Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting to Know You

The new school year started a few weeks ago, and I'm still adjusting to having a new batch of students.  Happily, this transition has been made easier by last year's students who continue to stop by my room every day, giving hugs, checking in, telling me about their new classes and teachers.  Now that I don't teach them they're more like friends than students and so we laugh a lot and hope aloud this year will be a good one.

My new 9th graders seem eager to please and have already started writing cheerful notes to me on the board when I'm not in the room.  This part of the year is always a bit of a tight-rope walk, as I need them to understand that I have high expectations (in their academic performance and their behavior), but I also care about them and want to get know them as individuals.  This process involves me reminding kids repeatedly what the classroom protocols are, learning which children I can publicly call out versus those that I have to crouch next to and quietly whisper a reminder, knowing when to joke with them and when to put on my serious face or cast an evil eye.  I've been at the school long enough that my reputation precedes me, but it's the students' job to feel me out a little bit, negotiate the ground rules for the year.

Some children come in ready to do your bidding; others won't relax until you win their trust.  I'm working on that with a few of them right now--finding places of flexibility where we can meet one another half way without compromising the important stuff.  Meanwhile, I'm actually trying to teach as well!  The layers of September...  They are many and often somewhat imperceptible.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oobleck Soup

This is Ina Garten's soup recipe, and I'm sorry to say that she misnamed it "fresh pea soup."  While it is amazingly fresh and contains many peas, it is clearly Oobleck soup.  It's so grrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!
I thought that I knew Dr. Seuss' story of Bartholomew and the Oobleck, but upon looking into it, I don't believe I've actually ever read this book.  My favorite Seuss story is still On Beyond Zebra.  I love the idea of creating language, how a single new letter births forth an entire new fold in the universe: linguistic manifest destiny.
Well, apparently poor Bartholomew has the difficult task of saving his foolish king and their kingdom from these giant green globs of oobleck that fall from the sky in place of normal weather.  Even though oobleck is not such a welcomed presence in the book, its namesake soup is a welcome addition to anyone's kitchen and belly.
It can be served hot or cold, which makes it a perfect fresh but warm soup for the winter and a fabulous light and chilled soup for the summer.  Added bonus: it's super easy.  I mean, really easy.  (Especially if you have an immersion blender!)

Okay.  Stop reading now and go make this soup.  Your kingdom will thank you.

"Oobleck Soup," an Ina Garten Recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
Garlic croutons, for serving (to make: cube up some bread, sauté in pan with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic until dry and toasted on all sides)

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

Blend soup with immersion blender or puree the soup in batches.  Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning. Serve hot or cold with garlic croutons.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I'm starting to get that summertime twitch, the one where I become so lazy and inactive that my mental muscles begin to spasm ever so slightly.  This happens in the summer when I transition from non-stop grading, lesson planning, emailing to families, and teaching to a vast and endless expanse of unfilled, unscheduled time.  And I'm not complaining, I'm really not.  But, the twitch is always just a little off-putting.

Last night I slept like the dead and did not pull myself from sleep until 9am.  (I should note here that I am a morning person and am typically chipper and bouncing around the house no later than 7:30, even on weekends.)  Then I was very productive: I called my phone company to discuss my bill, I sent several emails, and I prepared celery and peanut butter.  After that overwhelming morning, I felt I needed a rest on the couch.

See what I mean about the lazy summer twitch?  Last weekend Greg kept asking if I was okay because my response time during conversations has slowed to a stuttering crawl.  My brain is hibernating, whadaya want from me?  It's summer!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hobo Stew

Um, so yes, this meal is regretfully called "hobo stew."  I'm not really comfortable with this name, but I'm somehow less comfortable with changing it.  If I had children, I might call it "campfire stew" which is more accurate, but less nostalgic for me.  But for YOU, the name most likely pulls on absolutely no childhood memory strings, so YOU are free to call it what you like.

Regardless of what you decide to call it, you must definitely try it the next time you are camping or building an evening bonfire.  It is simple and so campfire scrumptious.

Here's how it works: First, tear out two biggish pieces of aluminum foil, preferably one "heavy duty" and one regular; heavy duty goes on the bottom so that it will be closest to the fire.  Onto this foil pile stew-like foods that sound mouth-watering to you.  Just make sure you have something with a bit of water or juice and some fat or grease (otherwise it all dries out or burns), and lots of seasoning.  My family enjoyed hobo stew at the beach last week and we made ours with canned tomatoes, ground beef (sausage or hotdogs work well, too), carrots, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, yellow squash, onions and butter.
Mmmm...butter.  My sister-in-law loves butter, and this is one of the things I love about her.  Butter is to cooking is like Jesus is to Sunday school: it's always a good answer.

After you've thrown on all the good food, fold the foil sort of like wrapping a present.  Fold two sides in and roll them over each other to secure, then fold the ends in several times.  If you have campers who are choosy eaters, you can easily distinguish their more boring and less delicious hobo stew package by writing their name in permanent marker.

Throw the foil-wrapped packages of goodness onto the coals (not big open flames--wait until you have some nice burning embers) and leave them there to cook.  Depending on their size, they will take 20-30 minutes.  To check, unwrap a bit and poke a fork in to see if the veggies are tender and the meat looks cooked.  It's handy at this point to have an oven mit and a pair of tongs.  It's possible to retrieve your dinner with nearby sticks, but they are much more likely to get dropped into the sand or dirt this way, so I don't recommend it.

There you go.  I hope you enjoy my family's tradition, and happy camping!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Life is just a

Bowl full of cherries.  And wild strawberries, and freshly picked raspberries.  Pure berry bliss.
I picked the raspberries with my two-year-old niece.
What do you mean you can't tell that's what we're doing here?  Maybe it's because the raspberries never stayed in the colander for more than 1.7 seconds before finding their way into her mouth.
The strawberries lasted a bit longer.
 Here's the view from the airplane window yesterday flying into Seattle.
 And here is the mist rolling over Vashon Island this morning, Seattle in the distance.
I guess the view and the berries and the adorable child are all right...if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Been Too Long

I have a lot of favorite foods.  Among them: raspberries, peaches, Ben and Jerry's NY Super Fudge Chunk ice cream, almost any cheese, and sweet potatoes.  I adore sweet potatoes, and will happily roast and consume them just about any time.  Which is why I was shocked yesterday when I opened our potato drawer to find this.
This is irrefutable evidence that it has been too long since I've cooked anything.  This poor sweet potato is clearly crying out for help, and its pleas have fallen on deaf ears.  My heart goes out to you, potato.
It was clear at this point that only one good and true option remained.  This sweet potato was obviously destined for great things, and who am I to stand in its way?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Happiness

Yesterday one of my best friends got married in Fort Tryon Park, a place so beautiful and lush it's hard to remember you're still in Manhattan.  The weather was perfect: warm and sunny with a soft breeze sending seedlings and leaves fluttering every which way.  The ceremony was short and sweet, followed by cocktails, dinner, music, and much dancing.  A fabulous wedding had by all.

Rain and thunder are keeping us company today, and I love it.  Outside everything is quiet, muted, almost like a shared but unspoken secret.  Hardly anyone is out; a couple people amble along walking dogs or smoking a cigarette.  It's a perfect day to lounge about indoors and maybe nap.

Yoga for the third day in a row this morning.  My hips are sore, my arms are tired.  But my body is happy.

Breakfast--scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast--has just been delivered to me in bed, so off I go!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bueller? Bueller?

Anyone there?  It is summer anew and, though I have nothing especially significant to say, I am recommitted to writing more regularly.  So here I am.  Writing.  Or typing, at the very least.

This summer: weddings, Seattle, camp, concerts in the park, yoga, and push-ups.  Did you ever want to be good at doing push-ups?  Well, I'm terrible at them and convinced that if I could remedy this, a few elusive yoga poses would be more attainable.  So, push-ups.  I also plan to knit with friends and start cooking again.  Though, without a grill, cooking in the summer is not so much fun, what with the heat and all.

Nice to be back.  Let's talk again soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paris Teaser

Hello.  Bonjour.  Salut.  Is anyone still there?

This post has nothing to do with eating or teaching or breathing.

Scratch that.  This post (and its sequel) have everything to do with all three of those topics.  I needed a break from teaching to catch my breath from the exhaustion of life.  And where better to eat than in Paris?

Okay, pictures for now.  Descriptions later.  I will write again.  I will write again...
Eiffel Tower at night, in the rain.
Completely more beautiful than I had anticipated.        

I don't drink coffee, so...chocolat chaud.
One can never have too many.  This is my third in as many days.
And then there's the cheese.  Yes, please.
A baguette and du fromage for our impromptu picnic.
Crepes, savory and sweet.  Jambon-fromage ou Nutella-banane.
Paris was fabulous all around.  Totally worth it.  Fifty hours and a lifetime of magic.