mayo, soup, BBQ sauce, etc).

I don't like it when people say "and we ate off that chicken/turkey all week" because all I can picture is the family standing around gnawing on the carcass all week.  However, when you do a crockpot chicken, you can indeed, eat off that thing for days.

You just won't be gnawing on the carcass because there's pretty much no carcass left!

Linking here and here and here