Monday, January 9, 2017

What I am crushing on right now

When I wore a black dress with white polka dots last fall, one of the young (and dare I say handsome) teachers at school said he was “crushing on my dress.” Ever since then I have wanted to use that expression.  So, here goes.
What am I crushing on right now?
#1  My great nephew Caleb’s photos– he showed me a few of them when I visited at Christmas and I asked him to send some to me.  He has quite an eye for beauty, n’est-ce pas?   Here are some of my favorites:
And last, but by no means least, Max, Caleb’s mom/my niece’s dog-
max
Keeping taking photos, Caleb!
#2  My new mascara–  Am I vain?  Oui.  I do not leave my house with mascara.  I search high and low for just the right one.  Waterproof is a must sometimes, but it is so hard to remove.  Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama does not cause raccoon eyes and it washes off easily at the end of the day.  Merci, Lancôme.
mascara
#3 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer– I just finished reading it last night (actually early this morning) and cannot stop thinking about it.  It is a story told in letters about a writer who decides to go to Guernsey to interview people about the German occupation of their island during WWII.  It’s a subject I am very interested in, but I didn’t know anything about this book until I saw it on a list of must-read stories.  I fell in love with Juliet.  You will, too.
#4 Balsam Range’s latest album, Mountain Voodoo— I have loved this band of bluegrass musical magicians since Sister Moo and I heard Buddy Melton sing at a barbecue festival in Asheville, NC about 10 years ago.  The group was formed in 2007 in Haywood County and has been winning awards ever since.  I go to hear them whenever possible, most recently at the American Tobacco campus in downtown Durham last June.
Something ‘Bout That Suitcase is my current favorite.  Probably because mine is sitting in the corner of my bedroom waiting patiently to be filled with the stuff I will need for six days in Paris.
suitcase
#5  The direct non-stop flight I will take from RDU-CDG later this week.  That’s right, step on in Raleigh, step off in Paris.  Merci mille fois, Delta.  Je vous aime. The first time I packed my suitcase to go to Paris (and to get on a airplane) was in September of 1978.  I flew from Johnson City, TN to New York to Orly airport in Paris.  I do not remember much about the flight except that it was a charter. Many trips later, I still get excited.
#6  The stories of Sean Dietrich aka Sean of the South—  I’ve written about him before and I continue to love him more with each and every story I read.  I follow him on Facebook and start my day with his daily storytelling.  He has recently started to tell them by video as well.  Go ahead, click on the link and read a story for yourself.  See if you don’t feel better instantly.  While laughing and crying at the same time.
#7 An American in Paris— I just saw the play here in Durham with about 15 of my 8th graders, the BFF, some parents, and a couple I am especially fond of, Steve and Dani.  The Ex-Ex and I saw it on Broadway in July 2015 (I won a trip that included tickets to a show). The story is set in Paris at the end of WWII.  Gershwin music, dancing, beautiful costumes and scenery, love…
american-in-paris
I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I will leave the list with photos at seven.  I prefer sets of 14 for some reason, so I will quickly list seven more.
#8  Snow days– I been given the gift of two of them this week so that I can get my grades and comments written before boarding that Delta jet.
#9  Our new sofa and “chair and a half”– the Ex-Ex and I gave them to each other for Christmas.  Blue.  Comfy.
#10  Bold Rock Blood Orange Cider– seasonal and I just got my hands on some.  Delicious.
#11  Sister Moo’s peanut butter fudge– so much for giving up sweets after Christmas since she sent a tin of it home with me.
#12  Hallmark movies on the weekend– sappy, yes, I know, but they always have happy endings.  One set in Paris will premier later this month.  Love Locks– the mayor of Paris may not like it, but I have a feeling I will.
#13  Bravelets bracelets– I have collected a few of them and love them.  The company donates a portion of each sale to a cause, 2.6 million dollars to date.
#14  The beautiful glass bird that EB gave me for Christmas– It’s a magpie.  The Chinese term for magpie means literally “bird of joy.”  And joy is what EB has brought to our family.
mantel
I texted Nephew Caleb to ask what his favorite food is and he came back with shrimp.  I am with you, Caleb. I could eat my weight in it (and probably have!). Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat it.  This reminds me of summer at Sunset Beach…
In memory of Ben Philpott, the BFF’s brother and Frogmore chef extraordinaire
Shrimp
New Potatoes
Corn
Sausage (ChorizoAndouille, hot Italian or some other spicy grind)
Limes
Lemons
Red Onion
Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic
Allow 1/3 to ½ lbs of shrimp and one ear of corn per person. Cut corn in halves. Chop sausages to half inch or so. Cut potatoes in quarters.
Bring big pot of water to boil with slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Add minced garlic and a few jabbers of hot sauce (also some beer, if you like), and a few shakes of Old Bay. Add potatoes, corn and sausage. When potatoes are on verge of being done, add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes until shrimps are done.
Spread on newspapers (the cooked food, that is), dust heavily with Old Bay, and serve with cocktail sauce, butter, or whatever moves you.

Bon appétit and here’s to talented nephews and crushing on stuff.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow 2017

15965286_10206352028599705_619262816994603533_n
(photo taken by C. Bland)
2017 has barely begun and we have our first snow “storm.”  Well, okay, it is a blizzard for us here in the piedmont section of North Carolina.  The photo my sister-in-law sent is from the mountains where she lives.  I took a photo of her vélo at Thanksgiving and gave it to her in the form of a notecard for Christmas.
cindys-bike
She returned the favor this morning via Facebook.  It looks beautiful in the snow. Or sous la neige, as the French say.  Under the snow.
It’s the perfect day to stay in the house.  Read, straighten out and put away my messy Christmas wrappings, make a stack of the things I need to pack for my upcoming trip to Paris, charge camera batteries, make note of addresses for postcards, update birthdays in my calendar, and make gingerbread.
gingerbread
While doing some of that straightening, I came across some thank you notes written to me by students just before the winter break.  One of the math teachers at my school gives his students a point of extra credit if they write a note to one of their teachers.  (I am tearing up again just looking at them…)  They will be added to my Gratitude bulletin board when on Monday (IF we have school).  These notes are the reason I teach, why I am sure that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do with my life.  Sure, I teach French verb conjugations, try to brainwash middle schoolers into thinking that studying French is the most amazing part of their day, but that isn’t my most important job.
I am very hesitant to post these notes.  It sounds as if I am trying to hold myself up above others and say “Look at me- I am such an amazing teacher.” Oh no.  I have so many self-doubts.  Am I teaching them what they need to know before they move on to French 3 and high school?  My lesson plans are not that exciting.  Why don’t I spend more time on them? (Because I do need to sleep at least 6 hours every night?)  Am I up-to-date on the latest research in language acquisition?  No.  I don’t even have a master’s degree.  I met with our head of school a few weeks ago and he was kind of surprised when I admitted that. I wish that I had done it right after I graduated, but then again, maybe I would have never found Durham Academy.  Am I just too old?  Have I become too old to know what adolescents are facing?  Am I too old-school? Do my younger colleagues look up to me or think that I should retire soon?  I am an expert at French 1, 2 and 3.  Teach AP?  Not on your life.  Am I fluent?  Yes, but I don’t know everything/enough.  I have nightmares where I cannot speak a word of French or every time I say a word with an “r” in it, I cannot for the life of me make the French “r.”  And everyone laughs.  I know that I am lucky- I teach in an independent school with motivated kids.  I can only hope that I do indeed make a difference in their lives.
But enough of my (abundant) insecurities.  The reason I was inspired to write this post is because I saw an article this morning written by a math teacher entitled “What even IS good teaching?”  I understood completely what the author was trying to say.  Thank you, Crazy Math Teacher Lady.  You ARE really really awesome.  I get it.
Here are some excerpts, unedited.  They are, after all,  middle schoolers and not 100% perfect…
“This year has really been fun.  Having you since 7th grade has been awesome.  I have learned so much about French and life.  You make learning French super fun.”
Merci, but I KNOW for a fact that it is not always super fun.  But thank you for sitting in the front row and making me want to be a better teacher. And for staying awake first thing in the morning even when I know you are exhausted (because I kept you out late at a performance of An American in Paris at the DPAC).
“We had the opportunity to write letters to different teachers in math.  You came right to my mind.  You are truly an influence and role model to me.  You love your students so much and it encourages me to work harder and do my best in your class.  Your  honestly like a mom to LW and me and I am so greatful for that.  I know that if I am having a bad day or just need to talk you will actually listen.”
Oui, I do love you.  That’s why I was Mme Grincheuse the other day when you and some of your pals decided to hang out after school, but no one knew you were there.  I am your mom while you are at school.  I take your well-being very seriously.
“Thank you for teaching me French this year!! Although, there have been slight hiccups along the way, this year has been very fun.  I may be riding on the B train right now I think that something has clicked and I am understanding the language more than ever.  I look forward to the France trip!”  P.S.  le beurre de cacahuète
The B train has good, comfortable seats, too.  Keep eating peanut butter and making me laugh out loud!
“I hope that you have an amazing holiday!  This is the time of year when you look back at what you are thankful for and appreciate.  I appreciate you as a teacher.  Your rigorous class always keeps me motivated and you always make me smile.  For the year and a half I have been in your class, you have taught me to how to be a mindful student.”
You are all a teacher could hope for in a student.  I have a feeling that you have always been mindful!  Your smile and quiet presence in my class are a gift.  I should be thanking you for making me look good.
“I have learned an unbeliveable amount of French in just a year and a half.  You always seem to care about your students and I will definitely remember you as a great teacher.”
And I will always remember you and how hard you have worked in my class. It hasn’t always been easy and I know that you have shed more than a few tears of frustration.  But you have stuck with it and now you are reaping the rewards.
“Thank you.  Thank you for all you have done.  While I may not be the best student in French, you have always made me feel important in the class.  You make everyone feel welcomed.  In 6th grade, I was new.  I had French class B period so it was one of the first things I experienced at DA.  In that class I never felt new.  I can’t imagine middle school without you teaching me.”
Well, thank YOU for making everyone in your class feel important.  I have noticed that you work with classmates who don’t have a partner.  I saw you walking around with new students at recess the first week of school.  You didn’t do it so that I would notice and praise you.  You did it because you sincerely wanted to.  Your beautiful smile is a daily gift to all.
“I wanted to thank you for the wonderful time I have had in your class.  You have made French class so much fun for me, in a way that inspires me to love learning.  I love how your class is so interactive and hands-on, and I never expected to have this much fun in a class, and I look forward to class every day.  You are a great teacher who knows when to be serious and when to be fun.  To be able to not only teach a language but to teach kids to love learning is a special quality.”
I am so glad you decided to come to my school this year.  We are the lucky ones. You make me laugh every single day.  And, although you are a very serious student and a worrier of the first order, you are able to laugh at yourself.
“Bonjour!! Merry Christmas.  Thank you for being the best French teacher ever.  You have made — and I not only better at French but just at being better people.”
Oh, how I will miss you and your smiling face at the end of this year.  French isn’t easy for you, but you come to class with a huge smile on your face every single day.  You are amazing.  Never, ever forget that.
So, how about one more beautiful mountain photo of snow.  And a biscuit recipe. Everyone loves biscuits, right?
15940887_1309042905824611_3165949543973416855_n
(photo taken by H.H. Wise, near Spruce Pine, NC)
All-Purpose Biscuits Biscuits
6-8 servings
2 c. all-purpose flour, more for dusting (I use King Arthur, non-bleached)
2 Tbsp. baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
1 scant Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. cold butter, unsalted (European-style, if possible– higher fat content)
1 c. whole milk (can substitute buttermilk)
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, sat and sugar in a large bowl.  (I use a whisk and skip the sifting.) Cut butter into pats and add to flour.  You can use a food processor and pulse 5-6 times or use a pastry cutter or even a fork.  (I have a pastry cutter and do it that way.)  Mixture should resemble rough crumbs.  If using a food processor, return dough to bowl.  Add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.
  2. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough triangle, about an inch thick.  Fold it over gently and pat it down again.  Cover dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Gently pat out the dough some more so that it makes a (roughly) 10 x 6 rectangle.  (You can keep it thicker if you want bigger, but fewer biscuits.)  Cut biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter.  Do not twist the cutter when cutting- it crimps the edges and your biscuits will not rise as high. (I cut mine into squares, using a sharp floured knife.  I do not have to work the dough again, which can lead to a tougher biscuit.)
  4. Place biscuits onto a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter, honey, jam, or whatever your little heart desires.
biscuits
Bon appétit!  Stay warm!
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”   –Abraham Lincoln